Saint Mary’s Gaels
2016-2017 Overall Rank: #24
Conference Rank: #2 West Coast
Despite having just five losses heading into the postseason, Saint Mary’s was left out of the NCAA Tournament. The Gaels went 15-3 in West Coast Conference play and beat Gonzaga twice along the way. However, the loss to the Bulldogs in the WCC Tournament ultimately placed Coach Randy Bennett’s squad in the NIT. They did win a couple NIT games and that postseason experience should come in handy. This is basically the same team as last year with all eight players in the regular rotation returning. Dane Pineau has emerged as a consistent piece in the frontcourt. He shot 66.7 percent from the floor on the season and was even better than that in WCC play. He also led the team with 8.1 rebounds and 1.5 blocks on top his 11.3 points per game.
2015-16 Record: 29-6, 15-3
2015-16 Postseason: NIT
Coach: Randy Bennett
Coach Record: 333-151 at Saint Mary’s, 333-151 overall
Franklin Porter and Jack Biebel are the only departures. Neither of them averaged more than four minutes per game, so the Gaels have every player of significance returning.
With all those players back, there is not too much room for the five incoming freshmen. However, a couple could find some quality minutes off of the bench. Point guard Jordan Ford is the most likely to crack the regular rotation on the perimeter. Elijah Thomas, who is a very good shooter, Tommy Kuhse and Tanner Krebs will likely have to wait behind all of the talented returning guards. Dan Sheets and Jock Perry are the newcomers in the frontcourt. Perry, a 7-1 Australian, has the skills to play a pretty big role off of the bench right away.
Who to Watch:
Emmett Naar and Joe Rahon may not be the flashiest backcourt duo St. Mary’s has ever had, but they are certainly efficient and effective. Both are smart and unselfish players who epitomize what the Gaels are all about. Naar led the team with 14.0 points and 6.4 assists per game. Rahon added 10.7 points and 5.4 assists. They also were a huge reason why the Gaels ranked fifth in the country in turnovers per game. With Naar and Rahon spearheading the offense and making shots, the Gaels are in great hands. While Naar and Rahon are good shooters, the most prolific on the team is small forward Calvin Hermanson. He connected on 39.8 percent of his 186 three-point attempts and averaged 10.9 points per game. Once Hermanson starts using his 6-6, 200 pound frame to attack the basket more effectively, he could be one of the better scorers in the WCC. Once again Kyle Clark and Stefan Gonzalez will provide much of the depth on the perimeter, but they could be push by the newcomers.
The expectations are high for Evan Fitzner. As a freshman last season the 6-10, 230 pound forward averaged 8.7 points and 4.4 rebounds. He could emerge as an All-WCC caliber player this year. Fitzner is not just an interior force; much of his offense comes from beyond the arc. With Pineau pounding in the paint and Fitzner stretching the defense, the Gaels are extremely difficult to defend. This team has the talent to reach the NCAA Tournament, but they did last year too. There is very little margin for error, especially when the WCC is not having a particularly good year like last season. The Gaels have been good at beating the teams they should beat and this season could come down to a handful of games that make the difference between reaching the NCAA Tournament and settling, yet again, for the NIT.
Projected Postseason Tournament: NCAA
Projected Starting Five:
Emmett Naar, Junior, Guard, 14.0 points per game
Joe Rahon, Senior, Guard, 10.7 points per game
Calvin Hermanson, Junior, Forward, 10.9 points per game
Dane Pineau, Senior, Forward, 11.3 points per game
Evan Fitzner, Sophomore, Center, 8.7 points per game
By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 73.6 (159th in nation, 5th in conference)
Scoring Defense: 60.9 (5, 1)
Field-Goal Percentage: 50.4 (1, 1)
Field-Goal Defense: 40.9 (47, 2)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 8.7 (48, 3)
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 40.6 (9, 1)
Free-Throw Percentage: 68.8 (209, 6)
Rebound Margin: 5.1 (42, 2)
Assists Per Game: 16.7 (16, 1)
Turnovers Per Game: 9.6 (5, 1)
Madness 2016 Men’s Basketball Recruit Rankings:
#150 Jordan Ford