Saint Mary's no longer a Cinderella

Saint Mary's no longer a Cinderella
March 12, 2012, 5:00 pm
Share This Post

Everything in Moraga right now has a tinge of the giddy about it, because the basketball program is now considered a standard-bearer for mid-major programs.

In other words, its time for a bit of a downer to keep everyone sharp and focused.

If Randy Bennett really owns Australia, how could he let Hugh Greenwood escape to New Mexico to go for 26 a game with the Mountain West champions? Or maybe Bennett isnt as thorough in Tasmania as he should be.

There. Thats the end of that. Now back to the era of good feeling before Fridays Midwest Regional opener with Purdue.

But among a huge number of mid-major at-large teams (Wichita State, UNLV, Xavier, St. Louis, Colorado State, Brigham Young, Iona, Gonzaga, Southern Mississippi, Temple, San Diego State), St. Marys is among the elite.

Oh, UNLV has history, but its long-ago history by most standards. Xavier and Temple are seeming perrenials, and so is Gonzaga, which by NCAA standards is St. Marys doppelganger.

But the Gaels have reached the point where they have as much throw-weight as any mid-major, to the point where they got what can be considered a favorable position in the bracket.

Well, at least as favorable as any seven-seed has any right to hope.

In facing Purdue, the Gaels get a team that has three strong three-point shooters in ultraveteran Robbie Hummel, Ryne Smith and D.J. Byrd, but is neither deep nor overly experienced. In other words, a well-selected 10-seed -- a live underdog, but an underdog nonetheless.

Then, if St. Marys can get by the Boilermakers, they get Kansas, a strong two-seed with a terrific starting five but not much depth. Historically, Kansas has been capable of extraordinary games as a high seed, and some brutal lows, most recently a second-round exit to Northern Iowa in 2010.

In short, St. Marys could have gotten crushed with matchups and wasnt. Kansas is an exceedingly difficult team to play, but not impossibly so. The Gaels got a fair shake, which is all a mid-major can ask.

And in fact is the proof that a mid-major has arrived. Sure, it may be a glass ceiling, maybe even a plexiglass ceiling (Kansas is really good, after all), but at least its glass and not concrete. And for most mid-majors, concrete is kind.

Often, strong mid-majors are pitted against each other to help thin out the herd, to hear the mid-majors tell it. Wichita State-Virginia Commonwealth is one of those, but it is the only one. The others were matched against BCS conference schools that either disappointed or were never all that inspiring to begin with.

So basically, St. Marys got what it merited and has no complaint to offer. Oh, maybe they could have gotten a six-seed so as to avoid Kansas, but it isnt like Georgetown or Florida State in round three is a palatable alternative. The Gaels got treated with as close to actual respect as mid-majors can hope to get, and that means they are taken seriously as more than just a Cinderella story.

Now, lets get back to Greenwood . . .
Ray Ratto is a columnist for CSNBayArea.com.

More Team Talk