NIT First Round Preview: #5 Vanderbilt at #4 Saint Mary’s


The Saint Mary’s Gaels are preparing to battle the Vanderbilt Commodores in the first round of the NIT Tournament on Wednesday, March 18 at 9:00 pm ET.

Mar 12, 2015; Nashville, TN, USA; Vanderbilt Commodores center Damian Jones (30) reacts after a turnover during the second half of the second round against the Tennessee Volunteers in the SEC Conference Tournament at Bridgestone Arena. Tennessee won 67-61. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

As a four seed in the tournament, the Gaels are looking to bounce back from their unexpectedly early exit from the WCC Tournament, when they fell to the Portland Pilots by a final score of 69-52.

Saint Mary’s finished the regular season with an overall record of 21-9, going 13-5 in the West Coast Conference. Though their conference losses excluded them from the NCAA Tournament, the Gaels have a good shot to make a run in the NIT. Senior center Brad Waldow is a stud, leading his squad in points (19.3) and rebounds (9.0). His size and scoring ability combined with the guard play of Kerry Cater and Aaron Bright makes for some threatening options for the Gaels.

So how about their opponent? The fifth-seeded Commodores finished around the middle of the SEC standings, going 9-9 in conference play. Vanderbilt took a bit of a blow this season when they released their top leading scorer from last year, Eric McClellan. That name sound a little familiar? The now-Gonzaga guard accounted for a majority of Vanderbilt’s offense last season, and it hasn’t been easy without him.

More from Saint Mary's

The Commodores rank 109th in points per game in the NCAA. They have two players who average double figures in freshman guard Riley LaChance (12.5) and sophomore center Damian Jones (14.4). Their next highest scorer, Wade Baldwin IV, is also a freshman. My point here being: this is a young team.

And this is where Saint Mary’s needs to take advantage.

This Gaels team is experienced. They have size, scoring, and a veteran presence that is absent from Vanderbilt’s lineup. This is likely to give Saint Mary’s the advantage over the Commodores. But expect an entertaining matchup, especially the battle between Damian Jones and Brad Waldow in the paint. Both of these guys play the center position phenomenally and lead their team in scoring. These two alone will provide some fun, fun basketball.