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NCAA Tournament: A first look at Arizona’s second round opponent, the Saint Mary’s Gaels

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What will the Wildcats face on Saturday?

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-First Round-Saint Mary's vs Virginia Commonwealth Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

The Saint Mary’s Gaels took care of business in a hard fought game against the VCU Rams on Thursday evening, taking it by a score of 85-77. This victory is short lived as they now have to prepare for the Arizona Wildcats in the Round of 32 on Saturday.

Record (WCC Record) – 29-4 (16-2)

Key Wins – Nevada 81-63, at Dayton 61-57, at Stanford 66-51

Key Losses – U-T Arlington 65-51, at Gonzaga 79-56, Gonzaga 74-56 (WCC Championship game)

Key Players – Jock Landale (Center), Calvin Hermanson (Forward), Emmett Naar (Guard), Joe Rahon (Guard)

Randy Bennett and the Gaels finished as the runner-up in the West Coast Conference during the regular season and conference tournament. They have only lost to two teams all season, which is impressive to say the least.

They rank 8th in the country in field goal percentage, draining 49.6% of their shots. They’re also second in scoring defense, allowing 56.5 points per game. This is a complete team that is highly efficient on both ends of the floor. Their competition throughout the season has been questionable but they’ve taken care of business.

Jock Landale is a real force in the post and is capable of recording a double-double in any given game, like he did against VCU on Thursday (18 points, 13 rebounds). He is the team’s leading scorer, and all of the Gaels’ top five scorers are upperclassmen.

They don’t have the deepest rotation, however. Those same five upperclassmen are the only players to average more than 20 minutes per contest. Early foul trouble could pose a real issue for the Gaels as we witnessed Thursday night with guard Joe Rahon.

This is a team that is very experienced and has won 58 games (including the first round) over the past two seasons. Many pundits felt that they were snubbed from last season’s tournament. They finally got their first taste of NCAA Tournament play since 2013 which was a sweet one with Thursday night’s win.

It should be pointed out that SMC is ranked higher than Arizona in both KenPom and BPI. The pace of play will likely be extremely slow from both sides as well.