No 'chip' this time for Gaels

March 15, 2012, 10:42 pm
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Its been a quiet day in Omaha, and no, that is not an invitation for you to chime in. The NCAA Tournament is here, and two most interesting developments are that Kansas and Missouri are both here but have no compelling reason to talk about each other.Indeed, there is an odd hollowness to the matchups here not much to sink your teeth into, really, whether it be Missouri-Norfolk State, or Virginia-Florida.It is a location that badly needs Omar Samhan.Samhan is the mildly famous Saint Marys center who stole the tournaments heart two years ago by seizing the first two rounds by the throat with his play and with his own throat. Indeed, until he ran into the noted former Warrior Ekpe Udoh, he was as charming a figure as the 2010 tournament provided.Well, the Gaels are back, as if you didnt already know, but the force of Samhans personality is not. This is a slightly more buttoned-down Saint Marys team, and with Purdue the kind of team that will rattle those buttons, the Gaels have decided that less improv is better for the task at hand.I think we might have needed that chip on our shoulder a couple of years ago, head coach Randy Bennett said after finishing his Purdue prep with a cheery, That hays in the barn on that now.
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Omar did have a chip on his shoulder (in 2010), and he even had T-shirts made with a chip on the shoulder. I think he felt, and they all felt, that we needed that then. But every team is different, and this one is different than the one in 2010. We won the conference, we won the conference tournament, and I think they all sense that people were coming after them more this time.Saint Marys offense was also different because of Samhans upright-minivan presence in the middle.Were more outside-in now, no question, he said. Were not as dependent on getting the ball down low, and we have more ways to go at people. I think in some ways that makes us harder to game-plan for, but in other ways . . . well, its hard to guard a good big man, and it always has been. So really, I dont know whats actually harder, but this is definitely different.As for Samhans personality, while it may be missed, it could not have been recreated, so nobody has bothered to try. The Gaels are still on the quirky side Clint Steindls dad re-invited himself for another extended stay on his sons floor, and people remain fixated on the Australian thing but Samhan was bigger than life. This team isnt, and doesnt need to be.It helps that Purdue, while an excellent perimeter team, is not a pound-it-inside-and-let-the-carnage-speak-for-itself type. They play a lot with a forwards-guards lineup, and as Saint Marys does, they live on the perimeter. With point guard Lewis Jackson creating space with penetration, the Boilermakers have an advantage that Saint Marys does not, but Bennett says they are enough like USF that unfamiliarity shouldn't be an issue.RELATED: Saint Mary's roster Purdue roster
I mean, theyre the handiest comparison point, he said, but we know where we are, and this is the NCAAs, and everybodys better at this level.Only this time, the Gaels dont need to lean so heavily on Samhans chip alone. They have seven players from that 2010 team here, so the load that must be borne to advance will be distributed more evenly.Nevertheless, the load remains the load, and one guy with an elevated level of comedic and rhetorical skills is only one way to carry it.

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