‘Giant Killer’ Profile: St. Mary’s

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Saint Mary’s Gaels
West Coast Conference
Moraga, California
Head Coach: Randy Bennett (15th Season)
Record: 15-2, 6-1 conf.
RPI: 53
KenPom: 18
SOS: 309
Best Wins: 78-61 vs Stanford, 70-60 vs UC Irvine, 85-74 vs BYU
Bad Losses: 64-67 @ Pepperdine
Key Players:
G Emmett Naar (13.8 PPG, 6.4 APG, 59% 3PT)
F Dane Pineau (11.1 PPG, 8.1 RPG, 1.5 BPG, 62% FG)
C Jock Landale (10.4 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 67% FG)

For the last 15 years, you could say that nobody has recruited outside of the United States better than Saint Mary’s Head Coach Randy Bennett. His most well known player is current Cleveland Cavaliers PG Matthew Dellevadova, who grew up in Australia, and was recruited by Bennett to play college ball for the Gaels.

This year is no exception. Bennett’s team is 15-2, and look like they are on their way to competing for a West Coast Conference championship, and a spot in the big dance, led by a couple players from the “Land Down Under.” The leader of this Gaels team is G Emmett Naar, from Sydney, Australia. Naar, a 6’1″ sophomore, leads the team in scoring with 13.8 points per game, and he leads the nation in 3-point percentage, shooting an incredible 59 percent from downtown.

As a team, the Gaels shoot 58.6 percent from the field (4th in the nation according to KenPom), and 46 percent from 3-point range (best in the nation). KenPom ranks Saint Mary’s 8th in the country in offensive efficiency, and 1st in effective field goal percentage. This is one of the best offensive teams in the country, and while many people say that “defense wins championships,” an extremely efficient offense can be just as deadly.

The one big issue with this team though, is that they have put up these numbers against one of the weakest schedules in the nation. The toughest team they have played so far this season is California (ranked 36th on KenPom), and they suffered a 63-59 loss in Berkeley. They have played just four road games this season, and they are 2-2 in those games. One thing that the selection committee likes to see is teams that are able to win away from home, as nobody plays home games in the tournament. If the Gaels want a chance at an at-large bid to the tourney, they need to win most, if not all, of their road games in WCC play.

The very low strength of schedule is alarming, and it can create skeptics, but I think this team is a very good team, and with their incredible 3-point shooting, I believe they are capable of knocking off some top teams in March. The Gaels still get to face BYU on the road, and they have two games against Gonzaga, not including a potential match-up in the WCC final. If Saint Mary’s can win 2 of those 3 games, I think they would have a chance at an at-large bid. But I say that thinking that this team could very well win the WCC and get the auto-bid. Look out for Saint Mary’s in March!

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