After an impressive start to conference play, the Gaels find themselves nationally-ranked for the first time this season.
(@saintmaryshoops and @smcgaels)
By Ryan Ford
There is no other way to say it: The Gaels are on a roll.
When the most recent weekly update of the AP and Coaches Poll came out earlier this afternoon, Saint Mary’s fans were happy to see that the scorching-hot Gaels now sit comfortably in both rankings at 22nd in the country.
Randy Bennett’s squad finished last season ranked 20th after a 26-8 campaign, but losing several key pieces as well as the unknown projection of the freshmen/transfer additions meant that Saint Mary’s would need to prove themselves worthy of national recognition in the early portion of this season.
A 6-0 start, followed by a 3-4 slide, left the Gaels at 9-4 before beginning conference play in late December. Flash forward to today, and the surging Gaels sit at 18-4, having started 7-0 in WCC contests in the midst of a nine-game winning streak.
With Gonzaga’s upset loss to Loyola Marymount last Thursday night, Saint Mary’s also sits atop the West Coast Conference standings. In seven conference matchups, Saint Mary’s has gone undefeated with an average margin of victory of 21.5 points.
Point differential, one of the key stats that help analysts see just how dominant any given college program has been during their season, has been eye-opening for the Gaels all season long. In 22 regular season contests, Saint Mary’s has toppled their opponents by an average of 14.9 points, which puts them 9th in the entire country in that category.
The impressive numbers don’t stop there. Their average FG% differential (+7.2), 3PT% (+7.0), rebounds (+8.5), and assists (+5.8) all rank top-15 in all of college basketball as well.
During their current nine-game winning streak, first-year standout Aidan Mahaney has averaged 16.6 points per game, collecting West Coast Conference Freshman of the Week awards four times in that span. On the season, he leads the team in points at 15 a game while knocking down 43.2% of his triples.
Now that the Gaels have gained recognition for their dominant start to the season, they find themselves scheduled to be broadcasted nationally on ESPN in their next three contests. They travel to Provo, Utah to take on BYU this Saturday at 7pm, before heading back to Moraga for a two-game homestand against San Francisco and their first matchup against 14th-ranked Gonzaga.
Madison Sciba '24,