Saint Mary's at Portland (West Coast)
Chiles Center - Portland, OR
Saturday, 9:00 PM EST
Most of the games we feature on G!O!T!N! are the sorts of contests that feature interesting matchups or players, or tilts that will determine the direction of league races. But once or twice a season, there's a game upon which hinges the entire fate of Hoops Nation
. Tonight in Rip City, we have one of those very situations.
It was just a little innocent dribble-drive, an attempt to break free of Gonzaga's Jeremy Pargo and cut into the lane. But when Patty Mills
fell to the court awkwardly in the first half of Thursday night's battle of league-undefeateds
, and close-up TV pictures showed his wrist swell up to the size of a watermelon, it was big-time uh-oh time. The Canberra Cannon had scored 18 to that point and was well on his way to leading his team to a huge victory, but Saint Mary's (17-2, 5-1) lost the game -- more importantly, Mills is out for up to a month
with a broken bone. This has gigantic BracketBuster implications, and any smart money out on the table should now be on Butler-Davidson and Utah State-SMC. And what of the rest of the Gaels? The best frontcourt in mid-majordom™ is still intact, with its NCAA Division I No. 3 ranking in rebounds (38.9 per game, and a fifth-best 57.6 percent rebounding percentage
). But who will get them the ball? The task now falls to senior Carlin Hughes
, who is actually sporting a better assists-to-turnovers ratio than Mills (2.0:1 to 1.3:1), and to upstart sophomore Mickey McConnell
, who might be the one who sees the biggest workload increase. Sure, the Zag game was big, but a lot of people are going to be keeping an eye on this one to see how the Gaels move forward.
And it won't be easy. Portland is one of the biggest surprises of the 2008-09 season, opening up a 5-1 league record that includes a stunning blowout of San Diego
on Thursday night. The Pilots, who have the distinction of having the only logo in Division I suitable for use by an international airport, have won five in a row and are well on their way to their first winning record since 1995-96, when the team also made the NCAA's. It's hard to imagine Portland edging into a 2009 bid, but there's no doubt that this squad can shoot 3's with the national elite. Since league play began, the Pilots have converted 45 percent of their bombs, easily the best in the WCC -- and 5-9 junior T.J. Campbell
is hitting them at an incredible 51 percent clip. Moreover, their guards can also stop the 3 as well, holding opponents to 27 percent from beyond the newly installed double-arc. This is easily Portland's biggest game in over a decade... all of Hoops Nation is watching, and the Pilots have a chance to make a major statement.Basketball State Preview/Box
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