Gonzaga leads Dickie V's early 'dazzling dozen' for 2020-21
The 2019-20 college basketball season ended abruptly. So many conference tournaments were shut down. The NCAA tournament was cancelled.
I want to stay positive, which is why I'm looking ahead to the 2020-21 season. I'm ready to make my selection as the early No. 1 for next season.
Ladies and gentlemen, there are a number of viable candidates. Villanova has a lot of talent returning. Kentucky will reload again.
But my choice is Gonzaga.
I was very impressed with the Zags when I called the WCC tournament, which ended with the Bulldogs beating Saint Mary's in the final. Yes, that was one conference tourney that was completed -- and Mark Few told me he thought next year's team would be better. The Zags led the nation in scoring last season and their offensive efficiency should be outstanding again.
Right now, WCC Player of the Year Filip Petrusev is scheduled to return. He may decide to go to the NBA, but Gonzaga will be outstanding even if he leaves.
One more reason for optimism is the addition of "diaper dandy" point guard Jalen Suggs. Suggs, a two-sport star out of Minnesota who also starred in football, is a top-five ranked freshman in the ESPN 100. Few has said he is a special player and is excited to have him headed to Spokane.
Combine Suggs with Joel Ayayi and Corey Kispert in the backcourt and you have something special. Kispert, who averaged just under 14 PPG and shot 44 percent on 3-point shots in 2019-20, will be even better next season.
Having Petrusev and Drew Timme up front is exceptional as well. Timme will be even better with a greater role. I really loved him when I watched him. Then add Anton Watson, who showed potential before being injured.
Suggs is not the only new face expected to shine for the Zags. Guard Dominick Harris has a bright future ahead. Forward Julian Strawther is a versatile piece Few will enjoy using. Oumar Ballo will be a factor up front; he sat out last year after due to academic reasons.
Another player to keep an eye on is Pavel Zakharov. He saw limited playing time and could be more vital next season.
Gonzaga will lose a few key members from the 2019-20 roster. Most notable is veteran forward Killian Tillie, who had an injury-plagued career. Experienced grad transfers Admon Gilder and Ryan Woolridge will be missed, though the addition of Suggs will help offset their absence.
This Gonzaga team is deep. I believe it will be special. I love the Zags as my early number one for 2020-21. Here's my entire "dazzling dozen" at this stage of the offseason:
1. Gonzaga Bulldogs
2. Villanova Wildcats
3. Baylor Bears
4. Duke Blue Devils
5. Kansas Jayhawks
6. Kentucky Wildcats
7. Michigan State Spartans
8. Virginia Cavaliers
9. Iowa Hawkeyes
10. Creighton Bluejays
11. Florida State Seminoles
12. Texas Tech Red Raiders