Saint Mary's Gaels are on thin ice
The Gaels' matchup against the Gonzaga Bulldogs this week looks like a must-win
As recently as Feb. 11, the Saint Mary's Gaels were 21-4 and ranked 28th in the RPI. With a 9-1 record in the West Coast Conference, Saint Mary's looked to be on the fast track to an NCAA tournament bid.
But the last week has been a rough one for the Gaels. Last Wednesday, they jumped to an 11-point lead on the road at the WCC's last-place team, the San Diego Toreros. But in the second half, Randy Bennett's squad couldn't hold off the deep-bombing Toreros, who drained eight of 12 3-pointers during a shocking 74-66 victory. By losing to 316th-ranked San Diego, SMC earned the dubious distinction of having the worst loss of any RPI top-50 team this season.
Saint Mary's had a chance to bounce back in its BracketBusters matchup with the Utah State Aggies on Saturday in Moraga, Calif. This time, the Mickey McConnell-led Gaels jumped to an early 12-point advantage against the Aggies. In the second half, though, USU pounded SMC inside behind the tough interior play of Tai Wesley. That dozen-point lead evaporated into a 10-point deficit, and the Gaels ended up losing 75-65 at McKeon Pavilion to the 20th-ranked Aggies.
Just like that, the Gaels went from a shoo-in tourney team to one with plenty of reason for doubt.