Small Conference Game of the Day – February 21

Tonight we head out west again to sunny California as the Saint Mary’s Gaels play host to the BYU Cougars at 11:00 PM Eastern on ESPN2.  While Gonzaga has dominated the WCC so far this season, the Gaels have a profile that is setting up to be one of the more controversial ones come Selection Sunday.  Heading into tonight’s game, St. Mary’s is 22-5 with an RPI of 52 and a SOS of 155.  If they win out until the WCC finals, they would theoretically be 27-6, a record that will draw a ton of attention.

The Gaels main problem is their lack of marquee wins.  Their three best wins at the moment are at BYU, at Santa Clara and a home win over Harvard.  Only Harvard is a probable tournament team from that group, and that is only because they are favored to win the Ivy League automatic bid.  St. Mary’s also has two questionable losses, neutral court defeats at the hands of Pacific and Georgia Tech, though both of those came way back in November.

This week is a huge one for St. Mary’s.  While BYU does not appear to be an at-large caliber team, beating them tonight would give the Gaels a season sweep of a top 100 team.  Then, on Saturday, they host RPI 47 Creighton in the BracketBusters.  A win over the BlueJays would be St. Mary’s first over a solid at-large caliber team all season, and is probably critical to their at-large chances.  After this week, the Gaels have a trip to Pepperdine and a home game against Santa Clara left on their schedule, followed by the WCC tournament where they should receive the #2 seed and a bye into the semifinals.  Any slip-up could be fatal at this point, especially given that their only chance for a true high-level victory would be a potential West Coast Conference title game against the zags…and obviously if they were to win that they would be in with the automatic bid.

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