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Behind Enemy Lines With The Slipper Still Fits

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The blog that I found for St. Mary's is a school associated blog, sot here has not been a lot of response from them. Fortunately, the fine SB Nation network has come through. With 12 games against them in four years, the Gonzaga Bulldogs know the St. Mary's Gaels better than anyone. That's why I reached out to SB Nation's The Slipper Still Fits for some inside info on the Gaels from their most bitter rival:

T-Mill: What is up with Stephen Page? Does he play in the NCAAs? How much of a factor is his injury since we're a more perimeter-oriented team.

Slipper Still Fits: The understanding during the WCC Tournament was that Stephen Holt could have played if St. Mary's had been fighting for a tournament spot. He went through warmups before the game against USF in the semifinals and Gonzaga in the finals. It would be surprising if he didn't play against Purdue, and if he is out, the Gaels will be missing one of their most important players. Holt is without a doubt the best perimeter defender on St. Mary's. He is long and athletic and was a really big recruit for St. Mary's since he was recruited by some Pac-12 schools. He is also a solid scoring option on the perimeter and can attack the rim when given the opportunity. If Holt is healthy, he will likely guard the best perimeter player Purdue has.

T-Mill: What can you tell us overall about St. Mary's and their style of play?

Slipper Still Fits: St. Mary's is one of the most efficient offensive teams you will see. They don't play an overly physical brand of basketball, which you guys are probably accustomed to in the Big 10, but they are highly skilled offensively. Clint Steindl and Jorden Page can really shoot it from the perimeter and both guys can heat up and knock down consecutive shots to extend a lead. The two primary offensive options are Rob Jones and Matthew Dellavedova. Both of those guys could play for pretty much any team in the country. Jones is a versatile 4/3, who can score from the perimeter, but does most of his damage within 15 feet of the rim. Dellavedova is a total throwback player that can score from anywhere in the court. His range extends to the NBA three-point line, but he can also beat guys off the dribble and hit a fadeaway jumper or floater in the lane. The one guarantee I have for this game is that Purdue fans will leave it with a respect for Dellavedova and how he plays the game. You may hate him after the game, but you will almost certainly respect him as well.

T-Mill: You know these guys pretty well, what are their weaknesses that can be exploited?

Slipper Still Fits: This isn't an overly athletic team, especially if Stephen Holt isn't 100% It's a very smart and well-coached team, but there are definitely physical limitations, which is typically the case for mid-majors. The other question that some people have with St. Mary's, although I'm not sure I necessarily subscribe to the theory, is whether they can handle physical play. If you watched the classic WCC title game between GU and St. Mary's, you saw a Gaels team that handled the physical play from Gonzaga and played well. However, there was a stretch in February where SMC just seemed to struggled against physical play in losses to Gonzaga, LMU and Murray St.

T-Mill: Can Matthew Dellavadova be stopped or merely slowed down?

Slipper Still Fits: Matthew Dellavedova is awesome. He is the type of guy that every opposing fan passionately hates, but if he is on your team, you love him. He isn't very athletic or quick, but there is a 99% chance that he is smarter and has more basketball savvy than the guy guarding him. He is an excellent passer that can setup his teammates if Purdue chooses to double-team, but he also has the ability to take over a game by scoring down the stretch. If both Jones and Dellavedova are clicking, the Gaels can be simply unguardable, because if you choose to focus on those two, you run the risk of leaving some excellent perimeter shooters wide open. Also, the guy is just simply a winner. The Gaels have won 25 or more games in all three seasons he has been on campus.

T-Mill: What's your call for this game?

Slipper Still Fits: Having only seen Purdue a handful of times this season, my initial worry for the Boilermakers is if they can keep up with the Gaels on the scoreboard. When Stephen Holt was healthy and this team was clicking on all cylinders in January and early February, this was one of the top 20 teams in the country. They blasted BYU in Moraga and in Provo and blasted Gonzaga in Moraga as well. If Holt is healthy and this team is in an offensive rhythm, which is certainly a question since it will be at least 10 days since they last played, it will be very hard for Purdue to keep up with St. Mary's.