LAS VEGAS — The last time Saint Mary's went 0-for-3 against Gonzaga in one season, the Gaels were one of the last teams left out of the NCAA tournament.
Saint Mary's coach Randy Bennett is confident that won't happen again Sunday.
Despite his team falling for the third time this season to the Zags 65-51 in Monday night's WCC championship game, Bennett believes the Gaels have accomplished enough to earn an at-large bid. Saint Mary's is 27-6 overall, checks in No. 30 in the RPI and did not lose to another league opponent besides Gonzaga.
"I feel good about where we stand," Bennett said. "We've lost to one team since Christmas. Who else can say that? It just happens to be the No. 1 team in the country. I have no regrets about what our guys have done. I don't want to jinx us. But yeah, I feel pretty good."
There's a good chance Bennett is correct to be confident, but the one factor that could cost Saint Mary's is its lack of quality wins. Aside from a BracketBusters win over Missouri Valley champion Creighton, the most impressive victories on the Gaels' profile are a regular season sweep of a pedestrian BYU team.
That's somewhat reminiscent of the 2008-09 Saint Mary's team, which vaulted itself into the NCAA tournament picture with a BracketBusters win over a loaded Utah State team but couldn't defeat Gonzaga in any of its three tries. Of course there are two differences too: this year's Gaels dropped three to maybe the best Zags team of Mark Few's tenure and the 2008-09 Gaels fumbled away two other league games while recovering from an injury to guard Patty Mills.
Saint Mary's didn't help itself Monday night by failing to be competitive with Gonzaga, nor did the Zags fans show much pity.
With Matthew Dellavedova scoreless in the second half and the game long out of reach, pockets of the pro-Gonzaga crowd began chanting "NIT! NIT!"
Bennett believes the selection committee will judge Saint Mary's differently. Gaels fans can only hope he's right.
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