(Part-2) Gonzaga's 24-game NCAA tournament streak threatened

Gonzaga's recruiting has been harder after Arizona hired Few's longtime top assistant in 2021. As collegiate basketball's top international recruiter, Tommy Lloyd brought Domantas Sabonis, Rui Hachimura, Kelly Olynyk, and Kevin Pangos to Spokane. Lloyd recruited great transfers and high school players, scheduled games, and nurtured players.

Lloyd's absence is noticeable this season. Zags were without men for the first time in a decade. Backcourt depth and NBA talent are lacking.

Few and his staff searched the transfer site for several players after five of last season's top eight left. Eastern Washington Big Sky player of the year Steele Venters, Wyoming back-to-the-basket scorer Graham Ike, and Creighton point guard Ryan Nembhard were signed. In addition to Anton Watson and Nolan Hickman, skilled big men Ben Gregg and Braden Huff, and rookie shooting guard Dusty Stromer.

Gonzaga was ranked 11th preseason because to their potential core.Venters ruptured his right ACL days before the Zags' opening.Gonzaga loses Venters, a projected starter and top perimeter shooter. The 6-foot-7 Eastern Washington junior wing averaged 15.3 points and shot 40.7% from 3-point range.

Gonzaga should have kept guards Hunter Sallis and Dominick Harris, the rare Spokane recruits who failed, to prepare for the Venters injury. Wake Forest team leader Sallis averages 18.0 points per game. Leader Harris shoots 41% from range for Loyola Marymount.

Venters' departure has been significant without Sallis and Harris. Gonzaga's perimeter is poor, thus Few hesitates to remove Nembhard or Hickman in tight games. Each has played 39+ minutes six times.

Stromer is another healthy scholarship perimeter player. When resting or replacing Harris or Sallis, Watson, the team's leading scorer, plays wing. Gonzaga is Few's worst perimeter shooting team but plays well defensively. Gonzaga shoots 31.7% from 3-point range, 251st nationally. In five losses, they shot 19.8% from deep.

Will Gonzaga make the NCAA tournament despite poor shooting and perimeter depth? Perhaps, but time will tell. ZAGS can win a key game against Kentucky, dominate conference play, or salvage their season in the WCC tournament in Las Vegas.

The program's future may matter more after this season.Gonzaga is still looking for their first 2024 recruit after losing Zoom Diallo, Asa Newell, and Chase McCarty. This must change soon or the Zags will have seasons like this.

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