Friday, March 19, 2010

Comprehensive Villanova / St. Mary's Preview, Part 2 - #2 seed vs #10 seed - NCAA 2nd Round - The Gaels

To the Wildcat faithful-

In Part 2, I'm going to analyze the Gaels' players as individuals, and speculate about what we might expect Saturday afternoon, with Verne Lundquist and Bill Raftery calling the game for CBS.  You can read Part 1 of the Villanova / Saint Mary's Preview by clicking here.

Before I begin, one historical note: this will be the third meeting, all-time, between Villanova and Saint Mary's.  The two teams, from opposite coasts, played a home-and-home series in the early 1990s.  On December 12, 1992 (the first year under the helm of Steve Lappas, the predecessor of Jay Wright), Villanova lost in overtime, to the host Gaels, 65-64.  The following year, at the Pavilion, Villanova won 89-78, on December 18, 1993; that team would go on to win the NIT.

Another note: When St. Mary's triumphed over Richmond, 80-71, it was quite a milestone for the Gaels; it was the school's first NCAA tournament victory since 1959.  The team had made the tournament five previous times since that year, but had always fallen short in the first round.

That single NCAA victory had come on March 14 of that year, against Idaho State, 80-71.  There were only 23 teams in the field, and Saint Mary's reached the Elite Eight due to that victory.  But it took another half-century for Saint Mary's to triumph once more in the NCAA tournament. 

Here's what Wright told the Saint Mary's Sports Information Office, on the Gaels:
“You just can’t go, they look like a team you could just go get and guard them one-on-one and these guys shouldn’t go by you, but you can’t play them that way. They’re so good, they’re so quick, even though they don’t look quick. They’re really ball quick, meaning they catch and pass quickly, and make decisions quickly. Their handles are quick and they get low on their drives. We’re going to have to adjust to their personnel. A couple of guys are great off the dribble, a couple guys are great shooters and passers.”
Certainly, having watched the first-round victory that Saint Mary's had little trouble achieving against #7 Richmond, the obvious distinction with this team is the prolific number of Australians, who have headed to another hemisphere, to play for Saint Mary's.  There are three Australians in the starting lineup, and five on the overall roster.

That having been said, the biggest problem facing Wright and the Wildcats, hails from far closer than Down Under: the Californian Omar Samhan.  At 6-11, the redshirt senior had a magnificent performance against Richmond: 29 points on 11-16 shooting, and a dozen rebounds, in only 28 minutes of action.  Samhan was the main reason why Saint Mary's obliterated Richmond on the glass, 40-17.

Samhan, a Wooden Award finalist, enters the game averaging 21.2 points, 11.2 rebounds, and 3 blocks per contest.  For Villanova, the combination of Antonio Pena, Maurice Sutton, and Mouphtaou Yarou will need to prevent Samham from wreaking his customary swath of destruction through the paint.

Saint Mary's is not a particularly deep team, if coach Randy Bennett's rotation against Richmond is any indication.  The five Gael starters played all but 21 of the 200 minutes; in fact, Mickey McConnell and Matthew Dellavedova played all 40 minutes.  The other two starters, Clint Steidl and Ben Allen, played Beau Levesque saw 13 minutes; Jordan Page, a half-dozen; Mitchell Young, two minutes.  In their 21 minutes, they combined to score just five points, all from Levesque.

I will be continuing to add content, up until game time, so please check back...

I'll have a full recap after the game.

Go Wildcats!

E-mail: villanova.viewpoint-at-yahoo-dot-com 

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