With the way the WCC Tournament ended for Saint Mary's, there were very few who thought the Gaels could turn themselves around and perform like they did on Tuesday.
It was one of the Gaels' better games all season. The offense worked. The defense worked. Their star was back to being the star.
Now the full 64-team tournament is here and Saint Mary's has been here before. Better yet (for Saint Mary's fans), they have won here before and it seems the First Four was just the tuneup the team needed.
No. 11 Saint Mary's (28-6, 14-2 WCC) vs. No. 6 Memphis (30-4, 16-0 C-USA)
Game time: 11:40 a.m.
Winner plays: Saturday vs. Michigan State-Vaplaraiso winner
The Tigers dominated Conference-USA much like Gonzaga did to the WCC but did it in a different way. Memphis was led by its dynamic guards.
Junior guard Joe Jackson was named the C-USA Player of the Year after averaging 13.6 points, 4.8 assists, and 1.7 steals. Adonis Thomas, Chris Crawford, and Geron Johnson all average double figures in points and this teams gets out and runs.
This is where Middle Tennessee and Memphis differ. While the two are both predicated on their defense to turn into offense, Memphis does it faster and with more athletic guards. Crawford and Johnson both average better than a steal per game and the Tigers were second in C-USA in the category.
It is the Tigers' third straight trip to the NCAA Tournament and they failed to win a game. This season, they are 1-3 against NCAA Tournament teams (Saint Mary's is 3-4 vs. such teams).
The Gaels seemed to have little problem with Middle Tennessee on Tuesday in the First Four and have some momentum going into their game against Memphis.
Saint Mary's played with a sense of purpose and looked almost looser playing outside of WCC play. Saint Mary's held Middle Tennessee to 54 points and seven free throw attempts.
This seemed to also be the case when they faced Creighton about a month ago. The break from the conference grind let the Gaels play more freely and it was apparent in their play.
Matthew Dellavedova got back on track with 22 points on 7-for-14 shooting. Stephen Holt chipped in with 18 points.
Jorden Page looks like he will miss another game with his injured knee but Saint Mary's didn't miss a beat without him. Jordan Giusti stepped into the starting role and played lock-down defense.
The walk-on freshman played 37 minutes with a Mike Hart-esque line (0 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists).