St. Mary's: This Year's Cinderella

Max IasconeSenior Analyst IMarch 17, 2008

This year's NCAA tournament is ripe with Cinderellas looking for a dance with Prince Charming.

However, the one with the most realistic shot at a deep tourney run is St. Mary's.

The Gaels were ranked in the high 20s for much of this past season and finished the year with a fantastic 25-6 record and a respectable RPI of 39.

Despite these numbers, the Gaels will enter this year's dance relatively unheralded and seem poised for a deep run this year due to their consistency and the chip on their shoulder.

St. Mary's also boasts some impressive wins against 28-4 Drake, the surging Oregon Ducks, and Seton Hall.

The Gaels' draw of opponents doesn't exactly hurt them either.

First, they face a Miami team that will be without senior center Anthony King, who injured his wrist earlier in the year. This game, presuming the Gaels win, will be followed by a showdown with second seeded Texas.

Although the Longhorns have a rock solid starting five highlighted by A.J Abrams and D.J. Augustin, the depth behind them is mediocre and Abrams and Augustin will be fatigued by the time they play St. Mary's.

Unlike its potential opponents, St. Mary's doesn't have any truly eye-popping talents on its team, but they do have a deep team with all five starters averaging at least eight points per game.

Freshman guard Patrick Mills, who averaged 14.5 points per game season, has the quickness and skill on offense to take over games.

The Gaels' front line isn't bad either as forward Diamon Simpson and center Omar Samhan combined for 24 points and 17 rebounds per game. Their presence on the low block could hurt a small Texas team late in games.

As far as players go, the X-Factor for St. Mary's is, without a doubt, senior guard Todd Golden. Although Golden averaged just seven points per game this year, his three-point field goal percentage was an astonishing 45 percent.

If Golden gets hot, he will keep the Gaels in any game regardless of the circumstances.

St. Mary's is also solid on the sidelines.

Head coach Randy Bennet has led his team to two of its five all-time NCAA tourney bids within the past four years. His experience on a national stage and the leadership he provides his team in pressure moments will be invaluable for St. Mary's.

In just a few short days, every college basketball fan will remember the Gaels, and for good reason.