Gaels Get A Must Win
The highly anticipated Matthew Dellavedova versus Doug McDermott bracket buster match certainly lived up to the hype on a euphoric Saturday night in Moraga. The make-or-break game between the St Mary’s Gaels and the Creighton Bluejays was one of the many “bracket buster” games that were played over the weekend to determine the worth of certain “bubble” or fringe teams heading into Selection Sunday for March Madness. A win would just about cement a teams invitation to The Big Dance. A loss and, short of a conference title, the season is just about as good as over.
For St Mary’s, it seemed like they were playing for more than just another appearance at the Big Dance. It seemed like they were playing for their star player Matthew Dellavedova. With at least three games to go (two in the regular season and at least one in the WCC post-season championship series), Dellavedova sits second on the Gaels all-time scoring list; only 22 behind fellow Australian Daniel Kickert.
Realistically, with his 16.1PPG this season, Dellavedova should have it wrapped up before any post-season appearance, but with eight games so far this season with less than ten points, the more games Dellavedova has to break the record, the better. And the less pressure there is on his teammates; I’m talking self imposed pressure rather than any external pressure from any of the coaches or Dellavedova himself, the more free the team is to play “Gael basketball”.
Not only would this cap off a tremendous season and collegiate career for the point guard, but it would also essentially up Dellavedova’s draft stock. As one of those guys who is a semi chance of being selected late second round, anything Dellavedova can do to improve his draft stock the better. And if he performs well on the big stage, which he has been known to do on more than one occasion (and on more that one stage — Olympics, anyone?), he will be right there in the back on everyones minds, on the tip of everyones lips and, perhaps most importantly, on the edge of everyones mock drafts.
For Creighton, it looks like they’re only a couple of games away from Doug McDermotts inevitable departure to the NBA (although he is eligible for one more year at Creighton if he so chooses to return). Much like the Gaels with Dellavedova, the Blue Jays would have loved to opportunity to play in the Big Dance for if no other reason than getting their number one man atop Creighton’s all time scoring leaders. With two games left, he’s still 83 points behind Creighton legend Rodney Buford. (I say “still 83 points behind” but realistically, for a Junior to still have a sniff at the schools scoring title at this stage of the season is almost beyond remarkable.) Going off his PPG average of 22.4, it would take McDermott four games to notch up those numbers. Can it happen? Of course. It’s just a lot less likely now. Sitting second in their conference behind an unranked Wichita State certainly doesn’t help.
One area Creighton must address if they are to have any chance at all to see the Tourney is to get more productivity from their bench. In the game against St Mary’s, Creighton only managed eight bench points to the Gaels fourteen. And that eight came from one player; Ethan Wragge. And even more so than that, for a team averaging 75.7PPG (25th in the nation overall), they only have one player averaging double digits – Doug McDermott (22.4PPG), good for fourth in the nation. Seems to be that if you stop Doug, you stop the Blue Jays. This is a real problem especially heading into next season providing. For now though, if they can just pick up where their season began, they may just have what it takes.
It’s still going to be a big month for the Gaels, but the pressure it not on quite as much as it was last Thursday afternoon. Provided they don’t lose to either of Pepperdine or Santa Clara, which no one can really see happening, St Mary’s can take in a deep breath and look forward to their third NCAA Tournament Appearance in four years. But regardless of what happens, I’m sure a lot of people will have their eyes both on the 6’4″ phenom from Maryborough and the baby-faced Coaches son from Iowa.