After losing to Syracuse University in the second round of last season's NCAA tournament, expectations are high among Gonzaga fans heading into the 2010-11 season.
Over at the Slipper Still Fits, Zach Bell already has his sights set on the Elite Eight.
What is "success" for the 2010-11 Gonzaga Bulldogs? - The Slipper Still Fits
My current expectation for this team is to make it to the Elite 8. Gonzaga has a pair of bonafide stars in Elias Harris and Steven Gray. These two should be the unequivocal offensive leaders on this team. Combine that with a solid supporting cast of Robert Sacre, Kelly Olynyk, Manny Arop, Meech Goodson etc...it becomes a dangerous team to handle. Something that has plagued GU in the past is that there were too many people craving points and limelight. I don't see that with this team.
Bell's Elite Eight expectations are not necessarily an isolated instance of unrealistic homerism - ESPN's Andy Katz might have similar expectations.
Daily Word: Andy Katz's preseason top 25 - ESPN
9. Gonzaga: The Zags had quite a summer with Elias Harris, Kelly Olynyk and Robert Sacre all playing for their respective national teams. Gonzaga put together arguably the toughest nonconference schedule in the country, too. If Demetri Goodson and Steven Gray can elevate their game as lead guards after the departure of Matt Bouldin, the Zags will be deserving of a top-10 ranking.
A large part of the reason for the excitement about Gonzaga is that they're returning four of five starters and looking to build on last season's shared success in the regular season.
Canada Basketball | GONZAGA BASKETBALL SEASON BEGINS WITH 'KRAZINESS IN THE KENNEL'
Four starters from last year's 23-7 team that advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament - the Bulldogs 12th straight trip to March Madness - return for 12th-year head coach Mark Few.
The lone senior on this year's team is Steven Gray, who has shed his familiar uniform number 32 for number 41 this season. He averaged 13.6 points per game last season, one of two returning starters who averaged in double figures a year ago.
Junior centre Robert Sacre and junior guard Demetri Goodson are the other returning upperclassmen starters. Goodson averaged 6.4 ppg, 2.1 rpg and 1.8 assists per game. Sacre, up to 260 pounds on his 7-0 frame, averaged 10.3 ppg and 5.4 rebounds per game last season.
"I'm excited for this upcoming season," Sacre told KREM-TV.
But the individual drawing the most buzz is 6-foot-8 forward Elias Harris, who Bell clearly has high expectations for.
Good morning, Gonzaga basketball 2010-11 - The Slipper Still Fits
Elias Harris. Personally, Elias is as much fun to watch as Adam Morrison was at Gonzaga. A player with unlimited offensive potential, I can't wait to see Harris at McCarthey again.
It would be perfectly reasonable to look at this team with one senior and enormous potential and say that we should wait for a big breakthrough next year. But as Seth Davis of SI.com notes, Butler's miracle run last season reminds us that a breakthrough often occurs when we're not expecting it...hence why it's considered a breakthrough.
Ten burning questions for 2010-11 college basketball season - Seth Davis - SI.com
...it's fair to wonder when the Zags are going to pull off a similar breakthrough and get to the Final Four. Lots of high-major coaches have gone through the knocking-at-the-door-but-haven't-broken-through crucible, and while some never get there (Norm Stewart and Gene Keady, to name a couple), the ones who do usually reach the Final Four in a season when they're least expected.