Saint Mary's Gaels men's basketball
|Saint Mary's Gaels|
|University||Saint Mary's College of California|
|Head coach||Randy Bennett (16th season)|
|Colors||Navy, Red, and Silver
|NCAA Tournament Elite Eight|
|NCAA Tournament Sweet Sixteen|
|NCAA Tournament Round of 32|
|1959, 2010, 2017|
|NCAA Tournament appearances|
|1959, 1989, 1997, 2005, 2008, 2010, 2012, 2013, 2017|
|Conference tournament champions|
|1997, 2010, 2012|
|Conference regular season champions|
|1959, 1980, 1989, 1997, 2011, 2012, 2016|
The Saint Mary's Gaels men's basketball team represents Saint Mary's College in Moraga, California, competing in the West Coast Conference of the NCAA. The team plays home games in the McKeon Pavilion, capacity 3,500; it is one of the smaller gyms in the WCC. The current head coach is Randy Bennett, who is the school's all-time wins leader. The Gaels have appeared in nine NCAA Tournaments—1959, 1989, 1997, 2005, 2008, 2010, 2012, 2013 and 2017.
On March 1, 2013, they were placed on probation by the NCAA for four years due to rules violations.
Their two historic rivals are the San Francisco Dons and the Santa Clara Broncos, two other Catholic schools in the San Francisco Bay Area that are in the WCC. More recently, the Saint Mary's Gaels have developed a rivalry with the Gonzaga University Bulldogs of Spokane, Washington. Many analysts and members of the media have touted the Gaels vs. Zags as one of the best, if not the best, college basketball rivalry on the West Coast.[Citation needed]
Saint Mary's basketball and volleyball teams play their home games at the McKeon Pavilion, which has a capacity of 3,500. It was named after George R. McKeon, a former member of the college's Board of Regents. Constructed in 1978, it underwent renovations in the summer of 2006, with new features including painted bleachers, new chair backseats behind the reserved section, a remodeled VIP section, and a banner with "GaelForce" on it behind the student section.
Under coach Randy Bennett, the men's basketball team has become recognized nationally as one of the top mid-major programs in the United States. He inherited a 2–27 team when he arrived in 2001, and began recruiting an Australian named Adam Caporn. Since then, Bennett has built a reputation of recruiting Australian players; the Gaels have had at least one Australian player in every season since Bennett's arrival. With Caporn in the line-up, and his best friend and fellow Australian Daniel Kickert joining him the following year, Saint Mary's record improved to 9–20 in 2001–02, 15–15 in 2002–03, and 19–12 in 2003–04. In 2004–05, the team earned an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament, although they lost in the first round. Their 15–1 record in McKeon Pavilion was its best ever.
After rebuilding seasons in 2005–06 and 2006–07, the team enjoyed one of their best seasons in school history in 2007–08, behind the play of Australian freshman Patty Mills. The team was ranked in the AP and USA Today top 25 lists for five and six weeks, respectively. They ended up receiving an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament in 2008 as well, but again lost in the first round. In 2008, the team got off to a strong start, going 14–2 before Mills broke his hand and missed a month. Mills came back in time for the West Coast Conference Tournament, but after a loss to Gonzaga in the WCC tournament finals, the team was not selected for the NCAA tournament and played in the NIT. After the end of the year, Mills declared for the NBA draft and was a second-round selection.
In March 2010, the Gaels received an automatic bid to the 2010 NCAA Tournament, after winning the championship game of the WCC Tournament. Having beaten Gonzaga in the tournament final, it was the Gaels' second WCC tournament victory since it began in 1987. In 2010, they won their first NCAA Tournament game since 1959, defeating the Richmond Spiders. On March 20, 2010, the Gaels, led by Omar Samhan, defeated second seeded Villanova to advance to the Sweet Sixteen, for their first time in the 64 team era. They then lost to 3 seed Baylor 72–49 to end their season 28–6 and with its worst loss of the year.
Following the loss of Samhan to graduation, many expected the Gaels next season to be a rebuilding year. Led by point guard Mickey McConnell, however, Saint Mary's compiled a 25–9 record, 11–3 in the WCC, including the Gaels' first win against Gonzaga in Spokane since 1995. But after absorbing a late-season loss to last-place San Diego and dropping an ESPN BracketBuster game at home against Utah State, Saint Mary's failed to make the NCAA Tournament. They would be upset in the first round of the NIT by Kent State. After McConnell graduated, Australian point guard Matthew Dellavedova became the team's new star alongside San Diego transfer and San Francisco native Rob Jones. The Gaels compiled a 27–6 record and went 14–2 in the WCC in 2011–12, including a win in Moraga over Gonzaga and a sweep of new conference member BYU. Saint Mary's spent most of the season ranked in the AP and Coaches' polls and won the outright WCC regular season title, the first time since 2000 that Gonzaga had not claimed part of the title. The Gaels then defeated Gonzaga in overtime in the WCC tournament, marking the first time in school history Saint Mary's won both the regular season and tournament titles. Saint Mary's lost to Purdue in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
Saint Mary's Australian pipeline, historically focused on the Australian Institute of Sport (from where Caporn and Mills were recruited), continues to the present. The 2011–12 team featured four AIS graduates, including 2012 WCC Player of the Year Dellavedova, and another Australian, Jorden Page. The 2015–16 team had four AIS graduates, boasting a total of six Australians, and the 2016–17 roster had a program record of seven Australians. In the latter season, the Gaels went so far as to hold an official celebration of Australia Day for their home game against San Francisco, which fell on the holiday's date of January 26. Before the game, the team played Australia's national anthem alongside the US anthem, and honored officials from Australia's San Francisco consulate.
NCAA Tournament results
|1989||#8||First Round||#9 Clemson||L 70–83|
|1997||#14||First Round||#3 Wake Forest||L 46–68|
|2005||#10||First Round||#7 Southern Illinois||L 56–65|
|2008||#10||First Round||#7 Miami (FL)||L 64–78|
|2010||#10||First Round||#7 Richmond
|2012||#7||Second Round||#10 Purdue||L 69–72|
|#11 Middle Tennessee
The Gaels have appeared in five National Invitation Tournaments. Their combined record is 5–5.
|#7 Washington State
San Diego State
|2011||#2||First Round||#7 Kent State||L 70–71|
|2015||#4||First Round||#5 Vanderbilt||L 64–75|
|#7 New Mexico State
- Saint Mary’s College of California Style Guide (PDF). Retrieved April 6, 2016.
- "Randy Bennett". Saint Mary's College Gaels. Saint Mary's College of California. Retrieved October 14, 2010.
- "Facilities". Saint Mary's College Gaels. Saint Mary's College of California. Retrieved October 13, 2010.
- Farmer, Zack (September 6, 2006). "McKeon Pavilion gets a facelift". Saint Mary's College Collegian. Saint Mary's College of California. Retrieved October 13, 2010.
- Killion, Ann (March 26, 2010). "Saint Mary's finds success by turning blind eye to expectations". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved October 14, 2010.
- Brown, C. L. (October 21, 2016). "Saint Mary's Australian connection keeps growing". ESPN.com. Retrieved November 1, 2016.
- Katz, Andy. "Mills out four weeks with broken hand". ESPN. Retrieved October 14, 2010.
- Associated Press. "McConnell, Allen hot from outside as Gaels upset Bulldogs". ESPN.
- "St. Mary's Team Notes". USA Today. Retrieved October 14, 2010.
- "No. 21 Saint Mary's beats San Francisco 66-46". ESPN.com. Associated Press. January 27, 2017. Retrieved April 8, 2017.
- "Saint Mary's Gaels Tournament History". ESPN Internet Ventures. 2010. Retrieved March 18, 2017.