MORAGA, Calif. -- After posting the highest-rated strength of schedule in the West Coast Conference last year, the Saint Mary's men's basketball program has put together a slate of games it hopes will help it earn a 7th-straight postseason appearance.
The Gaels, one of just four men's basketball programs nationally to have won at least 25 games in each of the last six seasons, could play as many as six non-league contests against teams that participated in the postseason last spring and seven against programs that won at least 20 games a year ago.
"I like our schedule," said SMC head coach Randy Bennett, the winningest coach in school history. "We face several quality programs that won a lot of games last year, have experienced players and are well-coached. We play several teams from outside the West Coast and we'll see some strong competition at the Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic."
Season tickets to watch every Saint Mary's home game during the season are currently on sale by visiting the tickets link on SMCGaels.com or by calling (925) 631-GoTx. Courtside and lower reserved seating area are sold out, but upper reserved and general admission seating is available.
Saint Mary's opens the season against Western Athletic Conference regular-season co-champion Louisiana Tech on Friday, November 8. The Bulldogs went 27-7 last season, posted an 18-game undefeated stretch late in the year, advanced to the second round of the NIT and owned a Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) of 51st in the nation.
The University of Akron visits McKeon Pavilion for the annual ESPN Tip-Off Marathon in a 12-midnight tipoff on Tuesday, November 12 (the evening of Nov. 11). The Zips registered a 26-7 record last season, went 14-2 and finished in a tie for the East Division title in the Mid-American Conference. After winning the MAC Tournament title, Akron advanced to the NCAA Tournament. Depending on results at the Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic, the Gaels could face Akron twice during the season.
On Nov. 14, the Gaels host Summit League Tournament finalist North Dakota State. The Bison went 24-10 overall, owned an 88 RPI and dropped an overtime decision in the first round of the College Basketball Invitational (CBI) at Western Michigan.
Former Eastern Washington and Utah head coach Ray Giacoletti brings his Drake Bulldogs to Moraga for a Nov. 16 contest in a rematch of last year's game in Des Moines, Iowa that saw the Gaels take an 88-73 decision in a non-bracketed game of the DIRECTV Classic.
After a Nov. 24 contest against Southwestern Athletic Conference opponent Alcorn State, the Gaels close out the month with a Nov. 30 contest against Murray State in the annual Shamrock Office Solutions Classic. The contest will serve as the return game from the 2012 ESPN Bracketbusters event that was played at MSU. The Racers went 21-10 last season and won the West Division of the Ohio Valley Conference.
On Dec. 8, the Gaels host Eastern Washington from the Big Sky Conference, then travel to Boise State for a Dec. 14 road contest at Taco Bell Arena. The Broncos posted a 21-11 overall record and a 50 RPI last season but dropped a first round NCAA Tournament game to La Salle. The game at Boise State is a non-bracketed contest that is part of the Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic and, depending on results in Honolulu, the two teams could meet twice during the season.
In its final home game prior to conference play, Saint Mary's hosts American University from the Patriot League on Thursday, Dec. 19.
The Gaels travel to Honolulu for their second appearance in the Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic on Dec. 22-25 at the Stan Sheriff Center. SMC will face South Carolina in a first round game on Dec. 22 and either Boise State or Hawai'i on the 23rd. The final day of competition is scheduled for Christmas Day, Dec. 25. The field also includes Akron, George Mason, Iowa State and Oregon State.
WCC play begins for the Gaels with a Monday, Dec. 30 contest at Pacific, the league's newest member institution. SMC's first home league game is set for Thursday, Jan. 9 against longtime Bay Area rival Santa Clara.
All game times are to be determined until after the West Coast Conference announces its television schedule and all game dates are subject to change.