Saints Mary’s Gaels (5-1) at Georgia Bulldogs (4-1)
The fabulous slate of Thanksgiving Day weekend tournaments comes to a close today. It was as good of a college basketball preseason tournament season as I can remember. There were some teams that overachieved and are looking to cement themselves in the top 5, Florida Gators I am looking at you, and others that wilted badly under the pressure of tournament basketball, Arizona? Really? Today I will be evaluating the consolation bracket finals of the Wooden Legacy Tournament from Titan Gym in Fullerton, California.
The matchup features the Gaels of Saint Mary’s and the Bulldogs of Georgia. Both are coming off tough losses in the semifinals to hot shooting teams. The current line is Saint Mary’s -7 points and the game total over-under is set at 140.5 points. Tipoff is scheduled for 2:00 PM PST.
The Saint Mary’s Gaels can score with any team in the country. They are a fast-paced, high scoring offense that doesn’t bat an eye at the idea of scoring 100 points every time out. The Gaels are led by preseason All- American Jock Landale. Landale can really fill up the basket and is a threat to jack up shots anytime he crosses the half court line with the ball. Saint Mary’s struggled in the semifinals against a hot shooting Washington State team, and a big part of that was Landale having to play in foul trouble most of the game. He couldn’t get in a rhythm and only scored 14 points, and the Gaels dropped a game they probably should have won.
This is a much bigger game on the resume for Saint Mary’s then it might seem to be on the surface. Saint Mary’s has struggled to the NCAA selection committees respect in the last several years. Two years ago, they ran up a 27-5 record and were left out of the big dance and last year they posted a 29-2 record against everyone except one seed and conference rival Gonzaga and got stuck with a 7 seed. The Gaels badly need out of conference wins, even if they are against a middle of the pack power five schools like Georgia.
There just isn’t a lot of meat left on this Saint Mary’s team’s schedule this year. As the schedule lays out right now, the Gaels only have two games against ranked opponents the rest of the year, the home and home matchups with the Zags. This could be another 25 plus win season where we see Saint Mary’s get left out of the big dance. Gael’s head coach Randy Bennet knows this, and I think we will see the best effort possible out of Saint Mary’s tonight, in what will be essentially a home game.
The Georgia Bulldogs are technically the “home” team in this neutral site matchup, based on seeding. But make no mistake this is a road game for Georgia. They are thousands of miles away from home and playing in Saint Mary’s neighborhood. To make matters worse, the entire Georgia team came down with food poisoning Friday night, and it has really disrupted their preparation for this tournament.
They looked tired and worn out down the stretch against San Diego State Friday, and that was before they all got violently ill. The Bulldogs blew what was a double-digit lead for most of the first half as the fatigue set in, and they gave up a 12-4 run to close out the game and lose to what is a bit of a down San Diego State team this year.
Nobody is going to blame Georgia if they lose the last game of a long road trip against a very good Saint Mary’s team. Especially when you take into account the sickness and their inability to properly prepare. It’s almost like Georgia head coach Mark Fox will get a pass for this one. I expect a competitive game in the first half before Landale, and the Gael’s offense pulls away for an easy win and cover. Feels like somewhere in the range of 86-70. I just don’t think you can hold Landale back two games in a row and he is going to come out firing in this one. This Bulldogs team is beaten down after a long road trip and tough tournament, and I just don’t think they have the legs or the heart to gut this one out against a top twenty-five team like the Gaels. Give me Saint Mary’s Gaels from Socal today.