By Dean Boerner | Editor-in-Chief

The Saint Mary’s Men’s basketball team huddles before an early season road game. (Courtesy of

The Gaels had given the NCAA tournament selection committee enough reason to exclude them from the NCAA tournament, so it doesn’t come as much of a surprise that the committee obliged, leaving Saint Mary’s as one of the first four out of the field of 68.

The Gaels (28-5, 16-2) played well for most of their season, and at times they looked dominant. But a convincing loss to Gonzaga last month, which ended the Gaels’ record-setting 19-game winning streak, seemed to derail Saint Mary’s, who went on to lose to an average USF team five days later and struggle their way to a semifinals exit in the conference tournament on March 5.

In addition to uninspiring late-season play, a relatively weak schedule also hurt the case for a Saint Mary’s bid into the NCAA tournament. Head coach Randy Bennett and the Gaels scheduled games against nonconference opponents like New Mexico State, Harvard, Cal, and Dayton, among others. However, down seasons from Cal and Dayton made two of those matchups less meaningful, and mid-November wins over New Mexico State and Harvard help but simply don’t make a strong enough case for a team’s prowess.

Therefore, criticism of yet another weak nonconference schedule is reasonable. According to Matt Norlander of CBS Sports, Randy Bennett turned down potential games against Rhode Island and Creighton, two quality teams that earned entry into the NCAA tournament as at-large bids. The Gaels also had a chance to play at Nevada after hosting the Wolf Pack last year, but Bennett and the Gaels opted to go in a different direction. As a result, the Gaels missed out on another tournament-quality team. Whatever the reason for these decisions, be it scheduling or otherwise, missing out on these games led to Saint Mary’s ranking just 210th in strength of schedule (according to ESPN)—a fact that the selection committee could not have looked favorably upon.

As one of the first four teams out of the NCAA tournament, the Gaels will be slotted into the NIT as one of the No. 1 seeds. To begin their tournament, they’ll take on the Lions of Southeastern Louisiana Tuesday night.

A scenario exists where the Gaels would meet WCC foe BYU in the semifinals of the NIT and have a chance to exact some revenge on the Cougars for effectively dashing their NCAA tournament chances. But before that can happen, the Gaels will have to turn their play around.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *