The college basketball season begins in November and it is time to start counting down the days until tipoff.
As the excitement builds, websites across the Internet start posting team previews and this will be no different. I will unveil three per week, leading up to a Halloween release date of the regular season predictions.
Some writers around the country have begun to have faith in the next team and it’s about time for a team that has had at least 25 wins in each of the last four seasons. Let’s take a look at the Saint Mary’s Gaels.
Conference finish: T-1st
Postseason: NIT First Round
Head Coach: Randy Bennett, 11th season
Returning starters: G Matt Dellavedova, F Rob Jones, G Stephen Holt
Key newcomers: C Kyle Rowley
Key games: 11/14 vs. Northern Iowa, 11/18 vs. Weber State, 12/22 vs. Baylor, 12/29 vs. BYU, 1/12 vs. Gonzaga, 1/21 at Santa Clara, 2/9 at Gonzaga
Saint Mary’s loses only one key piece but it is the reigning WCC Player of the Year, Mickey McConnell.
That said the Gaels were in the driver’s seat with the program’s first outright WCC regular season title on the horizon before they hit a pothole big enough to derail the whole season. That pothole was San Diego.
The Gaels missed the NCAA Tournament and were bounced in the first round of the NIT. The team felt cheated and now knows there are no breaks in the schedule.
“You have to be consistent and bring it every game,” Dellavedova said last month.
What will help the Gaels bring that consistency will be an influx of players to help give the starters from last year a breather periodically.
Saint Mary’s played with nine eligible players for the better part of the season and sustained a number of injuries, including guards Jorden Page, Tim Harris and forward Beau Levesque. There were times the Gaels only had eight healthy bodies to practice.
This season, Head Coach Randy Bennett opened practice with 16 players.
The notable additions were 7-foot center Kyle Rowley, junior transfer Paul McCoy and the return of Page and Levesque.
But health has already become a concern in Moraga with McCoy likely to miss the upcoming season due to a knee injury that will cause him to have two surgeries to repair it. McCoy also injured his right knee in his final month at SMU.
Only three players have solid minutes guaranteed and they belong to Dellavedova, sophomore guard Stephen Holt and senior forward Rob Jones.
The rest of the roster is fighting for minutes and a defined role on the team.
Saint Mary’s will be resting its NCAA Tournament hopes, once again, on another relatively light schedule. The only real challenge in the preseason will be a neutral game against Baylor, whom many think will go deep into March.
Scheduling has not been easy for the Gaels but the addition of BYU to the conference adds some notoriety to a seemingly light slate.
The Gaels are talented enough to compete for another conference championship and proved Gonzaga can be taken off its pedestal.
Follow Zack Farmer on Twitter: @ZFarmerExaminer
Coming this month:
Oct. 5 – Player of the Year candidates
Oct. 10 – Gonzaga
Oct. 12 – Loyola Marymount
Oct. 14 – San Francisco
Oct. 17 – Santa Clara
Oct. 19 – San Diego
Oct. 21 – BYU
Oct. 24 – Portland
Oct. 26 – Saint Mary’s
Oct. 28 – Pepperdine
Oct. 31 – Season Predictions