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Saint Mary's Gaels to make history with latest NCAA tournament appearance. Here's what to know.

Game Day: Saint Mary's is headed back to the Big Dance
Game Day: Saint Mary's is headed back to the Big Dance 02:24

The Saint Mary's Gaels basketball team made history this season when they won the West Coast Conference regular season and tournament titles, earning an automatic bid for the NCAA Men's tournament.

It's the third time in program history that the team won both titles in the same season, and their fifth tournament title overall. Saint Mary's previous tournament title wins were in 1997, 2010, 2012 and 2019. 

They will be going into another NCAA tournament appearance on a bit of a heater. The Gaels have only dropped one game since the beginning of the year, winning 17 of their 18 games. 

It will be the team's third consecutive NCAA tournament appearance — a first in program history. It will be their 13th appearance in the NCAA tournament overall and 10th under current head coach Randy Bennett. When the bracket was announced Sunday, the Gaels earned a #5 seed in the West Region. Saint Mary's is scheduled to face the #12 Grand Canyon Antelopes in their first-round match-up on Friday, March 22.

Here are some things to know about the Saint Mary's men's basketball program.

Who is the team's head coach?

Randy Bennett became the Gaels' head coach in 2001 and has had an impressive run at the college. In 2023, he recorded his 500th win with the team. 

Bennett played basketball at UC San Diego, where he graduated from and also volunteered as assistant coach. He previously held the assistant coach position at Pepperdine and Saint Louis, before heading to Saint Mary's

Where is Saint Mary's College? 

Saint Mary's College is located in the East Bay town of Moraga, about 23 miles from San Francisco. It's been in the Bay Area since 1863, when it was founded in San Francisco by Joseph Sadoc Alemany, a member of the Dominicans and the first archbishop of San Francisco. Saint Mary's College was started as a diocesan boys college. 

Alemany became unhappy with the archdiocese's operation of the college and applied for assistance from Rome. In 1868, the college was handed over to the De La Salle Christian Brothers. The organization, also known as the Institute of the Brothers of the Christian Schools, still administers the school. Saint Mary's moved to Oakland in 1889, but relocated further east in 1928 to the current location in Moraga after a fire seriously damaged the school. Saint Mary's College is a private Catholic liberal arts collage with a student body of about 4,000 students.

What is the Gaels' history in the NCAA tournament?

The Saint Mary's Gaels had several appearances in the NCAA men's basketball tournament before the team's more recent dominance of the WCC (first in 1959, then again three decades later in 1989 and in 1997). Since returning to the tournament in 2005, the Gaels have made regular appearances, earning selections or an outright bid by winning the WCC title in 2008, 2010, 2012, 2013, 2017 and 2019 as well as three consecutive years since 2022. 

The team had its greatest success in the tournament in 2010, when the 10th-seeded Gaels made the Sweet Sixteen after upsetting #7 Richmond and #2 Vilanova before falling to #3 Baylor. The team has left the tournament by losing their first or second round game in each entry since then, including two second round losses in a row the past two years to 4th seeded teams (UCLA in 2022 and UConn in 2023).

Where do the Gaels play their home games?

The Saint Mary's Gaels play their home games at the University Credit Union Pavilion on the college's campus. With a capacity of 3,500 people, it is one of the more intimate home courts among NCAA Division I schools. The arena was originally named after George R. McKeon, a former member of the college's Board of Regents. The pavilion was built in 1978 and underwent major renovations in the summer of 2006. The venue was renamed to University Credit Union Pavilion in 2019. 

Notable Basketball Alums 

Some of their most famous basketball alums are Tom Meschery, Patty Mills and Matthew Dellavedova. 

Meschery played for the Warriors when they were known as the Philadelphia and San Francisco Warriors. He then played for the Seattle Supersonics.

Mills recently joined the Miami Heat after playing a season with the Atlanta Hawks. He has one NBA Championship Title, having played with the San Antonio Spurs in 2014. 

Dellavedova won an NBA Championship Title in 2016 with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

What is a Gael?

The college's website says a Gael is "traditionally an Irish warrior."

It's meant to represent the "power of passion and hard work." The name, according to the school, may have come from when a 1920s famous sportswriter Grantland Rice named the school "the Gaels." The team had several Irish players which is what prompted the name, as the Irish speak Gaelic.

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