Much like Robert Morris, not many Villanova fans have gotten a chance to see St. Mary’s play this season. Here’s a look at who the Gaels are:
1) Who are they?
St. Mary’s is located in the small town of Moraga, Ca. The Gaels play in the West Coast Conference, where they won the postseason title after finishing second in the regular season standings. Their head coach is Randy Bennett, who in nine seasons with the Gaels has compiled a 207-107 record.
The Gaels starting lineup consists of freshman guard Matthew Dellavedova, junior guard Matthew McConnell, sophomore forward Clint Steindl, junior forward Ben Allen and senior center Omar Samhan.
2) How did they get here?
St. Mary’s went 27-5 this season and had an 11-3 conference record, which gave them a second place finish in the WCC. It knocked off top-seeded Gonzaga 81-62 in the WCC final to earn the automatic bid. St. Mary’s has won six straight games and 12-of-14 overall. Against NCAA tournament teams, St. Mary’s went 1-2 against Gonzaga and defeated Utah State, San Diego State and New Mexico State. It also suffered a two-point loss to Vanderbilt.
In the first-round, St. Mary’s easily defeated Richmond, 80-71.
3) Who to watch:
The Gaels best player is senior center Omar Samhan. He is one of just two players in Division I this season to average at least 20 points per game and 10 rebounds per game. The 6’11” California native had 29 points and 12 rebounds in the team’s first-round victory. Against Vanderbilt, the only other major-conference team the Gaels have played, Samhan had 25 points and 19 rebounds. He could be the biggest test of the season for the Villanova frontcourt.
4) What the expect:
The last two seasons, Villanova has played strongly in the second-round, defeating Siena and UCLA. This year’s second-round opponent is perhaps its best of the three. St. Mary’s has a great combination of inside play by Samhan and outside shooting by McConnell, Dellaverdova, Allen and Steindl. Defending all of its weapons will be a real test for the Wildcats. They will need to slow down Samhan with Mouphtaou Yarou and Maurice Sutton.
The Gaels are a relatively strong defensive team, but this will be the best offense they have faced all season. If Villanova is going to advance to its third straight Sweet 16, it will need to connect on the open shots it missed yesterday.
Down by eight points with 3:57 remaining, Villanova seemed destined to become the fifth 2-seed to fall to a 15-seed. Then, for perhaps the first time this season, the Wildcats got stops what they needed on defense against Robert Morris. Villanova rallied, forced overtime and eventually won its first game in over two weeks to advance to the second round.
“Phew,” said senior guard Scottie Reynolds. “I forgot what that felt like.”
It seemed like a cursed day from the start for Villanova. Head Coach Jay Wright decided before the game to bring Reynolds and junior guard Corey Fisher off the bench as a teaching point. What they did was not discussed after the game, but Reynolds tried to summed it up in his own way.
“You have to be excellent all the time,” said Reynolds. “You can’t have any of flaws.”
Reynolds’ team had many flaws in its first round game. The Wildcats were outrebounded 21-10 in the first half and trailed 28-22 at the break. Reynolds, Fisher, Corey Stokes, Antonio Pena and Reggie Redding combined for six points in the first half.
The game was put in Reynolds’ hands in the second half, particularly when the team was trailing by eight with 3:57 remaining. Despite shooting 1-for-14 from the field, Reynolds was able to get to the line consistently in the final few minutes, hitting seven-of-eight free throws. Overall, Reynolds made 15-of-16 free throws and finished with 20 points.
Freshman guard Karon Abraham, who finished with 23 points, had all the answers for Robert Morris. When Villanova was rallying, Abraham hit every big shot the Colonials needed, including a layup to break a tie at 56 with 1:07 remaining.
On the next possession, freshman center Mouphtaou Yarou, who finished with 17 points and eight rebounds, hit a layup to tie the game.
Abraham missed a chance to take the lead with 39 seconds left, and the Wildcats were able to take the shot for the win. Reynolds held the ball for the majority of the clock, but he missed the layup, and it was tipped out of bounds with 0.9 seconds remaining. For the win, Villanova ran an alley-oop inbounds play to redshirt freshman center Maurice Sutton, but he was unable to to connect.
In overtime, Villanova quickly took control, scoring the first six points. While it controlled the game for most of the overtime, Robert Morris battled back and found themselves down three points with 39 seconds remaining. Villanova inbounded the ball to Stokes, but Colonials senio guard Mezie Nwigwe stole the ball from him and hit a layup to cut the score to 68-67.
Yarou, Redding and Reynolds hit five-of-six free throws, and Robert Morris trailed 73-70 with nine seconds remaining. Unable to get the ball to Abraham, the Colonials settled for a desperation three-point attempt by Nwige that was off the mark.
The loss was tough to swallow for the Colonials.
“My insides just got torn out,” said Robert Morris head coach Mike Rice, who was fighting off tears after the loss. “I’m just proud to coach them.”
His team, who played the role of David well against the most recent Goliath, received a standing ovation from the Providence crowd as he left the floor.
As was first reported by The Villanovan, Scottie Reynolds and Corey Fisher will not start for Villanova today. Instead Maalik Wayns and Corey Stokes will take their place in the lineup.
Jeff Goodman of FOXSports.com, is reporting that the incident has nothing to with off-court issues.
Today it all begins. We are live from the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in Providence for today’s action. Here’s some links from The Villanovan to get you started:
While the South might be the least top-heavy of all the regions, what it does have is many double-digit seeds that can wreak havoc on anyone’s bracket. This might just be the portion of the bracket that turns out to be the hardest to predict. Here is a look at the potential Cinderellas that might come from the South:
(9) Louisville – Not a double-digit seed but still equally as dangerous. What makes Louisville hard to play against is that its press is unique from every other team in the country. While its up-and-down scoring and injury to Jerry Smith will prevent Louisville from advancing too far, it could pull off an upset or two on the first weekend.
(10) St. Mary’s – The Gaels might just have the best post player in the region in senior center Omar Samhan. He is one of just two players in the nation this season to average at least 20 points and 10 rebounds. Samhan is complimented by a strong group of guards, and they are one of the most underrated teams in the tournament.
(11) Old Dominion – This might be the worst offensive team in the tournament as the Monarchs average just 67.5 points per game and have only one player averaging double-figures in scoring. However, Old Dominion is a lock-down defensive squad, limiting its opponents to just 57.1 ppg. Consider them a poor man’s Temple, and with a little more scoring the Monarchs could survive the first weekend. Keep in mind that they won at Georgetown this season.
(12) Utah State – The Aggies squeaked into the field after falling in the WAC title game. This team is a bit of a mystery as it did not play a team from a major conference this season. What we do know is that it holds opponents to 59.6 ppg, shoots 41.9 percent from beyond the arc and 76.3 percent from the free throw line. Those are all ingredients for a potential upset.
(13) Siena- Despite the low-seed, Siena is being treated by many experts as the favorite because of the way Purdue has played since the injury to Robbie Hummel. The Saints are the perfect candidate for a Cinderella as it has two years of tournament experience under its belt, where it beat Vanderbilt and Ohio State as a lower seed. Siena also has senior point guard Ronald Moore, the nation’s leader in assists per game (7.8).
A year ago, I wrote that no team got helped more by the selection committee than Villanova. While that was mainly because of the sites that Villanova was placed in, I echo those sentiments today.
Villanova played a month of bad basketball and still got the most favorable draw of any two-seed. However, that doesn’t mean a trip back to the Final Four is a lock. Here is a look at the other top seeds in what should be a tumultuous South region.
1) Duke – The Blue Devils won the regular season title and the conference tournament in the ACC. They are more talented than the team that Villanova beat a year ago. Jon Scheyer has become one of the best point guards in the country, something that Duke did not have last season. What they lack in athleticism, they make up for in fundamentals. Duke has a pretty easy path to the Elite Eight, and it should take advantage.
3) Baylor – One of the most underrated teams in the country, the Bears are ready for their national coming out party. With LaceDarius Dunn, Tweety Carter and Empe Udoh, Baylor has a trio that is as talented as any other in the country. Add in that the Bears could be playing the second weekend in Houston, and they become even more dangerous. This would be Villanova’s toughest matchup personnel wise in the region.
4) Purdue – The Boilermakers are a four-seed in name only. After losing by 27 to Minnesota in the Big Ten tournament, it’s clear that Purdue is no longer a threat for a deep run in March. With just two players averaging above 6.6 points per game, Purdue is ripe for an upset by the experienced Siena Saints.
5) Texas A&M – Since losing senior guard Derrick Roland to injury in December, the Aggies have transformed into a grind-it-out, defensive-minded team. The results have been stellar as they went 11-5 in the Big 12 while holding opponents to 64.9 ppg. However, with Donald Sloan as the only Aggie to average in double-figures in scoring, Texas A&M might struggle to score enough to go far in March. One thing that helps is the potential trip to Houston.
6) Notre Dame – In the course of a month, Notre Dame went from NIT bound to a six-seed in the NCAA tournament. With Luke Harangody getting another week to heal, Notre Dame’s best basketball might be ahead of itself. Since he went down with an injury, the Fighting Irish have turned themselves into a ball-control, slow-paced team. It has been a tremendous success, and if they can overcome their depth issues, they could survive the first weekend.
7) Richmond – The Spiders were one of the biggest surprises in college basketball this season as they even made a brief appearance in the top-25. Richmond relies heavily on its backcourt, particularly lightning-quick guard Kevin Anderson, the Atlantic 10 Player of the Year. They prefer to slow down the temple of the game and let Anderson try to make plays.
8 ) California – Despite being the PAC-10 regular season champion, a lot more was expected from the Golden Bears this season. They did nothing in their non-conference and lost the conference title game to Washington. Still, they are a dangerous team that can score with anyone. Jerome Randle is one of the most underrated point guards in the country.
It’s doubtful that many Villanova fans know too much about Robert Morris, so let’s see who exactly this team is.
1) Who are they?
Robert Morris is located in Pittsburgh, Pa. The Colonials play in the Northeast Conference and have won back-to-back league titles. Their head coach is Mike Rice, who in three seasons at Robert Morris has a record of 73-30 and two NCAA tournament appearances. Prior to coming to Robert Morris, he was an assistant to Jamie Dixon at Pittsburgh.
The Colonials starting lineup consists of senior forwards Dallas Green and Rob Robinson, senior guard Meze Nwigwe and freshmen guards Karon Abraham and Velton Jones.
2) How did they get here?
The Colonials went 23-11 this season and tied for first in their conference with a 15-3 record. They knocked off top-seed Quinnipiac 52-50 in the conference final to earn the automatic bid. Against NCAA tournament teams, Robert Morris lost to Syracuse and Pittsburgh and beat Ohio and Morgan State.
3) Who to watch
The Colonials best player is freshman guard Karon Abraham, the freshman of the year in the Northeast Conference. The Paterson, N.J. native averaged 13.8 points per game during his first season, making him the only Colonial to average double-figures in scoring. Abraham improved as the season went on, scoring double-figures in his last seven games.
4) What to expect
There shouldn’t be any first round scare for the Wildcats like they had last season with American. While Robert Morris has tournament experience going for it, its lack of scoring will be a problem. The Colonials averaged just 68.5 points per game, nearly as much as the 65.7 points per game they allowed. Also, without a player on their roster taller than 6’8″, the Colonials will fail to take advantage of an undersized Villanova team. Look for the Wildcats to get an easy win they desperately need.