Tag:Saint Mary's
Posted on: March 26, 2010 9:31 pm
Edited on: March 26, 2010 9:45 pm
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Baylor Grabs St. Mary's, Yanks Them Back to Earth

C.M. TOMLIN


I feel like I should call Crimestoppers or something.

"Hello? Yes, I saw who murdered the Saint Mary's Gaels. Saw the whole thing. It was Baylor. Yes, I'd like to remain anonymous, please."

It's probably good that Saint Mary's had the week they've had, with Omar Samhan openly asking Taylor Swift to call him and offering Bill Simmons an interview over Twitter if he wants it, because they sure did walk into a buzzsaw tonight. 

The inherent problem with loving a cinderella team is that eventually, probably, you may have to put that team down. Because these teams are cinderella teams for a reason -- they're loved in this tournament because they weren't supposed to, by conventional basketball wisdom, be able to do what they're doing. Saint Mary's was absolutely living proof of that. Their unbelievable offings of both Richmond and Villanova were the stuff of which great headlines were made.

But let's be honest here -- and this will probably be an unpopular stance: there's a reason why cinderella teams don't win the NCAA tournament. It's because almost every time, they just can't keep unseating teams that are just more experienced and better coached than they are. Cinderella teams traditionally have a good run, and we all grow starry-eyed by their childlike wonder at the Big Dance, some colorful character from their bench, and then eventually they just get crushed. 

Before you hate me completely, I want to be clear that no one was more surprised and happier than I was to see this hodgepodge of everyman kids and Australians doing so well. I followed Samhan on Twitter and read his blogs. I loved the good feeling surrounding them. It was great. It was magical. But it was never meant to mean the Saint Mary's Gaels were going to win the national championship. You know it and I know it. I love you, Mr. and Mrs. America, but did you ever really think they were going to be the last team standing?

Yes, they were a great team. I agree. And yes, on any given saturday a team as good as the Gaels could -- and did -- beat teams that on paper were favored over them. But they just couldn't keep it going forever. 

It's just a shame their demise had to be so gruesome. It really was never even close. LaceDarius Dunn dropped 23 points on the Gaels with 14 more donated by Tweety Carter to bust down Saint Mary's 72-49. In the end, Baylor was simply a better team -- in general, only tonight, whatever you want to believe. Sorry to break that to you, but if it wasn't Baylor it was gonna be Duke. It's true. I'm sorry. Just being honest. 

But it was really cool while it lasted, wasn't it? And we all now have a new little tourney crush to watch for next year. Where they'll keep winning and knocking off giants until they win it all. At least, that's what we'll let ourselves believe for a little while. And there's nothing wrong with that. In fact, it's what makes this tournament so great.
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: March 26, 2010 2:23 pm
Edited on: March 26, 2010 2:25 pm
 

Who's Coming Out of the South?

C.M. TOMLIN
Welcome to Houston, everyone -- also known as "Space City" -- for two great matchups from the Southern Region of the bracket tonight. I can tell you're not from here, because your car doesn't have giant cattle horns attached to the grill, so let me break down the head-to-heads going down at Reliant Stadium this very evening:

SAINT MARY'S vs. BAYLOR (7:27 PM)

Jim Nantz, with his matinee idol good looks, and Clark Kellogg, with his interesting pronunciations of everyday words, will be on-hand tonight for the games in Houston, opening up with surprise Saint Mary's taking on the number three-seeded Baylor Bears. From a logistical standpoint, this should be a Baylor lean -- but the Gaels have astounded everyone in this tournament (for my money, they've been the most consistently strong cinderella in a wacky, wacky season), and I'm not sure that Saint Mary's isn't in some circles a bit of a favorite here. The Bears are good, but the Gaels are constantly proving that they're better than you thought they were. 

So is there anything we should know? Yes, actually.

Watch out for Tweety Carter, running the show from behind the scenes. He's not going to be a leading scorer. He's not going to blow you away with assists or rebounds. In fact, if you look at the box scores you may not even know he's a major factor But watch any amount of Baylor playing basketball and you'll see that Carter is the engine that makes this team run. He's a huge leader on this team as far as setting the pace and keeping his teammates pumped, and that means a lot for a team. He's quiet and consistent and his teammates look to him often. If he's taken off the court, it's a step in the right direction for the Gaels to diffuse the Baylor bomb.

Omar Samhan isn't going to be the biggest man out there. The Saint Mary's center is going to have his hands full with a tall Baylor team tonight, including 6'10 Ekpe Udoh, 6'10" Anthony Jones and 7-foot Josh Lomers. We've seen how Samhan can run roughshod on a shorter team, but tonight we'll see how he goes head-to-head with some other big men, which should be fun. 

Mickey McConnell is shooting 52% from three-point land right now. Yes, I hate the phrase "three-point land," too. But Samhan has a great supporting cast, including point guard Mickey McConnell, who has been a great backup to Samhan thus far. The two make a great tandem that brings a lot of firepower to the battle, and Baylor needs to double-tier their game plan to effectively cover whoever's "on" tonight. Because one of them, if not both of them, will be. Bet on that.

Baylor has the best names in the Tournament this year. You have to love a team that not only has a Tweety, a Quincy Acy, a LaceDarius and a Dragan, but at the same time has a Fred, a Nolan and an Oscar. That beats Saint Mary's Bens, Matthews and Tims any day.

Scott Drew is a good coach, if widely unliked. Baylor's coach has been slammed by Rick Barnes for negative recruiting tactics and rumors abound that he's not even incredibly liked by his own staff. Drew himself even has said that he'd do things differently as far as his approach to staff and colleagues if he had it to do over again. The Dallas Morning News even compared him to Eddie Haskell. That said, he's done very well for Baylor and if the Bears do well in this tourney, Drew could get some offers elsewhere. Although we know what happened the last time a semi-unliked coach from Texas had a great stint and took a major league job. How'd that work out, Kentucky?

The Bottom Line: If Baylor thinks this is in the bag, they're wrong. The Gaels are cruising on adrenaline big-time and Omar Samhan's tweets from this week not only hit on Taylor Swift and referenced GTL-ing, they also gave a glimpse into a team that knows they have to work hard but doesn't see why they shouldn't make the final four. Could be a bare-knuckler in Houston tonight between these two if Saint Mary's trademark scrappiness shows up again.

DUKE vs. PURDUE (9:57 PM)

On one hand, Duke's not exactly a surprise to be where they are right now. On the other, I don't know that anyone expected Purdue to really have handled the absence of gamechanger Robbie Hummel this well. So what happens when the Boilermakers and the Blue Devils go at it tonight?

Purdue's number could be up. Let's be honest, the Boilermakers have more than exceeded expectations in this tournament after losing Hummel (they're an impressive 5-2 since they lost him in February), especially since one of the major storylines coming into this tournament was the oft-echoed -- and as it turns out, ultimately wrong -- "Purdue's no good without Robbie Hummel." JaJuan Johnson and Chris Kramer in patricular are really stepping up. That said, they're really going to have to scale the wall to beat a Duke team that seems to have that trademark Duke NCAA Tourney luck and magic this season. Purdue shouldn't be counted out, but this may be the first game this tournament where they're gonna wish they had Hummel. How they cope with that is up to them.

Duke's stats stack the chips in their favor. Statistically, Duke is 17-1 at neutral sites over the last two seasons, and in NCAA Tourney play they're 10-4 against the Big Ten. Coach K always has his boys ready to play in the postseason, and this team was already rollin' ("stroking" as Billy Raftery might creepily say) coming in to this tournament. They're going to be a handful for the Boilermakers tonight, but this Purdue team is constantly finding ways to keep themselves on top.

This will be a classic offense vs. defense game. Just as some baseball games are hyped as "pitchers vs. hitters," so this game sits in a very black and white place. Purdue's playing great defense right now, a sense heightened by necessity after losing Hummel. But Duke's offense is a complete blitzkrieg right now. The victor of this game could come down to as simple as whichever team's doing its thing better. If Purdue's defense cracks or Duke's offense slips up, this game could change at a moment's notice.

Luke Wilson and the Ivan Brothers will, once again, wear you out. Yes, we get it. The fictional Ivan Brothers are really good -- but so unconvential! And yes, we also get that Luke Wilson's phone must not be ringing a lot these days (even with his amazing at&t plan). Every year there's something at every commercial break that you just start tuning out, and this year it's these guys.

The Bottom Line: Duke has the edge, but Purdue for some reason seems to have a lot to prove, and that's a big motivator for them right now. If their gas doesn't run out, they could give the Blue Devils a scare -- but they're going to need to be at the top of their game. 

Either way, Houston's going to be a good time tonight. Join me, won't you?
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: March 20, 2010 3:43 pm
Edited on: March 20, 2010 4:51 pm
 

Australians Follow Ogre King to Victory

C.M. TOMLIN


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.
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: March 18, 2010 6:41 pm
Edited on: March 18, 2010 6:42 pm
 

Richmond Struggles With Gael Force

C.M. TOMLIN

Tonight, the role of Luke Harangody will be played by Omar Samhan.

Hear that sweeping, romantic, Disney-esque music swelling and coming this way? It could very well be the sound of this year's Cinderella team the Saint Mary's Gaels approaching a sputtering Villanova. And I'll bet you never guessed it would be a hulking man-beast and five Australians.

If Verne Lundquist and Bill Raftery hear "Mr. Sandman" one more time today they'll probably both head off down to the malt shop for a soda pop, as the Gaels took down the seven-seeded Richmond Spiders 80-71 in Providence this afternoon, shocking many who thought the magic team in this bracket may be, in fact, the Spiders themselves.

Giant behemoth Omar Samhan rustled home 29 points and 12 rebounds for Saint Mary's, with his backup cast of Aussies performing soundly, even if they do slightly resemble a group of teenage kids who formed a detective agency to solve mysteries. Junior Mickey McConnell ably supported Samhan by shooting 5-9 from the three-point line and netting in a total 23 points. 

So there you have it. The Saint Mary's Gaels. If you're not totally blown away by this tournament in the first five hours alone, you're crazy. It was always thought that the supersecret sleeper might come out of this game right here, but it was always expected to be the Spiders. Surprise! On another note, here's something to think about: when was the last time you saw five Australians together in the United States? It's as if Kylie Minogue is going to make a surprise appearance at Dunkin' Donuts arena. 

Are the Gaels (which, ironically means people from the Ireland/Scotland region) for real? Villanova had a lot of trouble with Robert Morris today, trailing almost the entire game. The Wildcats looked flat indeed.  

Samhan, yesterday, made the statement that "God is a Gael." If that's true, we're going to get a whole lot more impressed with these guys before this thing's over.


Category: NCAAB
 
 
 
 
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