Wow, what a great time it is to be a Gael these days. #16 in the ESPN/USA poll and #18 in the AP poll, what a season!
So here’s a quick season recap. 21-2 overall record, win’s over Gonzaga and BYU, undefeated in WCC play and no bad losses. Finally St. Mary’s is in a position to win the WCC regular season outright and end Gonzaga’s incredible string of championships.
This is the most complete team that St. Mary’s has had in a long, long time. Many people have issues with Randy Bennett and his recruiting style and tendency but he has done an incredible job of bringing this group of players together. Below is a breakdown of the St. Mary’s roster.
Matthew Dellavedova : This Aussie had big shoes to fill when he replaced Patty Mills but Dellavedova has played admirably. He is arguably the most talented player on the Gaels roster but is plagued by inconsistency. Dellavedova can be one of the best passers and lights out shooters in the country. Dellavedova’s biggest problem however is his inconsistency. He is very turnover prone and tries to force passes when there is no need to. He plays his best game when he is willing to sit back and take what the defense is giving him (in the passing game that is). Dellavedova has NBA 3 point range and is a lights out shooter but he suffers through stretches where he gets way too shot happy and will force 3’s early in the shotclock instead of waiting for the offense to develop. One of Dellavedova’s biggest strength though that he under-utilizes is his low post game. He has good size for a point guard and has suprising skill in the low-post. When watching Dellavedova you know he’s playing well when he is getting to the rim and the line consistently.
Stephen Holt – Finally Holt has realized his offensive potential and he is clicking on all cylinders. Holt is a shut-down defender, can guard just about anyone around his size in the country and has been doing it since he came to St. Mary’s. This season he has finally become an offensive force. He is great at using his speed to get to the rim and has a much improved 3 point game. The only downside to Holt’s game is that he becomes somewhat passive on offense and won’t drive to the line. Holt can’t get his own shot and can only score on drives to the rim and open 3’s so his passiveness limits his offensive ceiling.
Rob Jones: Describing Jones’ game is incredibly difficult. He can do it all, shoot, drive, pass, defend and rebound. There is literally nothing he can’t do on a basketball court. Despite this Jones tends to disappear at times. For example in the Gonzaga game he had zero points until the last few minutes when the game was already out of hand. In other games though he has been by far the best player on the court. Despite his disappearing tendencies Jones is an incredibly valuable player for St. Mary’s. Jones is usually around double figures in rebounding (even when he is struggling) and that number alone is crucial for St. Mary’s.
Brad Waldow – My favorite player on this St. Mary’s team and he’s only a freshman! Waldow is the MVP of the Gaels so far this season. He provides the front-court presence that St. Mary’s has been so sorely lacking. His low-post game still needs a ton of work and he has no real outside shot but Waldow has the size and is isn’t afraid to use it. He is great at using his body to create contact and get to the line and is also an above average rebounder and great at positioning himself defensively.
Jordan Page – Page is a pure scorer. He is at his most effective when driving to the lane or shooting open 3 pointers. However he has a tendency to be very hot or cold. When he is on his offense seems to flow freely but when he is off he forces EVERYTHING. He is a plus defender and has great quickness which can cause trouble for opposing offenses.
Clint Stendl: O Clint! All season St. Mary’s has been trying to figure out a way to use Clint’s skillset in their offense but they have been unable to (well until the last BYU game). Clint is a lethal 3 point shooter but needs time and space to get off his shot but he is very bad at creating separation. When he is a part of the offense St. Mary’s is forced to play a slower tempo which is ok only if Clint is hitting his shots. Clint is an asset when he’s making his 3’s and somewhat of a liability when he is not, it’s that simple.
As a whole this is Randy Bennett’s best recruiting effort in a very long time. This roster is coming together perfectly. Dellavedova running the point is (on a pure talent level) one of the best point guards in the country and when he plays well is almost unstoppable. Holt is a great defender who is capable of dropping double digits points during any given game. Steindl/Page both have unique skill-sets and depending on the game can add a lot to the team. Steindl provides a lethal outside shooter when he is on and Page gives the team even more athleticism and is adept at getting his own shot. Jones provides a solid presence and can do everything on the court well. Lastly, the offensive glue Waldow provides the low-post presence that the Gaels have been lacking since Omar Samhan graduated. Waldow’s size is something that no team in the WCC can handle and his offensive/defensive output reflects that.
This team has tons of talent, great coaching and a pretty easy schedule the rest of the way (only @ Gonzaga and Murray State) are really left to challenge the Gaels. This St. Mary’s team has a real chance to challenge for a spot in the Elite 8 and it would not be shocking if they played in the final four.