The St. Mary’s Gaels head into this afternoon’s matchup with Portland coming off one of their biggest wins of the season. The Gaels went into Spokane and defeated the Gonzaga Bulldogs 73-71 courtesy of a last second shot by Mickey McConnell. Saint Mary’s had lost a brutal game the previous Saturday at Vanderbilt, but bounced back strong for the key conference victory. The Gaels are going to be a favorite in the WCC tournament in March but if they are upset in the tourney, winning the regular season conference title will be a strong line on their resume.
SB Nation released their latest NCAA Bubble Watch and they include the Gaels as a nine seed and the 33rd team in the tournament. This inclusion was as part of the group with “work to do.” The reason for this is due to the fact that their non-conference schedule wasn’t filled with a lot of big wins. Their best win was over St. John’s, a team that is ranked 27th in the RPI. The Gaels had some tough opponents including BYU and San Diego State, but they simply couldn’t get enough wins in their non-conference slate. The Gonzaga win is important for their conference title chances, but the Bulldogs are having an off-year so the win has a bit less cache than in previous years.
Including today’s game at Portland, St. Mary’s has eight games remaining in the regular season. While they probably don’t need to win out to solidify a potential at-large bid, they’ll need to come close to that. They are currently ranked 34 in the RPI. While that’s a solid ranking, they would probably feel a lot more comfortable bumping it up a few notches. Of course, they’d feel most comfortable simply heading down to Las Vegas and winning the WCC tournament. Either way, they need to win today at Portland.