With point guard and reigning WCC Player of the Year Matthew Dellavedova back on campus, the general consensus was that Randy Bennett’s Saint Mary’s Gaels would once again be a factor in the WCC race (Gonzaga being the favorite).
But if their 1-2 weekend at the DirecTV Classic in Anaheim, capped by a 65-56 loss to Georgia Tech, revealed anything about the Gaels it’s the fact that they’re still adjusting to life without the graduated Rob Jones.
While somewhat undersized at his position the 6-6 Jones was one of the WCC’s most productive players last season, posting averages of 15.0 points and 10.8 rebounds per contest for a team that won the WCC regular season and tournament titles.
Jones’ presence gave Saint Mary’s a front court player that could go out and get them points when teams focused too much attention on Dellavedova, and while the Gaels entered Sunday’s game with three players other than Dellavedova averaging double figures they don’t have that consistent interior option right now.
Brad Waldow (10.8 ppg through the first five games), who played well in WCC play last season, scored just five points against the Yellow Jackets and shot better than 50% from the field once (85.7% in the win over Drexel) in Anaheim.
While Saint Mary’s also has James Walker III, Stephen Holt and Jorden Page on the perimeter to help out Dellavedova, who’s going to step when Waldow’s struggling inside?
Beau Levesque has raised his scoring average four points but like Waldow he struggled from the field (8-of-21) this weekend. And both Mitchell Young and Matt Hodgson are players who will prove most valuable defensively and on the boards.
As a team the Gaels shot just 37% from the field against Georgia Tech (those 21 turnovers didn’t help either) with Dellavedova making just one of his eight shots from the field and scoring five points. Obviously he’s going to be the first line (hell, first page even) in any opponent’s scouting report.
But unlike last season it isn’t so obvious who will pick up the slack on a consistent basis.