SPOKANE, Wash. — Now that the dust has settled around Gonzaga's program, it's time to look into the future. Today I am delving into who I think will start for Gonzaga next season and how I think minutes will be divvied up.
GONZAGA'S STARTING LINEUP
The Zags could go two routes here: Go big or go small.
Go small means they start Drew at the 5 and start Nolan Hickman at the point.
I am choosing small.
That means Nolan Hickman at the 1, Rasir Bolton at the 2, Malachi Smith at the 3, Julian Strawther at the 4, and Drew Timme at the 5.
This looks a lot like Gonzaga’s starting five that featured Corey Kispert starting at the 4 when they made the national championship game a few years ago.
Needless to say, they've had success going small.
DIVVYING UP STARTING MINUTES
I want to make one thing clear when I talk about minutes before we begin: I’m talking about the average of minutes played in big games. Not the games played against the Pacifics and Central Michigans of the world.
Let’s start with my presumed starters. In Gonzaga’s 15 games I deemed against quality opponents last season, Drew Timme, Julian Strawther, and Rasir Bolton all averaged around 30 minutes per game. I don’t see that changing, so we’re going to go with that.
Keep in mind there are 200 minutes in each contest, so now there are only 110 minutes left.
That leaves us in terms of starters with Nolan Hickman and Malachi Smith. I do not see Hickman playing the iron man minutes that Nembhard had to play last year. Basically, by the end of the year, Andrew was playing the entire contest. I’m going to go 25 for Nolan and 25 for Malachi, who I believe will back up Hickman at the point.
We are down to 60 minutes left.
DIVVYING UP BENCH MINUTES
There are lots of options here, and we’ve only got 60 minutes to spread out.
Let’s start with Anton Watson, another player who I don’t think will see their minutes recede. He averaged 20 minutes during big games, and I think that will hold.
So we’re down to 40 minutes, and we’ve still got three players to work in Hunter Sallis, Dominick Harris, and Efton Reid. Traditionally, Few operates with three bigs in the rotation, but Reid gives the Zags a 6'11, 238 lb frame that Strawther, Timme, and Watson simply don't have. Because of the different look Reid can bring, I see him getting 15 minutes a game.
That leaves 25 minutes left for Hunter and Dominick. Last season, Hunter averaged nine minutes per big game. I see that going up to 15, which leaves Dominick with 10.
Now, Mark Few did play nine players double-digit minutes as recently as the 2018-2019 season, but an important caveat to remember there is that Killian Tillie missed over half of Gonzaga’s games with injuries and Geno Crandall also missed 11 games that year due to injury.
Few definitely has quite a balancing act this season, and I'm not sure he's ever had a team with this many highly-rated players all vying for playing time.