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Free Sports Picks: St. Mary’s Playing With a Chip on its Shoulder

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One of Oskeim’s free sports picks for Monday, March 19 is on the St. Mary’s Gaels minus the points.  With motivation not being an issue, the Gaels should easily cover the point spread in tonight’s NIT 2nd Round game against Washington.

St. Mary’s became the fourth team in college basketball history to be snubbed by the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee despite finishing the regular season ranked in the Associated Press Top 25 poll.

The Gaels join SMU (2014), Utah State (2004) and UNLV (1993) as a member of a club that no basketball program wants to be a part of.

My power ratings had St. Mary’s pegged as a No. 5 seed in the 2018 NCAA Tournament, illustrating how egregious the Selection Committee’s decision was in excluding the Gaels in the Big Dance.

My biggest concern surrounding the Gaels was their emotional state after being left out of the NCAA Tournament.  The three previous Top 25 teams excluded from the Tournament (see above) proceeded to lay an egg in the NIT.

In fact, two of the jilted squads (Utah State and UNLV) lost in the first round!  “I was a little worried about our guys,” Saint Mary’s head coach Randy Bennett said.  “That was a jolt the other day, and I don’t know how long you need to get over that.”

Any concerns I had with St. Mary’s were immediately alleviated after the Gaels destroyed Southeastern Louisiana 89-45 in the first round of the NIT on Tuesday.  The Gaels led by at least 18 points for the vast majority of the game and actually owned a 44-point advantage at one point.

Needless to say, the Gaels’ performance in the opening round of the NIT demonstrated the fact that they are playing with a collective chip on their shoulders.  St. Mary’s senior center Jock Landale motivated his teammates prior to Tuesday’s game against Southeastern Louisiana.

“I just said, ‘Look, we’ve got to prove these guys wrong.  If we don’t go the distance in the NIT, they’re going to keep thinking that Saint Mary’s doesn’t deserve to be in the NCAA Tournament.’ … I think that woke everyone up and I think that from then on, it was easy for us.”

St. Mary’s possesses an explosive offense that is averaging 77.3 points per game on 51.7 percent shooting from the field and 40.9 percent from beyond the arc against teams that would combine to allow 71.7 points per game against a mediocre offense.

The Gaels were 17-1 SU at home this season where they averaged 78.3 points per game on 50.8 percent shooting from the floor and 42.3 percent from three-point territory.

On a national scale, St. Mary’s is ranked 1st in field goal percentage offense, 8th in three-point field goal percentage and 13th in free throw percentage (77.6).  The Gaels own the nation’s 7th-best scoring margin (13.4) and have committed the 4th-fewest turnovers in Division I.

St. Mary’s elite defense, which is 7.9 points per game better than average (63.9 points per game to teams that would combine to average 71.8 points per game) should totally shut down a pedestrian Washington offense that is barely above average.

The Gaels’ stop unit is even more suffocating at home where they are limiting opponents to just 59.8 points per game on 30.2 percent shooting from beyond the arc.  Overall, the Gaels own the 11th-best scoring defense and the 24th-best rebound margin in the land (5.9).

From a technical standpoint, Washington is a money-burning 2-7 ATS in its last nine non-conference affairs and 0-6 ATS in its last six clashes with West Coast Conference foes.  In contrast, the Gaels are a profitable 12-4 ATS in their last sixteen games against Pac-12 Conference opponents.

St. Mary also applies to an outstanding 62-29 ATS system that invests on certain double-digit home favorites in postseason tournaments.

With St. Mar’s standing at 18-8 ATS following a blowout win by 20+ points over the last three seasons, lay the number with the Gaels as one of Oskeim Sports’ Free Sports Picks for Monday, March 19.

Oskeim’s Free Sports Picks for Monday, March 19:

  • St. Mary’s (-10.5) over Washington
  • North Texas (+2) over Mercer

Be sure to check back during the week as Oskeim will have more free sports picks in the Sweet Sixteen Round of the NCAA Tournament!