Saint Mary’s step out of Gonzaga’s shadow
by Mike Lopresti, USA TODAY Sports
DAYTON, Ohio – This, we can safely say about Saint Mary’s, after its 67-54 victory Tuesday night. Life is so much easier this year when the name on the other team’s uniforms is not a certain West Coast neighbor.
The Gaels were on the bus at 6:15 a.m. Monday to travel to the airport and head for the NCAA Tournament. Not easy, but at least they weren’t playing Gonzaga.
They had to fly over four time zones from their California home for a blind date against an opponent they knew nothing about 48 hours earlier. But at least they weren’t playing Gonzaga.
Middle Tennessee came in 28-5 and had lost one game since Jan. 3. But the Blue Raiders are not Gonzaga.
Sharing a conference these days with Gonzaga is like sharing a bathtub with a piranha. Saint Mary’s is 0-3 against the Zags this season and 28-3 against the rest of the world. So it might have been easy to miss how good this team can be.
“It’s not been all a one-way street,” Saint Mary’s guard Matthew Dellavedova said, “even though this year they got us pretty good.”
So it had to be nice this place is more than 1,700 miles from Spokane. The Gaels dispatched Middle Tennessee rather briskly and now head up I-75 to Auburn Hills, Mich., to play Thursday against Memphis, who might want to be wary of what’s coming at them.
All in all, it was not a bad opening night for a college basketball postseason of such promise.
We hope for late drama. The first game of the NCAA Tournament ended with Liberty guard John Caleb Sanders lying in anguish under the basket, mourning the last-second layup in a crowd that did not go in. North Carolina A&T, by a point.
We hope for individual heroics. Saint Mary’s rolled past Middle Tennessee behind Dellavedova, a fearless shooting Australian who scored 22 points and went … [For more on Saint Mary's Gaels step out of Gonzaga's shadow in rout, click here.]