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2011-12 College Basketball Season Preview: St. Mary's

Written by Paul Banks of the Washington Times, David Kay and Peter Christian of the The Sports Bank. Send Paul an e-mail here: paulb05 AT hotmail DOT com.
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St. Mary's Gaels (Last Year: 25-9, 11-3 in WCC)

2011-12 Projected Depth Chart:

F/C: Mitchell Young (Jr)/Kenton Walker (Sr)/Kyle Rowley (Jr)/Brad Waldow (Fr)

PF: Rob Jones (Sr)/Tim Williams (Jr)/Beau Levesque (So)

G/F: Stephen Holt (So)/Clint Steindel (Sr)/Eividas Petrulis (Fr)

G: Paul McCoy (Jr)

PG: Matthew Dellavedova (Jr)/Jorden Page (So)

Gone: G-Mickey McConnell, PF-Phil Benson

2011-12 Outlook:
For the second time in three years, Saint Mary's ended up on the wrong side of the NCAA-Tournament bubble despite a successful regular season. Things only get more difficult for the Gaels with addition of BYU to the West Coast Conference (WCC). Still, with a solid core returning, St. Mary's should be right back in the conference title hunt.

The Gaels lose half of their backcourt in WCC Player of the Year Mickey McConnell, but return Matthew Dellavedova. The Aussie is a two-year starter and got even more experience this summer playing for the Australian National Team. He is not nearly as efficient a three-point shooter as McConnell, but can light it up from deep when he gets the hot hand and also uses his size to get to the basket.

Dellavedova will likely take on the ball-handling responsibilities, although SMU transfer Paul McCoy is also capable of running the point. After sitting out last season, McCoy will be an impact player and possibly part of a three-guard look that will also feature rising sophomore Stephen Holt. Jorden Page returns from a season-ending knee injury that cost him all but seven games last year and will be a key backcourt reserve for the Gaels.

The frontcourt returns all its contributors and will provide head coach Randy Bennett with plenty of options. At 6-foot-6, Rob Jones might be undersized but uses his physicality in the paint and three-point range to be an effective inside/outside threat. He will return to the starting lineup and be joined by either Mitchell Young, Clint Steindel, Kenton Walker, or Tim Williams.

Young is the only of those four players not to start a game last season but is undoubtedly the most talented. He averaged more than ten points and five rebounds, despite playing around 21 minutes a night. Walker and Williams seem better suited as role players off the bench and will also have to compete with Northwestern transfer Kyle Rowley for playing time. Steindel is a perimeter-based forward who connected on 42.3% of his triple tries and gives Bennett more size at small forward when he wants to go with a bigger lineup. Redshirt freshman Brad Waldow, Beau Lavesque, and Eividas Petrulis figure to be the odd men out in the rotation.

McConnell is the only contributor gone from last year's team, which means the Gaels bring plenty of experience and versatility to the floor. Gonzaga will once again be the team to beat in the WCC, but Saint Mary's should find themselves on the right side of the bubble this year if they don't earn the league's automatic bid to the Big Dance.

Player to Watch: Paul McCoy, G
As a freshman at SMU, the 5-11 guard averaged 13.4 points, 4 boards, and 3 assists per game. His numbers dipped a bit his sophomore year, which ended early due to a knee injury. McCoy is a solid defender who will pester opposing points guard and allow the bigger Dellavedova to guard two's.

Key Non-Conference Games:
  • 11/14 vs. Northern Iowa
  • 11/22 vs. Baylor (Las Vegas Classic)
  • 11/23 vs. Missouri State (Las Vegas Classic)

    Predicted WCC Finish: 2nd

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