We are approaching mid July, it'll soon be hot enough to fry an egg on your dashboard, the Mariners are in playoff position, and football camps get rolling in less than a month. So naturally it's the perfect time to talk Gonzaga basketball.
Let's face it, the Zags are always a topic of conversation in our area, especially in a year like this. In case you haven't noticed, the hype train for next season left the station about seven months earlier than usual. Any 'way too early preseason Top-25' you found had Mark Few's crew in or near the Top-5.
And that was before they landed North Dakota transfer Geno Crandall.
After the season, and once Killian Tillie and Rui Hachimura opted to return to campus, there was one area of concern on Gonzaga's roster: point guard depth. It was an issue this past year, with no true lead guard behind Josh Perkins - who is now coming off shoulder surgery. The addition of Crandall addresses the very thing Few's roster was lacking. Now they've got another floor general in Crandall, who can play alongside Perkins or handle the offense if Perk needs a break.
Now the question people always have is - who will start? And if I had to guess I'd say Perkins, Crandall, Zach Norvell, Rui Hachimura and Killian Tillie. But it really doesn't matter because all of those guys, as well as Corey Kispert and Brandon Clarke, will get significant minutes.
What I love about the group GU has for next season - and one of the reasons they're expected to compete for a national championship - is the variety of combinations Few will be able to throw at you. Want to play small ball? He can have Perkins, Crandall, Norvell, Kispert and Rui on the floor. Want to play tall, long and athletic? Go with six-foot-four-inch Crandall, six-foot-six-inch Kispert, six-foot-eight-inch Rui and Clarke and six-foot-ten-inch Tillie.
There are endless possibilities and combinations that will make the Zags so hard to match up with, while giving them an answer for virtually any lineup they run into. And that's without considering Jacob Larsen, Joel Ayayi, Jeremy Jones or the incoming freshmen.
Here's another thing: This squad has scorers on top of scorers. Tillie, Norvell and Perkins all averaged over 12 points last season. Rui was better than 11. The newcomers Clarke and Crandall put up 17 and 16 respectively in their last stops.
GU set program records for points per game in each of the last two seasons - over 83 last season - and this year's group has the goods to outdo them. Just like they have the potential to surpass anything the Zags have done before, which after 2017 means one thing: a National Championship.
The chatter is there of preseason No. 1 rankings, and return trips to the Final Four. There's a lot that has to happen between now and then, and the road to Minneapolis sure won't be easy. But we can sit here in July and say with confidence something Gonzaga fans have never truly been able to claim this far removed from the season - that this Gonzaga team has the pieces in place for a National Championship run.
But for now, enjoy the summer - college hoops is still four months away.