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.