#19 Saint Mary's Men's Basketball 2017-2018 Preview

Saint Mary’s Gaels
2017-2018 Overall Rank: #19
Conference Rank: #2 West Coast
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Saint Mary’s only lost five games last season. Three of those came against conference rival Gonzaga and one of the others came against Arizona in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. The Gaels are still playing second fiddle to Gonzaga, but this could be the year when Saint Mary’s surpasses their WCC rival. However, even if they don’t, the Gaels are poised to make a deep NCAA Tournament run. Jock Landale has All-American hopes after averaging 16.9 points and 9.5 rebounds during his junior year. The opposition will always have to keep an eye on the 6-11, 255 pound center and one defender cannot stop him.
2016-17 Record: 29-5, 16-2
2016-17 Postseason: NCAA
Coach: Randy Bennett
Coach Record: 365-158 at Saint Mary’s, 365-158 overall
Who’s Out:
Joe Rahon and Dane Pineau are significant losses. Rahon started all 34 games last year and averaged 8.3 points, 5.6 assists and 3.7 rebounds. He was a great decision maker, but the Gaels have plenty of other point guards on the roster. Pineau was the sixth man on the team and the 6-9 forward averaged 6.6 points and 6.1 rebounds on the year. He was an extremely efficient interior scorer around the basket. The only other departure is Stefan Gonzalez, a little used guard who averaged 2.8 points per games in 28 appearances.
Who’s In:
The big newcomer is Cullen Neal. He was a graduate transfer from New Mexico to Mississippi last season and is now a graduate transfer from Ole Miss to Saint Mary’s. The one-time Gaels recruit averaged 9.4 points and 2.2 assists with the Rebels last year and should slide right into Rahon’s starting role. New to the backcourt are Kristers Zoriks and walk-on Tommy Kuhse. Zoriks is another ballhandler who has a lot of potential. He should see the floor as a freshman. The lone newcomer is Elijah Thomas. The 6-5 forward redshirted last season and will spend this year waiting behind some talented players in front of him.
Who to Watch:
Landale is not the only talented player on this team. Emmett Naar averaged 9.4 points and 5.6 assists and will team up with Neal to form another great backcourt. Naar is a very good scorer, but did take a backseat to Landale last year. He will likely do so again, but Naar can certainly score when needed. Calvin Hermanson was second to Landale in the scoring department last year, averaging 13.1 points per game. The 6-6 senior is a superb three-point shooter, but he can attack the basket as well. Evan Fitzner is the last of the returning starters. He averaged just 15.1 minutes per game, but the 6-10 junior can knock down three-pointers and stretch the defense. With an improved defensive presence, Fitzner will boost his playing time significantly.
Final Projection:
The potential problem with Saint Mary’s is their depth. Last year Coach Randy Bennett had seven players who averaged over ten minutes per game. With Rahon and Pineau gone, others will need to step up and provide some quality depth behind the talented starting five. Tanner Krebs and Kyle Clark are capable of being productive, but the newcomers will get a long look too. If those pieces can fill in around the returning starters, Saint Mary’s will give Gonzaga a run for their money. And, more importantly, the Gaels could make an impressive NCAA Tournament run.
Projected Postseason Tournament: NCAA
Projected Starting Five:
Emmett Naar, Senior, Guard, 9.4 points per game
Cullen Neal, Senior, Guard, 9.4 points per game
Calvin Hermanson, Senior, Forward, 13.1 points per game
Evan Fitzner, Junior, Center, 5.5 points per game
Jock Landale, Senior, Center, 16.9 points per game
By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 72.0 (201st in nation, 3rd in conference)
Scoring Defense: 57.5 (2, 1)
Field-Goal Percentage: 49.6 (6, 2)
Field-Goal Defense: 41.2 (40, 2)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 8.6 (70, 3)
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 39.4 (20, 1)
Free-Throw Percentage: 74.5 (46, 1)
Rebound Margin: 9.0 (3, 1)
Assists Per Game: 16.6 (17, 1)
Turnovers Per Game: 10.7 (19, 2)