Led by sophomore guard Patrick “Patty” Mills, St. Mary’s has quickly emerged as a top five mid-major program this season. They lead the WCC with a 4-0 conference record and an average winning margin of 13.9 ppg. In fact, after a 50-point win over Pepperdine, I would be very surprised if they were not ranked this week, since this team has been ON FIRE lately.
The Gaels have won 14 straight games and flaunt a 17-1 overall record with their only loss coming to UNLV in what was considered to be an upset. But that doesn’t mean they have had a weak schedule either. The team has wins over Providence, Kent State, Oregon, Southern Illinois, and San Diego State, all of which have made the tournament at least once in the past two seasons.
The Gaels’ success is largely based on the play of this All Mid-Major point guard. Mills, an Australian native who was a member of the national team in the ‘08 Olympics, currently averages 19.1 ppg and has scored in double figures every game this season. Even more impressively, Mills’ statistics have increased drastically from last season despite only playing one more minute per game.
His scoring average went up by 4.3 points, rebounds 0.5, assists 0.4, steals 0.6, and free throw percentage 12.1 percent! Yet still, many people do not know of this Aussie phenom because mid-majors get no national media love. Wins over large conference schools prove that St. Mary’s is battle tested, and Mr. Mills, who was voted to the '07-'08 All-WCC First Team, has been anything but disappointing in his sophomore season.
Upcoming games against Gonzaga and San Diego should prove to be big challenges, but even if they happen to drop a few games, the Gaels are a near-lock for the NCAA tournament. And trust me, Patty Mills will be back for more after last season’s disappointing first round loss.
A few nationally televised games and a top-25 rank should help Patty Mills get the exposure he deserves, yet he still has some ways to go before being one of the premier point guard NBA prospects in the nation. He must develop a better mid-range jump shot as well as the strength and finesse to finish in the paint, but seeing that he is only 20 years old, Mills has plenty of room to grow.
If he stays for another year or two in college (which hopefully he will), then we could see a lottery pick develop right before our eyes. Luckily for us, St. Mary’s has two upcoming games on ESPN2; Jan. 29 and Feb. 12 both against Gonzaga and both at 11p.m. eastern.
So mark your calendars, set your tivo’s or whatever else you have to do, and be prepared to watch one of the best mid-major point guards in the nation.
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