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Challenging schedule, injury concerns could sink Gonzaga

Jeff Eisenberg
The Dagger

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UPDATE: Great news for Gonzaga courtesy of FoxSports.com's Jeff Goodman, who reports that an MRI revealed Elias Harris did not suffer a torn Achilles. The sophomore forward is expected to be sidelined for about a week.

Overshadowed by the well-deserved praise being heaped upon San Diego State this morning is the other obvious storyline that emerged from the Aztecs' impressive road victory at Gonzaga on Tuesday night.

How much trouble are the Zags in now?

A three-point loss to a fellow top 25 foe in November wouldn't normally be cause for panic, but Gonzaga really needed to defend its home court in that game considering the issues facing the Zags now.

The biggest concern has to be that star forward Elias Harris left late in the San Diego State game with an injury and told the Spokane Spokesman Review afterward that he felt his Achilles tendon "pop." And adding to the anxiety over the status of Harris, the Zags are now set to embark on the toughest stretch of non-league games any team will face this season.

Up first for Gonzaga are two games in the CBE Classic in Kansas City next week against Big 12 favorite Kansas State and either Marquette or Duke. Then in December, the Zags have neutral-court games against top 20 Illinois and Baylor, road games at Notre Dame and Washington State and home games against Xavier and Oklahoma State.

Taking the glass-half-full stance that Harris' injury scare will turn out to be nothing and he'll play in all of those games, it's still hard to see Gonzaga winning more than half of them. If an MRI on Wednesday reveals that Harris has a significant injury, then the season could unravel in a hurry.

A preseason shoulder injury has limited Harris to just 7.7 points a game so far this season, but the versatile sophomore showed NBA potential last season. He averaged 14.9 points and 7.1 rebounds per game last season, making him the centerpiece of what was expected to be one of the nation's best frontcourts this season.

Guard Steven Gray's 35 points against San Diego State showed he's capable of carrying Gonzaga on occasion, but he's going to need that frontcourt to live up to expectations sooner or later.

With a healthy Harris, that seems feasible. Without him, a rough patch could be ahead.

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