Saint Mary's has high expectations

Saint Mary's faltered down the stretch last season, and for that was snubbed by the selection committee despite capturing 25 wins and a share of the West Coast Conference regular-season title.

This coming season, the Gaels won't have WCC player of the year Mickey McConnell to lead the way.

But forward Rob Jones, Saint Mary's leading returning scorer, believes that the team will make it back to the NCAA tournament.

"We have high expectations," Jones told the team's website. "We know what we could have accomplished last year, but we kind of underachieved a little bit I think. But I think this coming year ... definitely tournament-bound, hopefully win a couple of games. I can't give you too many details because I don't want to act like I'm talking mess, but we have high expectations for the postseason."

Jones has emerged as more of a scorer since transferring from San Diego to Saint Mary's, and he'll have plenty of experience around him in the frontcourt.

But what do the Gaels do without McConnell, who helped carry them two years ago to the Sweet 16 and served as their unquestioned leader since then? While Saint Mary's can expect a big year from Matthew Dellavedova, coach Randy Bennett will have to sort out the point guard position between Stephen Holt and SMU transfer Paul McCoy.

"Every year I feel like Saint Mary's, they lose this great player, and they think that we're not going to be as good a team, but we always seem to rise to the occasion," Jones said. "After the Sweet 16 they lost Omar [Samhan], and we had Mickey step up. So this year is just an another opportunity for another player to step up."