Gaels in similar spot as last season

February, 22, 2010
Saint Mary's didn't play a game Saturday and was a conspicuous absentee from the BracketBusters event.

The Gaels took a pass on the event and are now scrambling -- for the second straight season -- to get another game that could help their power rating or impress the selection committee.

Saint Mary's coach Randy Bennett said that there has been some discussion among the Gaels' brass to see if USC would play the Gaels for the second time this season sometime during championship week. The Trojans gave themselves a postseason ban and won't be playing in the Pac-10 tournament the week of March 8. The WCC tournament ends before the Pac-10 tournament even begins.

Bennett said by text Saturday night that the chances of playing USC are probably unlikely, and the Trojans have yet to hear from the Gaels.

"[Saint Mary's] never talked to me," USC coach Kevin O'Neill said. "But no one from there [Saint Mary's] called me about it. I'd play any game. I don't know if we'd be allowed to do that with our sanctions."

USC's basketball and football programs went before the NCAA's committee on infractions last weekend in Tempe, Ariz. But results won't be made public for six to eight weeks, well after the season ends.

O'Neill said he would explore playing Saint Mary's if the Gaels made a phone call to him. "But they haven't," he said. "We might be able to play one game since the conference tournament counts as one game and we're not playing in it."

USC beat Saint Mary's 60-49 in the semifinals of the Diamond Head Classic on Dec. 23 in Honolulu.

A year ago, Saint Mary's was a game short and ended up playing Eastern Washington out of the Big Sky. The game wasn't necessarily for power-rating purposes, but it served to show the selection committee that point guard Patty Mills was healthy enough to play in the postseason. The Gaels won the game, but it didn't matter: Saint Mary's didn't get a bid.

What would another game against a USC team not heading to the postseason do for the committee? Probably not much, considering the Trojans wouldn't be playing for anything at that point. USC does count on all of the team sheets for the committee despite not being eligible for the postseason.

How did Saint Mary's get in a position in which it's a game short again? The Gaels played in the aforementioned tournament in Hawaii, which gives teams another game to use.

The Gaels didn't want to be in BracketBusters because they thought they were promised a home game for the second straight season. Generally, teams rotate home and road sites, alternating between a home game one season and a road game the next, but after hosting Utah State last season, Saint Mary's wasn't going to get an exemption to play at home again this season.

Saint Mary's didn't want four straight road games on the schedule. The Gaels were at Gonzaga on Feb. 11 (loss), at Portland on Feb. 13 (loss) and at San Diego on Feb. 18 (win) and would have been on the road Feb. 20 for BracketBusters. The only idea that was thrown out earlier this season was to switch the San Diego game sites within the conference season.

The Gaels did try to get into BracketBusters after the season had already started, but they were denied because the teams were already set. Had the Gaels been in the event, they probably would have played at either Butler or Northern Iowa, giving Saint Mary's the potential for another quality road win.

Bennett said that the Gaels will be in the event in 2011. Saint Mary's, 22-5 overall and 9-3 in the WCC -- one game behind Gonzaga -- finishes the season against Pepperdine and Loyola Marymount at home later this week.

• North Carolina sophomore forward Ed Davis said after Saturday's loss to Boston College that he gets a new cast on his fractured left wrist each week and hopes to have it off for good within the month. In the same breath, he said he wasn't ruling out a late-season return.

"I'll get an X-ray in two weeks and see," Davis said. "I'll keep working hard and hopefully get back on the court."

Davis said he understands that he has been projected as a lottery pick whenever he decides to enter the NBA draft. So regardless of when he returns to the court, he, his father and coach Roy Williams will sit down after the season to discuss his plans. The deadline to declare for the NBA draft is at the end of April, with a May 8 deadline for deciding to return to college under new NCAA legislation. The NBA still has a withdrawal deadline of 10 days before the NBA draft.

Davis said he has gained a new perspective by watching the game while on the bench.

"I can see all the breakdowns, see guys not sprinting back and see it all from the bench," Davis said. "Right now I'm taking it all in. This has been a real humbling experience for me."

Davis broke his wrist against Duke on Feb. 10 and hasn't played the past three games.

Andy Katz | email

ESPN Senior Writer


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