Saint Mary's, Utah State Flying High Under the Radar

Kraig WilliamsContributor IJanuary 23, 2009

Can you name the two teams with the current longest consecutive winning streaks in NCAA basketball?

No? If you guessed the Saint Mary’s College Gaels (18-1, 5-0 WCC) with 15 straight wins and the Utah State University Aggies (18-1, 6-0 WAC) with 13 straight, you are correct. If not, don’t worry—you aren’t alone.

These two teams have more in common than you’d think. Both suffer from a little “East Coast bias,” as neither has gotten much love from the pollsters so far. Saint Mary’s broke into the coaches' at No. 22 this week, but Utah State has been shut out so far.

Both teams suffer from a lack of a quality schedule. Saint Mary’s boasts a strength of schedule (SOS) rating of 265, with their biggest win coming on the road against a pretty mediocre Oregon team.  Utah State isn’t far behind with a SOS of 235 and one big win against an inconsistent Utah team in Logan.

For all their flaws, these teams are doing what it takes to fill up the W column. In fact, both teams are undefeated at both home and on the road, losing their one game of the season on a neutral court (to UTEP and BYU respectively). 

Saint Mary’s should start turning heads after thrashing conference rival San Diego 65-42 last night in front of a national TV audience.  The Gaels are lead by Australian Olympian point guard Patrick Mills, who leads the team in points (18.9 per game), assists (4.1 per game), steals (2.6 per game), and minutes played (34 a game).

It’s not just a one-man show in Moraga though; junior center Omar Samhan and senior forward Diamon Simpson both average a double-double a game.

WCC bully Gonzaga looms large next Thursday. An upset against the ‘Zags should get the Gaels into the national conscious.

Utah State, on the other hand, is quietly taking care of business in the WAC with a new hero every night.  After taking out the second place Boise State Broncos 79-65 last week (behind sophomore forward Tai Wesley's stat-stuffing 26-point, eight-rebound, four-assist, five-steal night), the Aggies held on to beat San Jose 62-58 on the first leg of the dreaded Hawaii road trip.

A win on the islands on Saturday night (or Sunday morning, depending on your time zone) should equal a top 25 ranking for the Aggies when perennial conference foe Nevada comes to town next week.

If both teams can keep up their winning ways, you should see their names pop up on Selection Sunday regardless of how their conference tournament pans out, and they would make for an excellent head-to-head matchup for an ESPN Bracket Buster in February.