You have to love Omar Samhan. The belles of the Providence ball Saint Mary's were led by the giant center to a 75-68 victory over Villanova today with 32 points after Samhan stated Wednesday to press that "God is a Gael."
Maybe there's something to that. After all, Saint Mary's offed Richmond Thursday in Providence's first round play in a move no one really expected, prompting even Samhan's mother to reportedly text him that he and his teammates ruined her bracket. He asked her if she was coming to Providence's second round and she told him she was buying a ticket directly to Houston for the Gael's third-round matchup instead.
How can you not be a fan a team that not only lives and dies by a beast like Samhan but also boasts five Australians? Not one random Australian. Not a couple. Five Australians. You couldn't find five Australians in a Barcelona youth hostel. Their locker room must look like a FOX sitcom.
That makes, if you're counting, a team that features three Aussies starting, a center who's also the high point man and a sharpshooter from Arizona in cool-headed Mickey McConnell, who backed up Samhan with a clutch 15 points today. And from a big-picture standpoint, Saint Mary's is quickly becoming not only one of the most likeable and plucky cinderellas in the Tourney thus far but a valid threat as well. These kids are fun to watch.
Other points from Providence's second-round opener:
-If we're being honest, Villanova was on the clock anyway. The Wildcats just squeaked past Robert Morris, and prior to that had lost five of their last seven games. They were clearly coasting on fumes. But you can't take anything away from the Gaels today, who capitalized on that to lead them almost the entire way, despite a late second half surge that threatened to kill Saint Mary's buzz. Call it a perfect storm situation for Saint Mary's to progress yet another round.
-You can follow Samhan on Twitter here and read his blog here. His blog includes video entries from as late as last night, talking with his teammates about today's game. And he tweets up until, apparently, less than an hour before game time ("40 Minutes from the Sweet Sixteen!"). He also offers philisophical insights like "life is so PRICELESS" and "ICE BATH sooooo cold!!!!" He only has 108 followers. He deserves more.
-Matthew Dellavedova looks like the tallest seven year-old I've ever seen. The baby-faced Australian freshman doesn't look nearly old enough to be playing basketball for a university except for the fact that he's thirteen and a half feet tall. In Australia they call a kid like that a "great winky bonzer." (Or probably something ridiculously equivalent. Australians talk funny, that's what I'm saying.)
-The Villanova Wildcats are guilty of treason for disobeying the President. Barack Obama famously had the Wildcats in his Final Four -- something I'm not terribly sure I understand, but okay. It was decreed. Andy Katz was there, people. Villanova is in direct defiance of the Commander-in-Chief and justice should be dealt appropriately.
So there you have it. The Gaels move on to play the winner of Baylor-Old Dominion -- a game later today which Old Dominion and Blaine Taylor's awesome moustache actually stand a strong chance to win as well. Either way, the path is looking interesting for the Gaels, who cruise into a Sweet Sixteen game that, at this point, is winnable for the party crashers. Can this talented cast of characters keep it rolling?
If God is a Gael, that's probably a big yes.