- Andy Katz, ESPN Senior Writer
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Editor's Note: In the buildup to Midnight Madness, we are taking an in-depth look at Joe Lunardi's top five seeds in a series called Countdown To Madness. In addition to the Insider stories, Eamonn Brennan will offer Three Big Things about each team and we'll have Five Questions with a player or coach from each squad.
Gonzaga was the darling of the Dance in 1999.
The Zags have been a model of consistency ever since, but have been unable to get back to the Elite Eight -- let alone the ultimate breakthrough: the Final Four.
Could that change in 2013? Gonzaga has its core returning, an experienced group of guards, tough matchups inside and a potential difference-maker in the middle.
Robert Sacre is the biggest loss from last season, but the return of Kevin Pangos, Gary Bell Jr. and David Stockton on the perimeter as well as a frontline of Elias Harris, Sam Dower and 7-foot-1 Polish center Przemek Karnowski make the Zags a major threat in the West and nationally.
“We’re trying to make it as far as we can in the tournament,’’ Pangos said. “We want to make a statement and bring Gonzaga where it has never been before.’’
To do that, Pangos will have to be even more of a star than he was as a freshman last season, when he ranged from scoring 33 against Washington State in his second career game to going 3-of-18 in the WCC final loss against Saint Mary’s.
We posed five quick questions to Pangos as he preps for the season:
Gonzaga's long streak of WCC titles ended last season. Why should this season be different than the last?
Kevin Pangos: The players coming back know what they’re doing. And it’s looking good so far.
What did you discover about yourself in trying out for the Canadian national team this past summer?
KP: That I can play with some of the best players. I played against Cory Joseph and other NBA guys. Steve Nash was there. Canadian basketball is going to be special. No one wants to be average anymore. We’re all pushing for everyone to make the future special. We’re deeper. It’s not just 10 or 12 guys. There are 30 challenging to make this team look good.
How often have you seen John Stockton around the program?
KP: I’ve spoken to him a bunch. He’s around here a lot.
How do you spell Przemek Karnowski and what kind of impact will he have?
KP: P-r-z-e-m-e-k. The way you say it is ‘Shemeck.’ K-a-r-n-o-w-s-k-i. I think he’ll be a great impact. We lost Sacre, but he’ll be a big-time presence and physical and [will provide] vocal leadership. He’ll fit that spot nicely. He’s got a lot to learn. He’s already doing well. It will be good to bring such a big body down low with a soft touch.
With a German, Polish and multiple Canadian and American nationals, what is this team’s identity?
KP: Our identity is a Gonzaga team that still wants to win. It doesn’t matter where we’re from or what language we speak. We will come together as a unit.
Editor's Note: In the buildup to Midnight Madness, we are taking an in-depth look at Joe Lunardi's top five seeds in a series called Countdown To Madness.