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Saint Mary’s @ Gonzaga Preview

It’s rivalry weekend with control of the WCC on the line.

NCAA Basketball: Continental Tire Main Event Consolation Xavier vs Saint Mary’s Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Saint Mary’s has 9 AP votes, Gonzaga 4 AP votes. In the latest bracket prediction by Fox Sports, Saint Mary’s is an 8 seed and Gonzaga is a 12 seed. This game has serious West Coast Conference Tournament seeding and NCAA Tournament implications on the line. This is an opportunity for the Zags to get their first Quad 1 victory of the season, the Gaels are looking for their fourth.

Randy Bennett has yet another loaded roster from top to bottom. Aidan Mahaney (14.1 PPG, 2.7 APG, 2.2 RPG, 1.0 SPG) is the go-to scoring option. Augustus Marciulionis (11.9 PPG on 40.8 FG%, 4.7 APG, 3.0 RPG, 1.5 SPG) acts as the distributor on offense for the Gaels. Mitchell Saxen (11.2 PPG on 55.9 FG%, 7.7 RPG, 1.5 BPG) is the load down on the low block and a fantastic rim protector. Can’t forget about Joshua Jefferson, Alex Ducas, and Luke Barrett who can go off at any moment.

What scare me the most is how disciplined the Gaels are on defense. Here are some numbers to throw at you: 3rd in the NCAA in scoring defense at 58.4 PPG. 2nd in the NCAA in rebounding margin at 11.7. 9th in the NCAA in field goal percentage defense at .389 FG%.

Gonzaga finds most of its production coming from inside the paint but those buckets near the rim are going to be hard to come by this time around. This one feels like it’s coming down to the final possession. Really interested to see how Graham Ike attacks the Gaels’ frontcourt and if he can continue his impressive play as of late.

Saint Mary’s record -

17-6, 8-0 (W vs Stanislaus State, W vs New Mexico, L vs Weber State, L vs San Diego State, L vs Xavier, W vs Davidson, L vs Utah, L vs Boise State, W vs Cleveland State, W @ #13 Colorado State, W vs UNLV, W vs Middle Tennessee, W vs Northern Kentucky, L vs Missouri State, W vs Kent State, W @ San Diego, W @ LMU, W vs Portland, W @ Santa Clara, W @ USF, W vs Pacific, W vs LMU, W vs Santa Clara)

Key stats -

72.9 PPG

58.4 points allowed (3rd in the nation)

45.4 FG%

32.3 3P%

69.0 FT%

40.1 RPG (40th in the nation)

15.7 APG (70th in the nation)

7.0 SPG

4.5 BPG (62nd in the nation)

10.7 TO

KenPom rankings -

#30 overall

112.3 adjusted offensive efficiency (#72)

95.2 adjusted defensive efficiency (#14)

Key player to watch for -

Aidan Mahaney (sophomore, guard) - 14.1 PPG on 38.7 FG% and 34.0 3PT%, 2.7 APG, 2.2 RPG, 1.0 SPG

He’s shooting at a much lower percentage compared to his outstanding freshman campaign but is still finding ways to score with his wide range of diverse offensive attacks (especially since conference play has started). The combo guard does a great job of playing under control, changing pace, getting into the lane, and operating the offense. Mahaney is as talented as a shot-maker at all the different levels you will find playing in the West Coast Conference this season.

Gonzaga has won five in a row but Saint Mary’s has won nine in a row. Someone’s streak is ending tomorrow night on ESPN at 7:30 PM PT. If you thought the Kennel has been loud the past couple of games, just get ready for Saturday.

Arden Cravalho is a Gonzaga University graduate from the Bay Area... Follow him on Twitter @a_cravalho