“Never venture, never win!” – Sun Tzu, The Art of War
It’s truly a shame this game isn’t going to be nationally televised. The Blazers and Gaels are going to put on a show only fit for Vegas Sunday afternoon and not enough eyes are going to see it.
You’d be hard pressed to find two mid-majors this experienced, skilled, and opposing in styles. Saint Mary’s trip to Dayton last week on paper was the sexier top 50 match-up and it certainly didn’t disappoint. But, I’d argue the make-up of these two teams and their meeting on a neutral court will yield an even better clash.
Scouting The Gaels
Coach Randy Bennett’s team might be the most statistically impressive in all of college basketball.
Here’s how they rank nationally in various statistical categories:
- Their effective field goal percentage is 60.9 percent (6th)
- Their turnover percentage is 13.0 percent (6th)
- Their adjusted offensive efficiency is 117.1 (4th) *For reference the Warriors’ is 115.7 though calculated slightly differently and not exactly apples to apples*
- Their adjusted tempo is dead last in college basketball at 63.3 possessions over 40 minutes
- Their two-pointer shooting percentage is 64.7 percent (2nd)
So what do these statistics mean?
To summarize, Saint Mary’s is arguably one of the best if not the best half-court offensive teams in the country. They rarely take bad shots and their offensive sets more times than not yield them open, high percentage shots. While UAB likes to get a shot off closer to 15 seconds, the Gael’s will often move the ball around to the 20 second mark before shooting.
Let’s take a look at some of the Saint Mary’s stars.
Jock Landale, C ¦ 6-foot-11, 255 ¦ Junior
An excerpt from the article in the tweet:
Through four games, when the ball leaves his hands from the field, there’s a 75 percent chance it’s going in – highest-ranking percentage in the West Coast Conference. The 24 points he collected against the Spartans was backed by an utterly perfect stroke, until there was just under seven minutes remaining and he missed his first shot.
I caught a fair amount of the 29-win Gaels last season and I’m here to tell you they were very, very good. What’s made them even better this season is their offensive play through center Jock Landale who’s taken a much more prominent roll.
Those who cover sports love to compare individuals to others in their field. When I watch Landale I’m immediately drawn to his likeness to current Dallas Maverick and former Golden State Warrior, Andrew Bogut.
Like Bogut, the fellow Aussie Landau exhibits exceptional footwork and timing in the post as well an ability to pass with precision. Saint Mary’s can not only run their sets through their point guard, but through Landau as well. His ability to find open teammates from behind the arc might be his most impressive attribute.
Emmett Naar, G ¦ 6-foot-1, 195 ¦ Junior
Saint Mary’s is practically a farm league team for hopeful Australian pro players.
For UAB fans, imagine how influential Nick Norton was to UAB’s offense then add a couple of inches and you have Emmett Naar. In fact, their games are eerily similar.
Naar is primarily a pass first facilitating type of point guard, but he has no qualms with shooting the three when open (56 last season) and taking advantages of open lanes to the paint off of pick-and-rolls with Landau.
The one-two punch of Landau and Naar is so tough to defend, and in my opinion the best point guard and center duo in college basketball. If they aren’t running their perfectly executed pick-and-roll at the top of the key, Naar is driving into the paint kicking it out to the many capable Gael shooters.
3 Things To Watch For
- Stopping Landale – The last time Saint Mary’s lost was to Valparaiso in the quarterfinals of the NIT in March. In that game Landale had four fouls and was a non-factor. Granted he wasn’t as focal an offensive piece last season, I still believe the best chance of beating the Gael’s is to keep him out of the game. If he’s in the game, you’re not stopping him.
- Chris Cokley – The junior forward was dominate against George Washington and nonexistent against Kansas. Like the Colonials, Saint Mary’s won’t have near the interior size depth Kansas did. He’ll need to get started early and really pressure Landale to defend. Whoever has the better night between Cokley and Landale will likely yield their team the victory.
- Perimeter Defense – Though George Washington hit 8 3-pointers the Blazers put together their best defense of the perimeter together of the season in the win. The Colonials shot just 29 percent and rarely found open looks. At any given time Saint Mary’s will have four capable 3-point shooters on the court. They’ll give up a good shot for a perfect shot and they’ve yet to be stopped from finding them regularly. The Blazers will need to repeat their performance from the win over George Washington to pull the upset.