Newsflash! Alert! Somewhat obvious but nonetheless worthwhile information incoming!
Ready? The Saint Mary's Gaels are really good at scoring basketball points. There. Now you know. Of course, you could have received this information by staying up late Thursday night, when you would have seen the Gaels not only beat hated rival Gonzaga, but thoroughly demolish hated rival Gonzaga -- thanks primarily to beautiful, ruthlessly efficient offense.
The Gaels scored 82 points in 64 possessions Friday night, or 1.3 points per trip, and did so because they a) made shots (eFG%: 58.5), and b) turned the ball over just five times in those 64 possessions. Four-factors-wise, Gonzaga got to the line at about the same rate as Saint Mary's, and neither team outrebounded the other by a significant rate on the glass. But the Gaels' play up until the first shot of each possession -- careful, deliberate and fluid -- was enough to create a huge gap between these two teams.
Take a gander (provided you're subscribed, and you should be) at the Pomeroy page for Saint Mary's. Check out each starter. There isn't a single offensive rating among any Gaels starter that registers below 111.6, and that belongs to forward Rob Jones, far and away this team's most relied-upon all-around contributor. Matthew Dellavedova, Stephen Holt, Jorden Page and Clint Steindl -- especially Steindl, whose offensive rating is a crazy-good 138.6 (fire away, Clint!) -- all of these players are individually capable of scoring bursts and effective play. Together, they occasionally touch the sublime. It's a gorgeous thing to watch.
Of course, Randy Bennett's team played some solid defense Thursday night, too. It's worth noting Gonzaga fell just short of scoring a point per trip, only the second time this season the Bulldogs have failed to do so. Saint Mary's has always been a good offensive team and a so-so defensive team in recent seasons, and for much of 2011-12 that has appeared to be the case. But Dellevadova told Yahoo!'s Jeff Eisenberg that this team has committed itself on the defensive end, too, and if that dedication can produce this kind of defensive outing against a good Gonzaga offense, well, look out.
The Bulldogs will still have plenty to say about the 2012 WCC title chase. So, for that matter, will BYU. But St. Mary's appears to be your new favorite in the West Coast Conference. More importantly? The 2011 team that collapsed before it could turn promise into tourney reality is in much, much better position for 2012. Frankly, it would be a shock to see this team miss the tournament now.
But that doesn't mean you should wait to catch video of this offense. The spacing, the passing, the cuts, the shooting -- if you like watching teams put points on the board, with their own unique style to boot, then you're going to love the 2012 Gaels.