Finally! The official 2013-2014 Gonzaga Bulldog season is here. Gonzaga opens up the year on Saturday against Bryant University. Bryant may not be a household name for most Gonzaga basketball fans, so here is a little information on Bryant University.
Located in Smithfield, Rhode Island, Bryant has an enrollment of 3,200 undergrad students. They have been in Division I basketball since the 2008-2009 season and are part of the Northeast Conference. Bryant is picked second in the conference this season behind and Robert Morris.
Last season Bryant went 19-12 overall, 12-6 in conference. They are returning their two leading scorers and preseason All-NEC players in Alex Francis and Dyami Starks. Francis averaged 17.4 points per game last season, and Starks averaged 17.7 points per game last season
Francis is an athletic quick forward who may give Gonzaga some fits. He was first team All-Northeast Conference last season. A little undersized at 6-foot-6 for the power forward position, but has some very nice post moves and is able to hit the midrange jumper. If Gonzaga comes out with a big lineup, Francis may be faster and quicker than Sam Dower Jr., which could present a matchup problem for Gonzaga. The Zags could throw, Drew Barham to defend Francis as well, but Francis looks quicker and stronger than Barham. Francis has several ways to score, and gets a lot of touches for Bryant. The good thing is that at only 6-foot-6 and Sam Dower Jr. at 6-foot-11, Sam has size on Francis and should be able to use that to his advantage especially on the offense of end.
Starks, is a very different type of player than Francis but nonetheless just as effective. As a redshirt Sophmore last season Starks not only averaged 17.7 points per game, but is also a huge three point threat shooting 40.8% from the three point line. Starks is about the size of Kevin Pangos at 6-foot-2. His main threat of his game is the three point shot, but he will also put the ball on the floor finish in the lane. I would expect Pangos or Bell, to guard Starks most of the game. If Starks is left open he will hurt you, but Pangos and Bell should be able to contain him for most the game.
Past Francis and Starks, Corey Maynard and Joe O’Shea are the other players who played significant minutes for Bryant last season. Maynard averaged 9.3 points per game last season, 3.6 assists and shot 36.6 % from three. O’Shea averaged 8.3 points, and 1.4 assists per game.
This will be a good first test for Gonzaga as Bryant may be a tournament team come march. While Francis may cause a matchup problem for the Bulldogs, Gonzaga has too much size and perimeter scoring to be stopped.
Bryant’s has three players listed at 6-foot-8, compared to the Zags two 7-foot-1 centers, and 6-foot-9 Sam Dower Jr. Gonzaga should pound the ball inside with their size advantage and I would expect Przemek Karnowski and Sam Dower Jr. to have big days. If Bryant can’t stop Gonzaga down low, they may double down on the post leaving the perimeter scorers on the outside open.
Bryant is a solid team to start the season against but outside their two top scorers in Francis and Starks, they do not have enough size to stay with Gonzaga. The Zags should be able to pull away from Bryant and start off the season with a W.
Tip off is 4:00 pm(PT) in Spokane. TV- KHQ, Root Sports