The Saint Mary’s Gaels thought they deserved a chance to be in the NCAA Tournament as an at-large team last year and in other previous seasons when their fate was in the selection committee’s hands.
Now that Saint Mary’s has not only reached the NCAA Tournament through the autobid portal, but done so in a way which was completely unexpected, there is a sense that the Gaels have evened the scales in response to last year.
The chance they didn’t get in 2018 is the chance they will have in 2019. They know the opportunity in front of them is precious… and that they can meet it in light of their 60-47 smackdown of Gonzaga in the WCC Tournament final.
“We know that we can beat anybody,” leading scorer Jordan Ford said. “Since we beat the No. 1 team in the country, and to be able to see and play against the No. 1 team in the country three times this year, we know that we can hang with anybody.”
“Just to win that tournament is hard, because you’ve got Gonzaga in the way,” head coach Randy Bennett said. “They win it so often, and this year they’re really good, so it wasn’t something you count on, ‘Hey, we’ll just win the conference tournament,’ you got to go through No. 1 in the country to do it. Didn’t really see it coming. I knew we were playing better.”
A lot better.
Senior Jordan Hunter has noticed the improvements in this season’s group over the course of the season, culminating in the masterpiece against Gonzaga.
“My first three years I’ve been part of three tournament teams, only one of which made it,” said Hunter. “We get to read all the articles about how we were snubbed. We try not to feed the narrative too much with all the rebuilding stuff and all that. We knew we had a great group of guys that just didn’t have as much experience as the teams that had come before, by the nature of having such great players ahead of us having such great seasons. We knew with a few reps playing with each other, which is obviously important as just getting better yourself, it would take us a long way.”
All the way to the NCAA Tournament the Gaels thought they deserved last year, but didn’t make. Now they have their chance. It’s showtime for the men from Moraga, California.
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