Gaels Turn to Their Little Guys at the Big Dance

By Joe Kukura
|  Friday, Mar 26, 2010  |  Updated 5:44 AM PDT
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Most of the media attention being lavished on the St. Mary's Gaels in this year's NCAA Tournament has been focused on their lovably clownish 6-11 Muslim center, Omar Samhan.

And Samhan has made the most of the attention. Wednesday, he told the Washington Post, "I’m going to run for president!" Today he was macking on Taylor Swift on his Twitter page.

He backs it up on the court, too. Samhan has scored a whopping 30.5 points per game since the start of March Madness. And he still has Taylor Swift left to score with!

But if the Gaels are going to pull yet another upset and defeat Baylor Friday night, they won't do it with just Samhan. The Gaels will rely on their outside-shooting three-point marksmen, the much-shorter likes of Mickey McConnell and Matthew Dellavedova.

These guys have every right to be playing in the Sweet 16. St. Mary's was the fifth-best three-point shooting team in the country this season, averaging 41.1 percent.

"We have a team that can really shoot," Gaels coach Randy Bennett told ESPN, in an interview available online. "If they (Baylor) stay with the zone, we have to make some shots."

Translation? Baylor prefers to play a zone defense, meaning that their players don't cover another guy so much as they cover a certain zone of the court when their opponent has the ball. The emphasis, naturally, is on the zone closest to the basket.

That makes the zone defense particularly vulnerable to a strong three-point shooting team like St. Mary's. If their little guys can hit their outside shots, the Gaels just might advance and earn a storybook match up with Duke for a trip to the Final Four.

And you could celebrate that with 20,000 other newly-converted St. Mary's fans. St. Mary's College has rented out AT&T Park to present a free viewing party of the game on the ballpark's 110-by-3-foot high-def scoreboard screen. Admission is free, parking is five bucks, and tip-off is 4:27 p.m. Friday afternoon.

Joe Kukura is a freelance writer who totally expects an angry all-caps email from Taylor Swift's publicist.

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