When fans browse team previews for their conference title-contending rivals, it's never good to see "Key Losses: None". That's exactly what folks from Gonzaga, BYU and other WCC teams see when scouting Saint Mary's this season.
The Gaels lost no notable players (Franklin Porter scored 30 total points) from last year's 29-win team that was forced into the NIT after narrowly missing the NCAA Tournament. They return nearly all their scoring, rebounding, assists and everything else, including 16th-year head coach Randy Bennett, who has constructed arguably his best roster since arriving in 2001.
He has size both in the starting lineup (Evan Fitzner, 6-foot-10, 230 pounds, and Dane Pineau, 6-foot-9, 225 pounds) and on the bench (Jock Landale, 6-foot-11, 255 pounds), and boasts one of the best backcourt combinations in college basketball in upperclassmen Joe Rahon (senior) and Emmett Naar (junior).
Oh, and almost everyone can shoot from deep (40.6 percent) and play defense (60.9 points per game). There is no reason Saint Mary's can't compete for a friendly at-large bid this season — if they can beat the few tourney-contending teams on their schedule and roll through the WCC.
Jordan Ford, G — Freshman
Ford, a three-star prospect from nearby Folsom, Calif., will eventually be the go-to man in Moraga. This year, he'll add muscle and refine his shooting stroke for the college game, while backing up their veteran guards.
Elijah Thomas, G — Freshman
Thomas, from Peoria, Ariz., is a great redshirt candidate. He could play a few minutes here and there but is better suited to learn behind Rahon, Naar, Gonzalez and Clark before taking over the backcourt scoring in a couple years.
Jock Perry, C — Freshman
Randy Bennett managed to get two Jocks on the same team, with enormous (7-foot-1, 260 pounds) Jock Perry joining junior center Jock Landale. Perry played for Victoria at the 2015 U20 Australian Championships and, despite good frontcourt depth, could see 10 minutes per game.
Free Throw Shooting
College basketball teams set an all-time record at the line by hitting 66.96 percent of attempts. Saint Mary's almost prevented that from happening with their awful shooting. For a team that ranked ninth nationally in three-point shooting (40.6 percent) and second inside the arc (56.8), they couldn't hit from 15 feet.
Emmett Naar was the only player to hit better than 78 percent and two regular visitors (Joe Rahon, 54.4, and Dane Pineau, 51.8) repeatedly failed to capitalize on their aggressiveness. In three of their six losses, they failed to hit 40 percent from the line in each, including a miserable 20 percent (1-for-5) in losing to Valpo in the NIT quarterfinals.