Saint Mary's Swaggers Onto the National Stage in the NCAA Tournament
After knocking off Gonzaga in the WCC Championship on March 8, the men's basketball team swaggered into March Madness with enough charm and attitude to make even casual basketball fans, both nationally and internationally, want to know more about the College. Who is Saint Mary's, and how did it catapult so quickly to the national stage? And what secret ingredients did the College have to become one of the feel-good stories of the NCAA Tournament?
The dash to center stage — led by the loquacious Omar Samhan, the quick-thinking point guard Mickey McConnell and the team's crew of five Australians, brought the College recognition and acclaim not just on the basketball court but throughout the campus. The fever peaked after thrilling upsets of Richmond and Villanova in Providence on March 18 and 20.
Through stories in papers like the New York Times, the Washington Post, USA Today, the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Sydney Morning Herald, readers discovered what Gaels already knew — that the College in the East Bay is a place where success is celebrated, where the community is united, where hard work and unselfish commitment to each other pays off and where the future remains bright.
Broadcasters and bloggers were captivated by the hard-working, old-style, unselfish team play on the court, and with the support of the team from fellow students, faculty, staff, alumni and community members. Sweet Sixteen viewing parties drew crowds to AT&T Park in San Francisco and Dryden Hall on campus, and other alumni and fans gathered in homes and bars throughout the country and in foreign lands where Gaels live, including the Philippines and Australia.
After a disappointing loss to Baylor in the Sweet Sixteen, the Gael Nation mourned, then held their heads up high and looked to the future.
"The overall feel of the team is ‘what a great year, what a special year,' " said head coach Randy Bennett. "I'm just thankful to be able to coach a group of guys like that."