When I picked the Gaels to win their play-in game and then beat the 6-seeded Memphis Tigers in the first round, it was pretty much my only pick that was heavily infused with sentiment; they had scraped their way to respect several years in a row, and had a chance to finally put themselves on the map with their battle today in Auburn Hills. And after a couple of missed opportunities (including the 86 percent FT shooter Dellavedova missing key 1-and-1s down the stretch!) and a high-glass bank on a three pointer, they forced a turnover with 1.9 seconds to go and down only two!
Alas, it was not to be.
The final inbounds pass made its way to Dellevadova, who pulled up for a well contested three from the corner. It fell harmlessly into thin air on the other side of the hoop, and the Gaels’ captain immediately pulled his jersey over his face, mortified. He only kept his face covered for a second or two, and when he removed his hands, his eyes were already red; his teammates immediately surrounded him, consoling him with pats and an arm around the head. After countless clutch and last-second plays on their behalf, it was their turn to pick him up.
The St. Mary’s Gaels just proved that they were no fluke. Matthew Dellavedova is a big, athletic floor general who can shoot, pass rebound and defend; Brad Waldow is a big, competitive, underrated forward who got his tooth knocked clean out of his head and continued playing defense on that same play. They have other young players who can shoot and play defense, and they’re accustomed to the big stage, which bodes well for their program development (they’re also on probation for recruitment violations, which might put a damper on their trajectory).
The Gaels might have cost me a “w” in my pool, but not by much–and given the chance, I’d put my money on them again.