NCAA Basketball Tournament Team Profiles: St. Mary's Gaels

by Staff  on Wednesday, Mar. 19, 2008 12:00 am  

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FRIDAY OPPONENT Miami Hurricanes
BID At-Large (West Coast Conference)
RECORD 25-6, 12-2 WCC
COACH Randy Bennett (127-89 in seven seasons at St. Mary's; 0-1 NCAA Tournament)
KEY WINS 72-66, Drake, Nov. 10; 99-87, Oregon, Nov. 20; 89-85 (OT), Gonzaga, Feb. 4.
NOTABLE LOSSES 71-56, at Southern Illinois, Dec. 11; 81-62, at Texas, Jan. 5; 65-57, Kent State, Feb. 23; 75-69 (OT) at San Diego, March 3.

The Go-to Guy: Diamon Simpson

Defense has been the key to the Gaels' securing their first NCAA Tourament berth since 2005. No St. Mary's player defends quite like Simpson, a rugged, 6-7, 230-pound junior forward. Simpson was named the West Coast Conference defensive player of the

year, blocking 51 shots. He also can make an impact elsewhere as evidenced by his 13.5 points and 9.5 rebounds per game average.

Simpson was named to the league's all-conference team for a second consecutive season and he scored 25 points against Gonzaga.

Why They'll Survive

Consistency and chemistry. Rarely is a coach able to put the same starting lineup on the court for every game. Injuries. Poor play. Something usually alters the first five out. St. Mary's has had no such trouble this year, starting O'Leary, Simpson, Samhan, Mills and Golden in all 31 games of the 2007-08 season. So far defense has been a strength for the Gaels, who have allowed only 63.2 points per game.

Why They Won't Last

Getting past an athletic Miami team will be tough. Should they win that game, the Gaels will face No. 2 seed Texas, a team that was in line for a top seed entering the Big 12 championship game. St.

Mary's lost to Texas 81-62 earlier in the season and lost three of its last five games, so there's reason to think the Gaels aren't playing

their best basketball of the season entering the tournament.



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