#39 Saint Mary's Men's Basketball Preview

St. Mary’s Gaels

Overall Rank: #39
Conference Rank: #2 WCC
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2010-11: 25-9, 11-3
2010-11 postseason: NIT
Coach: Randy Bennett (208-112 at St. Mary’s, 208-112 overall)

St. Mary’s won 25 games last year, but failed to get an invite to the NCAA Tournament. In 2009, the situation was similar. The Gaels must be sick of getting snubbed by the Selection Committee. However, at least for this year, things are a little different in the West Coast Conference. With the addition of BYU, the Gaels will have the opportunity to post some more quality wins in conference play. Once in January, St. Mary’s pretty much had two games that anybody cared about…against Gonzaga. The conference will not play out that way this year and that may be enough for this team to garner a little more respect and get into the big dance.

Who’s Out:
Coach Randy Bennett will have to do it without Mickey McConnell. The heart and soul of last year’s squad, McConnell led the team with 16.4 points and 6.1 assists. Is he replaceable? This is a system team that has gone through some great players just to have another step into their place. Losing McConnell is not a good thing, but the Gaels have plenty of options to replace him. Forward Phil Benson is the only other departing player and he barely played last season.

Who’s In:
Coach Bennett will not need much production from his newcomers, but he will get it anyway from a couple transfers. Paul McCoy started for the better part of two seasons at Southern Methodist before his sophomore season was cut short by an injury. McCoy is an undersized do-it-all guard who can shoot, score, pass and play some quality defense. He will battle for a starting spot in the backcourt and will provide this team with a tough competitor who can help handle the ball and put up some points. Kyle Rowley is the other transfer. The former Northwestern center started 28 games as a freshman and five as a sophomore before transferring out west. Rowley will rarely put up huge numbers, but he is 7-0 and 280 pounds and is a major force to be reckoned with in the paint. Freshmen Eividas Petrulis and Brad Waldow are a couple more big guys suiting up for the Gaels this year and Jordan Giusti and Zach Sanchez will try to earn some minutes on the perimeter.

Who to Watch:
Matthew Dellavedova is the new star of the team. If you are looking for somebody to replace McConnell’s 16.4 points and 6.1 assists per game, how about the guy who averaged 13.4 points and 5.3 assists last year? Dellavedova is a very good floor leader who can do everything McConnell did. However, Dellavedova is not quite as good of an outside shooter, but he did connect on 37.6 percent of his attempts from long range last season and that is not too shabby. Jorden Page will be Dellavedova’s primary backup and Stephen Holt will battle for a starting job on the wing after spending most of his freshman campaign as the first guard off of the bench. Holt, a 6-4 wing, is full of potential. He is already a fine defender and a quality rebounder from the backcourt. Yet, he could turn into a superb scorer as well if he can start knocking down the long ball with more consistency. Beau Levesque is back after missing last season with an injury, but the small forward will again have difficulty finding any real minutes. The battle at the small forward position is between Holt and Clint Steindl. In the end, it does not matter who starts. Holt is the smaller, quicker option and Steindl is the big guy. At 6-7, Steindl would bring a lot more size to the position and he has a nice shot from long range. Coach Bennett will play both of them depending on the situation.

Final Projection:
The frontcourt is full of talent as well with Rob Jones leading the way. Jones, a 6-6 senior, is a little undersized for a power forward, but when Steindl is on the floor, this team does not lack in size. Jones is a dynamic scorer who can do damage inside and out, but it is his work on the glass that is most important to this team. After tallying 13.8 points and 7.7 rebounds as a junior, Jones is in for a huge final season in Moraga, California. Tim Williams and Kenton Walker earned starts last season, but Mitchell Young was the most productive big man and he could move into the starting lineup. Young averaged 10.2 points and 5.1 rebounds off of the bench last season. Williams, Walker and Young will all stay in the paint, allowing Jones to wander on the offensive end of the floor. With that much depth and talent in the frontcourt, this team will be tough to beat. Add the leadership of Dellavedova and the potential of the wings and you have a team that should not leave any doubt about where they stand come March.

Projected Postseason Tournament: NCAA

Projected Starting Five:
Matthew Dellavedova, Junior, Guard, 13.4 points per game
Paul McCoy, Junior, Guard, DNP last season
Clint Steindl, Senior, Forward, 6.6 points per game
Rob Jones, Senior, Forward, 13.8 points per game
Mitchell Young, Junior, Forward, 10.2 points per game

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