MORAGA, Calif. -- Two out of the last three years, the Saint Mary's men's basketball team has left Las Vegas as the proud owner of an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
On Saturday at 8:30 p.m., the quest for a third title in four years begins as the Gaels take the court for a West Coast Conference Tournament semifinal at the Orleans Arena.
Seeded No. 2, Saint Mary's (26-5, 14-2 WCC) will face either No. 3 BYU, No. 6 San Diego or No. 7 Pepperdine. Friday's 8:30 p.m. quarterfinal will determine who plays the Gaels.
Saturday's game will be televised nationally on ESPN2. Live audio, featuring Gaels play by play man Alex Jensen, and live statistics will be available as always on SMCGaels.com.
The Gaels enter the WCC Tournament with similar credentials to the team that won the tournament title last season.
At 14-2 in conference play, Saint Mary's equaled its best-ever WCC record, a mark that was set last year. This year's 26-5 overall mark is also better than last year's 25-5 record heading into the postseason.
Heading into his fourth and final WCC Tournament is Saint Mary's all-time leading scorer Matthew Dellavedova. At 16.5 points per game and 6.2 assists per game, Dellavedova was recently named as a first team All-WCC performer for the third straight year.
He won't be a one-man act in Vegas. Fellow guard Stephen Holt was selected to the All-WCC honorable mention list, finishing the regular season at 11.8 points and 5.3 rebounds per game. That rebounding average is third-best on the team.
Saint Mary's finished the regular season on a five-game winning streak, with key wins over BYU, Creighton and Santa Clara helping to give the Gaels some serious momentum.
Statistically, the Gaels stacked up well against the rest of the WCC this season. They finished the regular season first in free throw percentage (.729), rebounding margin (+8.9) and rebounding defense (28.1).
They finished second in the conference in numerous other categories, including scoring defense, scoring margin, field goal percentage, field goal percentage defense, 3-point percentage, 3-pointers made and offensive rebound percentage.
As a No. 2 seed at the WCC Tournament, Saint Mary's owns a 9-6 record overall. Since it was moved to Las Vegas, the Gaels are 6-2 at the conference tournament.
Once play wraps up in Las Vegas, the wait begins for the NCAA Tournament Selection Show. That takes place Sunday, March 17 at 3 p.m. on CBS.