The Saint Mary’s Gaels (28-4) are the No. 7 seed in the West Region, and will take on the No. 10 seed VCU (26-8). The game will be played at Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City on Thursday, March 16.
Preview: Saint Mary’s earned the No. 7 seed as an at-large with big wins over Nevada, Dayton, and BYU three times. The Gaels couldn’t get by Gonzaga, however, dropping three games to the Bulldogs. The only other team to beat them this season is UT-Arlington. They are led by junior center Jock Landale, who averages 16.8 points and 9.6 rebounds per game.
— Saint Mary's Gaels (@smcgaels) March 12, 2017
VCU is also a mid-major at-large team, after losing the Atlantic 10 championship to Rhode Island on Sunday. The Rams were boosted by an RPI of 19, and wins over Dayton, Middle Tennessee, and Princeton. Senior guard JeQuan Lewis leads the way for the Rams with 14.7 points per game.
Date: Thursday, March 16
Time: 7:20 p.m. ET
TV Channel: TBS
Location: Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City, UT
Announcers: Andrew Cataon, Steve Lappas, Jamie Erdahl
Opening Betting Line: Saint Mary’s -4.5, via OddsShark
This will be the first match-up between Saint Mary’s and VCU.
This is the Gaels’ first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2013. That year, as a No. 11 seed, the Gaels beat Middle Tennessee in a First Four game, before losing to No. 6 seed Memphis. This is Saint Mary’s ninth NCAA Tournament appearance. The program has advanced to two Sweet 16s, and reached the Elite Eight in 1959.
VCU is making its seventh straight NCAA Tournament appearance. Last season, as a No. 10 seed, the Rams upset No. 7 Oregon State before falling to No. 2 Oklahoma in an awesome 85-81 game. VCU has made 16 NCAA Tournament appearances. In 2011, the Rams made a run to the Final Four, the only time they have made it out of the first weekend.
Prediction: This battle of mid-major darlings is one of the most fun games of the entire first round. Saint Mary’s has been extremely strong in games that don’t involve Gonzaga, but VCU is more tested in a better mid-major league: the A-10. Will Wade has managed to keep VCU as a very strong mid-major program after Shaka Smart’s departure to Texas.
This one can go either way, but we’ll give a slight edge to VCU in a close game.