ESPN’s Joe Lunardi Talks Bracketology, SMC Hoops at Homecoming

He also points out that Saint Mary’s stakes a special claim in men’s basketball: best mid-major in the country once again.

For a roomful of Gaels, Joe Lunardi addressed a topic of keen interest: “Bracketology and the Saint Mary’s Phenomenon: How the Gaels fit in a changing NCAA landscape.”

 

Near the end of an hour-long chat with a keenly interested group of Saint Mary’s fans, ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi referenced a recent ESPN.com story (subscription req.) that pointed to the Gaels as the best mid-major men’s basketball program in the country.

“For the next four months, every one of you should wear a hat, a shirt, and a bumper sticker that says ‘best mid-major in America again.’ If only because no one else can claim it,” Lunardi said. “And, it happens to be conveniently supported by facts.”

 

“For the next four months, every one of you should wear a hat, a shirt, and a bumper sticker that says ‘best mid-major in America again.’ If only because no one else can claim it,” Lunardi said. “And, it happens to be conveniently supported by facts.”

 

Lunardi’s visit to Moraga came as part of Saint Mary’s Homecoming festivities, and America’s foremost authority on how the NCAA men’s basketball tournament gets constructed shared his personal history as well as his insights on college sports’ most hotly debated bracket with a group of about 75 Gael supporters who came together inside the Soda Center. The topic for his talk: “Bracketology and the Saint Mary's Phenomenon: How the Gaels fit in a changing NCAA landscape.”

This wasn’t just a speaking appearance. Lunardi also enjoyed the pregame festivities in front of UCU Pavilion prior to Saint Mary’s men’s basketball game against Hofstra, then settled into his announce position to call the game alongside longtime Gaels broadcaster Alex Jensen. The duo talked Saint Mary’s, the profile of the West Coast Conference, and where SMC sits in the tournament landscape early in the season.

Not that Lunardi needed any convincing, but the Gaels put on a show for the ESPN personality, defeating the Pride, 76-48. Saint Mary’s sits at 5-0 at the conclusion of its season-opening homestand. (As Andy Katz put it for NCAA.com, “The Gaels are destroying the competition en route to a 5-0 start.”) Next on tap: a trip to Southern California for the Wooden Legacy during Thanksgiving week. 

 

Alex Jensen, left, and Joe Lunardi call the SMC-Hofstra game during Homecoming 2022.Project the Brackets

Lunardi’s understanding of Saint Mary’s mission outside of basketball is familiar for the national pundit, as the former VP for communications at Saint Joseph’s University can speak with authority on both the athletic and academic profile of a school like Saint Mary’s.

“We were extremely excited to have Joe join us for the return of Homecoming to Saint Mary’s,” said Tom Carroll ’04, MA ’07, Deputy Athletics Director and Assistant Vice President, Advancement and Athletics. “Seeing him interact so positively and genuinely with our community is always great. He also enjoys and respects the enthusiasm our entire campus has for college basketball and its role as a pride point for our students, alumni and community.” 

 

The man known affectionately as “Joey Brackets” will have his eye on the Gaels throughout the season. If all goes according to plan, Lunardi will have the Gaels on his mind once again when March rolls around.

 

The man known affectionately as “Joey Brackets” will have his eye on the Gaels throughout the season, but he made sure the group assembled knew that when it comes to projecting brackets, the goal remains the same whether he knows you or not: pick the 68 participants accurately.

If the season goes according to plan, Lunardi will have the Gaels on his mind once again when March rolls around.