St. Mary's 2009 NIT Tournament Preview
St. Mary's Gaels -
West Coast Conference (26-6, 10-4)
Big Wins: 11/30 vs Providence (81-75), 12/13 vs San Diego State (67-64), 2/21 Utah State (75-64)
Bad Losses: 11/27 vs UTEP (62-75), 1/31 at Portland (66-84), 2/7 at Santa Clara (52-70)
Coach: Randy Bennett
Probable St. Mary's Starters:
Patrick Mills, Sophomore, Guard, 17.8 ppg, 3.7 apg, 2.3 spg
Mickey McConnell, Sophomore, Guard, 5.8 ppg, 2.3 apg
Wayne Hunter, Junior, Guard, 6.4 ppg, 2.2 rpg
Diamon Simpson, Senior, Forward, 13.8 ppg, 10.5 rpg, 1.7 bpg
Omar Samhan, Junior, Center, 14.2 ppg, 9.4 rpg, 2.0 bpg
Key St. Mary's Roleplayers:
Carlin Hughes, Senior, Guard, 8.4 ppg, 3.5 apg
Ian O’Leary, Senior, Forward, 4.7 ppg, 4.3 rpg
Lucas Walker, Senior, Forward, 3.0 ppg, 1.6 rpg
Why The Gaels Can Surprise:
Point guard Patrick Mills may get all the press, but St. Mary’s has a few players in the frontcourt who deserve some headlines. Diamon Simpson is a great slasher and will use his amazing vertical leap to be a dominating force on the glass and a solid shot blocker. He ended the regular season averaging 13.8 points, 10.5 rebounds and 1.7 blocks. Omar Samhan, a 6-11 center, puts up numbers similar to Simpson’s. However, Samhan is a pure big man who will hang out in the paint and play with his back to the basket.
Ian O’Leary usually gets the starting nod at the small forward position. He is not a big time scorer, but he does all the little things. At 6-7 he has pretty good size for a small forward and he will use that size to help Simpson and Samhan on the glass. In fact, outside of the starting frontcourt duo, nobody on the team averages more than 4.3 rebounds per contest. That would be a bad thing, but Simpson, Samhan and O’Leary do a good enough on the glass for the Gaels to rank 12 th in the nation in rebounding margin.
Why The Gaels Can Disappoint:
The only thing really lacking on this team is a shooting guard who can consistently knock down the three-pointer. Mills is easily the most prolific shooter on the team, but getting some help from the rest of the backcourt would be beneficial. Carlin Hughes is one option. The 6-2 senior can knock down some three’s, but he hit under 32 percent from beyond the arc. Wayne Hunter’s numbers are not much better from long range. If Mills is not hitting the outside shot, somebody else better or it could be a short tournament.
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Who To Watch:
And that is only if Mills is back at full strength. The Australian superstar broke his right hand on January 29 th against Gonzaga. Including that game, which the Gaels were dominating before Mills left, the team lost four of their next five games. St. Mary’s eventually learned to play without Mills and finished the regular season strong, but if Mills is not playing like he did earlier in the season, the Gaels will struggle offensively and defensively. Mills appears to be close to full strength and his injury should not be much of an issue in the tournament. Mickey McConnell was Mills’ replacement and did a decent job running the point. However, he is nowhere near the scorer of Mills and will have stretches where he commits too many turnovers.
St. Mary's By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 73.7 (76th in nation, 2nd in conference)
Scoring Defense: 63.3 (65, 3)
Field-Goal Percentage: 44.9 (112, 4)
Field-Goal Defense: 40.8 (54, 2)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 6.7 (124, 4)
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 33.8 (173, 5)
Free-Throw Percentage: 69.0 (162, 6)
Rebound Margin: 7.2 (12, 1)
Assists Per Game: 13.9 (108, 3)
Turnovers Per Game: 12.9 (84, 2)
Joel’s Bracket Says: NIT Champions
By Joel Welser
CollegeSports-fans.com Senior Basketball Writer
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