Busting Brackets

Bracketology 2024: Dayton and Saint Mary's lead teams that are climbing the seed list

Feb 6, 2024; Columbia, South Carolina, USA;  South Carolina Gamecocks head coach Lamont Paris
Feb 6, 2024; Columbia, South Carolina, USA; South Carolina Gamecocks head coach Lamont Paris / Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports
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Saint Mary's Gaels 19-6 (10-0 in WCC)

They were picked to win the West Coast Conference and after a hard-fought win at Gonzaga giving them a two-game lead on the field, the Saint Mary's Gaels look like they're on the way to doing just that. After a 3-5 start some weren't sure if that would be the case, but Randy Bennett and crew have certainly righted the ship and then some since, going 16-3 with a five-point loss to Missouri State the only blemish.

After their dominating win over Pacific, the Gaels have put 12 in a row in the win column. They've done so on the back of their stellar defense, giving up 56 points per game on that 17-game stretch. In fact, in that time they've allowed more than 70 points just once. In their two toughest tests remaining on the schedule, the Gaels get both San Francisco and Gonzaga at home, with the latter ending the regular season.

The Gaels’ resume is impressive enough but their ceiling is capped a bit because of the two quad 3 losses to Missouri State and Weber State. The Gaels have seven road wins on the year and four of them are in the first two quads to go along with a predictive metrics average of 22.5. One of the best defensive teams in the country is also one of the best rebounding teams in the country, averaging 39.9 per game which includes 13.7 offensive boards per game, a rebounding percentage that is 5th best in the sport. Their defensive efficiency is 13th best thanks to an effective field goal percentage and two-point defense that are in the top seven.

The Gaels have won close games and blowouts, they’ve won shootouts and defensive battles, and now that they have things rolling that versatility makes them even more dangerous, but the most important thing for the Gaels is defense travels, just ask Pacific who scored just 71 combined points in their two meetings this year.