clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

NCAA Bubble Watch: St. Mary's With Work Still To Do

The Saint Mary’s Gaels find themselves on the right side of the NCAA Bubble Watch at this point, but any more losses like they had to Portland could prove fatal for a potential at-large bid. After knocking off the Gonzaga Bulldogs up in Spokane, the Gaels had a letdown as they were blasted by Portland. They bounced back by beating Pepperdine, but will need to continue winning their must-wins. That includes today’s matchup at home against Loyola Marymount at 5:00pm pacific on ESPN 2. St. Mary’s will be the favorite to win the conference tournament, but a slip-up in Las Vegas at the WCC tourney means they need quality wins in the meantime.

SB Nation released their latest NCAA Bubble Watch and they’ve dropped the Gaels from the 33rd team to the 37th team. Over at Blogging the Bracket, Chris Dobbertean listed St. Mary’s as a team with work to do, which is a pretty fair assessment. Chris broke down St. Mary’s as follows:

The Gaels’ best win of the season, a home triumph over St. John’s in mid-November, got a significant boost in prestige when the Red Storm defeated Duke last Sunday. However, St. Mary’s only other win of note, at Gonzaga was nearly canceled out two days later, when the Gaels were blasted by Portland. Still, St. Mary’s impressive ability to take out bad teams helps its case, as does a good road/neutral mark. As for the Gaels’ remaining slate, three straight late home games against Utah State (BracketBusters), Gonzaga, and Portland are crucial to their hopes, particularly if they can’t take care of business at the WCC Tournament in Las Vegas.

The Gaels host Loyola Marymount today and will look to put some space between themselves and one of the two second place WCC teams. 11-11 (5-2) USF hosts 15-9 (5-2) Santa Clara in a battle between the two second place teams. The winner of that game maintains pace with St. Mary’s (assuming the Gaels beat LMU), while the loser drops into a tie for third place with Gonzaga.

GAME NOTES: Two teams moving in opposite directions in the West Coast Conference collide at McKeon Pavilion in Moraga, as the surging Saint Mary’s- CA Gaels entertain the slumping Loyola Marymount Lions.

The Gaels, who are atop the WCC standings with a 7-1 record, are undefeated at home through 12 games. Of the team’s four losses this season, two have come in the last four games (Vanderbilt and Portland), but on Thursday night the squad made its way back into the win column with a 79-71 triumph over the Pepperdine Waves. SMC needs just one more win for its fourth straight 20-win campaign and the seventh in the program’s history.

As for the Lions, they’ve fallen in all four of their conference road games and have just a single win versus the rest of the WCC at this stage. Two nights ago, the team was defeated on the road by San Diego in a 66-63 decision, the setback being the sixth in the last seven outings for the program overall. The lone win during that stretch came against non-conference foe Seattle earlier this week.

The Gaels easily took care of Loyola Marymount in the first meeting of the season last month with a 98-75 final on the road. Mickey McConnell tallied 21 points, leading six players in double figures, while adding eight assists for the visitors as they shot an unprecedented 61 percent from the field and 11- of-20 from three-point range. With the overwhelming victory, SMC moved to 75-53 in the all-time series with the Lions.

In a game that saw seven ties and 15 lead changes, the Lions picked the wrong time to be staring at a deficit as they bowed by three points at San Diego on Thursday night. Anthony Ireland was responsible for 12 points to lead the team in scoring, while Drew Viney dropped in 10, but it made little difference as fellow starter Ashley Hamilton was held scoreless as he dealt with foul trouble. Viney is responsible for a team-high 15.5 ppg for the program and is also first on the glass with six and a half rebounds per game, but he tends to have a few too many turnovers which keep him and the Lions from added shots at the offensive end of the floor. Vernon Teel checks in with 12.9 ppg and 6.2 rpg, not to mention a team-leading 84 assists and 41 steals, but as talented as he might be Teel needs to divorce himself from trying to become a three- point threat where he has made just 2-of-29 chances thus far.

Mickey McConnell played the full 40 minutes against Pepperdine on Thursday night and used his time to produce a team-high 26 points and hand out five assists for the victors. Rob Jones also had a strong game with 22 points and eight boards, followed by Stephen Holt and Kenton Walker II with 10 points apiece off the bench. The Gaels made a huge impact at the free-throw line where they converted 23-of-28 opportunities, compared to 13-of-19 for the visitors. Over the last three games McConnell has erupted for a combined 85 points and is now pacing the squad overall with his 16.3 ppg. Not only is he shooting 52.2 percent from the floor overall, McConnell has converted an astounding 48.4 percent of his three-point tries as well. Jones (14.2 ppg) and Matthew Dellavedova (12.5 ppg) also have their areas of specialty as the former clears 7.5 rpg and the latter hands out almost six assists per contest.

Unless something drastic happens to the Gaels there’s no way they should come up short in this meeting, not with McConnell and Dellavedova directing traffic and hitting shots at will.

GAME NOTES: Two teams moving in opposite directions in the West Coast Conference collide at McKeon Pavilion in Moraga, as the surging Saint Mary’s- CA Gaels entertain the slumping Loyola Marymount Lions.

FACTS & STATS: Site: McKeon Pavilion (3,500) — Moraga, California. Television: ESPN2. Home Record: LMU 6-5, SMC 12-0. Away Record: LMU 2-8, SMC 4-3. Neutral Record: LMU 1-1, SMC 3-1. Conference Record: LMU 1-7, SMC 7-1. Series Record: Saint Mary’s-CA leads, 75-53.

Saturday, February 5th, 8:00 p.m. (et).

Saint Mary’s-CA 81, Loyola Marymount 66