Saturday, September 13, 2008

No. 24 St. Mary's: 2008-2009 Team Preview

2007-2008 Record: 25-7, 12-2 WCC (2nd)

Key Losses: Tron Smith (8.0 ppg), Todd Golden (7.0 ppg)

Key Returnees: Patty Mills (14.8 ppg, 3.5 apg), Diamon Simpson (13.4 ppg, 9.6 rpg), Omar Sahman (10.5 ppg, 7.3 rpg)

Newcomers: Clint Steindl, Colin Chiverton, Trey Anderson, Tim Williams, Phil Benson, Ben Allen

This year may be the year that Gonzaga's reign atop the WCC finally comes to an end, as St. Mary's returns their top three scorers and four starters from a 25 win team (although the 'Zags are loaded this year). When you talk about the St. Mary's Gaels, the first guy you have to mention is Patty Mills, the only college player that played in this year's Olympics (for Australia). And what an Olympics he had, averaging 14 ppg and 2 apg, including a 20 point and 3 steal outburst against the US (he drew rave reviews from Chris Paul and Coach K). Mills is as quick as anyone in the country, and can get into the paint with ease. If he improves his perimeter shooting, this guy has first round pick written all over him. The biggest knock on Mills is that he is a bit over-aggressive (he had more turnovers than assists 12 times, not good for your primary ball handler), but some of that can be attributed to him being a freshman and getting used to American basketball.

Junior Wayne Hunter, who redshirted last season, will return, which should help offset the loss of Tron Smith and Todd Golden. Hunter, a 6'4" slasher, averaged 8.8 ppg and 3.2 rpg as a sophomore in 2006-07. Senior Carlin Hughes will probably be the first guard off the bench, and expect freshman Colin Chiverton and Trey Anderson to also see some time.

The Gaels may have the most underrated front court in the country. Diamon Simpson, a 6'7" power forward and double double machine, is back for his senior year. Simpson is a force on the block, but can also step out and knock down a three (he shot 41% on the year). The combination of Mills and Simpson gives the Gaels two legitimate go-to guys and one of the best inside-outside combos out west. Simpson's front court mate, 6'11' Omar Samhan, also returns. Samhan provides a big body inside, and can put up big numbers (six double doubles last year). Indiana transfer Ben Allen will be eligible this year, giving the Gaels some depth at the position. Ian O'Leary started at small forward last season and probably will again this year, but Yusef Smith and Lucas Walker are both very capable players.

Outlook: St. Mary's has it all - experience, depth, size, and a go-to scorer in the back court and the front court. They are talented enough that they could win the WCC, and I wouldn't be surprised if they made it to the Sweet 16, or further. Expect Patty Mills to be an all-american candidate.

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