Saint Mary’s Adds A 31st Regular Season GamePosted by nvr1983 on February 21st, 2011
In a somewhat unusual move, St. Mary’s announced earlier today that it had added a game at home against Weber State to its regular season schedule. The game, which is scheduled to take place on March 11th, occurs after the West Coast Conference Tournament is finished and before the NCAA Tournament and NIT start. More importantly, it will be played before Selection Sunday, which is on March 13th, and would be factored into both teams’ NCAA Tournament resumes. The addition of an extra game on the Friday before Selection Sunday is nothing new to the Gaels who did something similar back in 2009, when they played Eastern Washington in a game that was added to their schedule just a week earlier after an embarrassing loss to rival Gonzaga in the WCC Tournament. Operating under the assumption that the Selection Committee would see just how good they were when Patty Mills played, the Gaels won by 20. Unfortunately for Mills and SMC, it wasn’t enough to sway the Selection Committee, which relegated St. Mary’s to the NIT where they lost in the quarterfinals.
Although many observers will claim that this is a similar last-minute attempt by the Gaels to sway Committee members back to their side after they lost back-to-back games against San Diego and Utah State, St. Mary’s SID Richard Kilwein says that is not the case. Instead, he stated that Weber State approached St. Mary’s approximately six weeks ago with an offer for the extra game as both teams had not reached the maximum number of regular season games allowed by the NCAA. Given the long layoff between the end of the WCC Tournament and postseason play, St. Mary’s coach Randy Bennett agreed to the game and a deal was reached late last week. Also, unlike last time, this game will be no cakewalk for the Gaels. In 2009, the Eastern Washington team that they scheduled was 12-17 coming into the game and had failed to even qualify for the Big Sky Conference Tournament. Although this year’s Weber State team has failed to live up to high preseason expectations, they still are a solid opponent at 15-10 overall and 9-4 in the Big Sky, with close losses against BYU (by six points) and at Utah State (by 12 points in a game that was closer than the final margin indicates). If St. Mary’s were to win this game it would certainly provide at least a small boost to their resume before the Selection Committee makes its final decision over the ensuing weekend.
[Update: There is some speculation that Weber State added this game to try to get a medical redshirt for its star point guard Damian Lillard who has only played in 10 games this season. To qualify Lillard would need to have played in fewer than 30% of the team's games so if Lillard did not play another game this season the Wildcats would need to play 34 games to make him eligible. They are currently scheduled to play 29 regular season games including this one and at most could play in 3 conference tournament games, which would still leave them 2 games short of that goal although they could meet that target if they qualified for one of about a dozen postseason tournaments.]
[Re-Update: It looks like this game allows Weber State to get a medical redshirt for Damian Lillard who broke his foot earlier this season. Our apologies for the earlier incorrect update. The lesson here is never trust an ESPN box score.]