Men's Hoops Ranked 15th In Associated Press Preseason Poll

            SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) - Gonzaga University, which ended last season No. 1 in the final Associated Press Top 25 men’s basketball poll, opens this season at No. 15 in the preseason balloting of sportswriters.

            The Bulldogs received 538 points and were sandwiched between No. 14 Virginia Commonwealth University and No. 16 Wichita State University.

            The University of Kentucky received 27 first-place votes and 1,546 points to take over the top spot the Bulldogs held for the final three weeks of last season. Michigan State University garnered 22 first-place votes and 1,543 points followed by defending national champion University of Louisville with 14 first-place votes and 1,501 points and Duke University with a pair of first—place votes and 1,435 points.

            The University of Memphis is 13th with the Zags visiting the Tigers Feb. 8 for ESPN’s College Game Day.

           Gonzaga will have a different look this year, focusing on the play of experienced guards like Kevin Pangos, Gary Bell Jr. and David Stockton.

            The Zags lost post players Kelly Olynyk and Elias Harris to the NBA, Olynyk leaving a year early and Harris signing a free agent contract.

             ''This is a very big year for us,'' said Pangos, the top returning scorer at nearly 12 points per game. ''This is a year we have to lead the team.''

            ''We're a lot smaller,'' Pangos acknowledged. ''We can go out and run and shoot, but we've only got a couple of guys on post.''

            Gonzaga went 32-3 last season but was upset by Wichita State in the third round of the NCAA tournament. Wichita State ended up advancing to the Final Four.

            No one expects the Zags to drop off much. Gonzaga was favored to win the West Coast Conference regular-season title in a preseason poll of the league's coaches. They received eight first place votes, while Brigham Young and Saint Mary's received one each.

            The veteran guards will be joined by Gerard Coleman, who sat out last season after transferring from Providence, where he had averaged 13 points per game.

            A big question is the front line. Olynyk, who averaged 17 points and 7 rebounds per game, was a first-round draft pick who now plays for Boston. Harris (14 points, 7 rebounds) signed with the Los Angeles Lakers.

            That leaves the post positions in the hands of veteran Sam Dower Jr. and sophomore Przemek Karnowski.

            ''They're very different than Kelly,'' coach Mark Few said. ''But we're hoping they can be every bit as effective.''

            Dower, who started seven games last year, averaged 6.9 points. The 7-foot-1 Karnowski averaged 5.4 points and 2.6 rebounds as a freshman in limited minutes.

            Few said the Zags figure to be a scrappy team this year, with Pangos, Bell and Stockton likely to see a lot of minutes.

            ''They have been in a lot of big games,'' Few said.

            Gonzaga opens the regular season at home Saturday against Bryant University.



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