The Arizona Wildcats and Saint Mary’s Gaels faceoff at approximately 4:45 PM PT on Saturday with a Sweet Sixteen bid on the line.
So we reached out to Mid Major Madness’ West Coast Conference expert Will Maupin to give us his thoughts on the Gaels and how this game plays out.
Thanks to Will for taking the time to answer our questions:
1. Was Thursday's win over VCU a pretty typical Saint Mary's game or did they change some things up?
Maupin: It was typical from Saint Mary's. A little faster and more high scoring than the Gaels would've liked. But otherwise they played their usual surgical style of offense and stifling defense.
2. A lot of our talk has been about SMC being ranked higher in the analytics than Arizona. Were the Gaels underseeded when given a 7 in your opinion?
Maupin: They were and they weren't. They were because they're clearly not a 7. They've spent the entire season, preseason poll through postseason, ranked in the AP Top 25. But, they weren't because at this point we know how terrible the committee is at evaluating mid-major programs. When the selection show got to the west region I was preparing myself for the potential that the Gaels might have been snubbed again.
3. Arizona has struggled with strong interior players this year. Do you see Jock Landale being athletic and physical enough to give the Wildcats trouble down low?
Maupin: Absolutely. Landale might be the most improved player in America this season. He's a Kareem Abdul-Jabbar award finalist for good reason. He will cause trouble Saturday. Likely for Arizona, but possibly for his own team. In three games against Gonzaga he got into foul trouble and the Gaels struggled. If he's on the court, against all but three or four teams in America he's the best big man in the game.
4. What kind of defense does Randy Bennett typically deploy or is it a mixture of a lot of things?
Maupin: If you watched their opener you saw their basic defensive tendencies. It's man and it's hard to break down. Adding to their defensive strength is the tempo they play at offensively. Limited possessions means less chances to score, and their stingy man defense means less of those possessions result in points. Joe Rahon is the WCC Defensive Player of the Year. He played most of the second half with four fouls.
5. Outside of Landale, who do you think is the one guy likely to make a huge impact on this game?
Maupin: Calvin Hermanson. Don't let the headband and glasses fool you, Hermanson is a killer. He's a three point marksman (44.1%) averaging 13.1 ppg. The way the Gaels pass and probe results in a lot of open shots, and when Hermanson gets a clean look he makes you pay. At Lake Oswego High School he was twice named Gatorade Oregon State Player of the Year, the first player since Kevin Love to earn that honor twice.
6. How do you see this one playing out?
Maupin: My bracket has a west regional final that features Gonzaga in a rematch, so I'll stick with that. Saint Mary's is a veteran team that has shown the ability, away from home and against super uptempo teams, to control the tempo and play slow. In all of D1 only Virginia plays at a slower tempo than Saint Mary's. That won't be too big of an issue for the Wildcats, but the Gaels all around efficiency will. That Gonzaga rematch, it doesn't include the Wildcats.
Thanks to Will for taking the time to answer our questions. Be sure to check out Mid Major Madness for their coverage of the NCAA Tournament, and follow Will @WillsWCCblog.