At the beginning of the year, I wrote that this year could be magical if the Gaels could go undefeated at home for the first time in program history. However, that will not be so, after Saint Mary’s blew a nine point half-time lead and lost on a buzzer-beater (not technically one, but it was really one) to Santa Clara.
Losing 5 of 8 games is never fun, especially after 9 games but I have three positive things to say about this:
1. Randy Bennett is back. Can’t say the Gaels would have won against Santa Clara had he been on the sidelines, but you never know. Just glad his suspension is over with and Saint Mary’s can go back to business as usual.
2. Seniors. Seniors. Seniors. While the identity of this team remains unknown the simple fact is that Saint Mary’s loses five key cogs in the machine next year, including three starters. If Saint Mary’s was a young team, then the fans could look to see the squad improve for next year, much like fans of Portland did. Yet this isn’t the case in Moraga. Hard to imagine Stephen Holt and Beau Levesque not playing key roles in turning around the ship.
3. Still only a game back of Gonzaga. Saint Mary’s controls its own destiny. If the team that won the first nine games comes back, then there is no reason why the Gaels can’t make it back to the tournament.
Hypothetically speaking, let’s say 25 wins gets the Gaels into the tournament. They have 15 guaranteed games remaining:
1. vs. USF
2. vs. Pacific
3. vs. Pepperdine
4. vs. LMU
5. at San Diego
6. at BYU
7. at LMU
8. at Pepperdine
9. vs San Diego
10. vs. BYU
11. at USF
12. at Santa Clara
13. vs Portland
14. vs Gonzaga
15. WCC Tournament
To get to 25 wins, Saint Mary’s needs to win 13 of 15 games. For argument’s sake, let’s say that they win in the quarterfinals of the WCC Tournament. 12 of 14 games. 2 losses.
If Saint Mary’s can rebound against a hot USF team at home tomorrow and get a solid win, then they would need 11 of 13. The loss at home to SCU felt a lot like the loss to LMU two years ago, when the Gaels went 14-2 en route to an outright conference title (they lost at Gonzaga as well). Last year, the Gaels famously went 14-2, losing only to Gonzaga. Historically, they should not have any trouble winning home games except for maybe the last one. But this isn’t a regular Gonzaga team…
In what has become a weird year in WCC where anything can, will, and has happened, it is not unreasonable to see Saint Mary’s win the league by going 14-4. Is that good enough for an at-large bid? That’s a topic for another post. First and foremost, the goal is simple: Beat USF.