Spokane, WA (SportsNetwork.com) - The Bryant Bulldogs will try to produce one of the early season upsets as they tip-off their 2013-14 schedule at the McCarthey Athletic Center against the 15th-ranked Gonzaga Bulldogs.
Bryant had one of the biggest turnarounds in NCAA history a season ago, earning 17 more victories than the 2011-12 campaign to finish 19-12 overall. The Bulldogs were tied for second in the preseason rankings in the Northeast Conference, but will have to find a way to replace Frankie Dobbs, who was one of the biggest keys to the team's success. Coach Tim O'Shea was able to guide the team to a 56-54 victory at Boston College in late November last season, however the team suffered lopsided losses at Indiana (97-54) and Providence (81-49) to begin the slate.
Coach Mark Few's Bulldogs are coming off a 32-3 season that ended with a surprising third-round loss to Wichita State in the NCAA Tournament. Gonzaga was able to earn a No. 1 seed in the Big Dance due to its dominance over the course of the regular season and West Coast Conference Tournament, but it will be difficult to repeat those incredible results without center Kelly Olnyk, who is now a key component of the rebuilding Boston Celtics in the NBA. Few will also be without Elias Harris, who was one of the top forwards in the WCC for the majority of his career.
This will be the first meeting in history between Bryant and Gonzaga.
Bryant will need huge performances out of its leaders, Alex Francis and Dyami Starks, both of whom have shown the ability to be stars not only in the NEC, but on the national stage as well. Francis averaged 17.4 points and 8.6 rebounds per game last year, and he hit on an efficient 56.9 percent from the field, while Starks led the conference in 3-pointers (95, 3.06 per game), all while netting 17.7 ppg. Others expected to lend support are Corey Maynard (9.3 ppg, 5.2 rpg) and Joe O'Shea (8.3 ppg), and there are some talented youngsters who could make a name for themselves as well, notably sophomore Shane McLaughlin (1.0 ppg, 1.3 apg).
Gonzaga will be led by point guard Kevin Pangos, who netted 11.9 points and 3.3 assists per game with Olynk and Harris commanding attention in the paint. He will be joined in the backcourt by Gary Bell, Jr. (9.0 ppg) and David Stockton (3.7 ppg, 3.4 apg), who is the son of NBA Hall-of-Famer and Bulldog alum John Stockton. Providence transfer Gerard Coleman should help as he was a double-digit scorer for the Friars in the highly competitive Big East Conference. Few's team will need senior forward Sam Dower, Jr. (6.9 ppg, 2.7 rpg) and sophomore seven-footer Przemek Karnowski to adjust to their starting roles quickly to maintain its status as a national title contender.