SPOKANE, Wash. — When fans watch the 2019-2020 version of the Zags this season, they'll see a very different team on the court compared to last year's Elite Eight squad. However, as always, expectations for this team to once again make a run in the NCAA Tournament remain. Here are my biggest questions for the Zags as they embark on their latest campaign.
1. WILL KILLIAN TILLIE BE ABLE TO REMAIN HEALTHY?
Killian Tillie is currently day-to-day as he recovers from a preventative knee surgery at the beginning of the season. He's not playing for the squad right now, but he is not expected to miss a significant amount of time for the team.
In the last year and a half Killian has had a hip injury, a foot injury, and two ankle injuries- one was a stress fracture, the other was a sprained ankle. The later forced him to withdraw from the NBA Draft.
Killian staying healthy is pivotal to Gonzaga's success. After all, he is a national player of the year candidate. If he can stay healthy, this is a team that should make their sixth straight Sweet 16. If he can't, that streak is definitely up in the air.
2. CAN THE POINT GUARDS RISE UP TO EXPECTATIONS?
Grad transfer Ryan Woolridge will be assuming starting duties and has some big shoes to fill in predecessors Kevin Pangos, Nigel Williams-Goss, and Josh Perkins.
Woolridge still feels relatively unknown, especially since he was recovering from a knee surgery in the off season. This team has a fair amount of scoring options so the Zags won't need to rely on him much there, but they do need someone at the helm who has court vision and a good know how of how to direct other players. Woolridge doesn't need to be a star on this team, but he definitely needs to be confident and poised for this Gonzaga team to thrive.
It would also be very nice to see back up point guard Joel Ayayi take steps forward this season and develop into the player everyone thought he would be when he got to Gonzaga, especially since freshman point guard Brock Ravet is on an indefinite leave from the program for personal reasons.
3. CAN THE FRESHMEN BE CONSISTENT?
Speaking of freshmen, Gonzaga needs their highly touted recruiting class to step up.
Both Drew Timme and Anton Watson had big time performances against Lewis-Clark State in the squad's exhibition game, but how they do against high level, division one competition remains to be seen.
If those two can develop into consistent contributors that will be a huge boost for the Zags, especially with Filip Petrusev being the only returning frontcourt player currently playing. This question becomes even more important if Killian Tillie cannot stay healthy.
A bonus would be if Pavel Zakharov or Martynas Arslauskas could help off the bench, but I would be surprised to see that happen.