NCAA Tournament Predictions: St. Mary’s vs. VCU

Jock Landale,Philipp Hartwich,Jazz Johnson_552122

Saint Mary’s Jock Landale, center, looks to pass away from Portland’s Philipp Hartwich (15) and Jazz Johnson (22) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Thursday, Feb. 9, 2017, in Moraga, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

It’s March Madness, the greatest time of the year. Looking for some help with your bracket? Don’t know which teams to believe in, in this crazy college hoops season? We’ve got your back. We’re breaking down every first-round game in the field of 68, plus looking ahead at which teams will make the run to the Final Four.

7. St. Mary’s (CA) (28-4, 16-2/WCC)–If Gonzaga is the UConn women’s basketball of the WCC, Saint Mary’s is like Notre Dame. They don’t get the same kind of national attention and don’t have quite the same kind of success, but they’re always right there in the mix.

Randy Bennett has done an excellent job of building up a program that can compete alongside the ‘Zags nationally, and the Gaels have had a pretty unexpected and impressive run of their own, reaching the NCAA’s five times since 2005 and winning three games.

They’ve done it by recruiting international players, namely Australians like Patty Mills and Matthew Dellavedova. This year’s top Aussie is 6-11 junior Jock Landale, who averages 16.8 points and 9.3 rebounds per game.

10. VCU (26-8, 14-4/Atlantic 10)–VCU has kept right on winning after program-changing head coach Shaka Smart left for Texas, reaching the NCAA Tournament twice under new boss Will Wade. The Rams still play with their trademark “Havoc” (seriously, it’s trademarked), and will enter the NCAA’s after reaching the A-10 title game for the second straight year.

This team is senior-laiden, with 6-1 guard JeQuan Lewis leading the way at 14.7 points and 4.6 assists per game. 6-7 senior Mo Allie-Cox (9.8 ppg, 4.2 rpg) is one of the team’s leaders, as is 6-5 junior Justin Tillman (12.7 ppg, 8.5 rpg).

VCU ranks 44th in the nation in points allowed (66.3), and likes to press and get easy baskets off turnovers.

PREDICTION: Saint Mary’s keeps the havoc to a minimum, thanks to experienced guards Emmett Near and Joe Rahon. Jock Landale is the difference in this one, as a controlled pace and the sheer size of the big man prove too much for the Rams to handle. We’ll take the Gaels to advance past round 1, but fall to Arizona in the Round of 32.

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