In a potential bracketbuster, St. Mary's (3-0) takes on UTEP (2-1). While this is a pre-season tournament game, it is played in Anaheim, which should give the Gaels a distinct home court advantage. Both of these teams have been impressive so far. Although St. Mary's has yet to play an opponent of UTEP's caliber, no one has even come close to knocking them off. They are led by Patrick Mills. Mills, the only college player to represent his country in Beijing, is one of the best point guards in the nation. He shines on the defensive end, getting 3.3 steals a game, as well as the offensive end, getting 20 points and 5 assists per. The Gaels have two bangers down low in Omar Samhan and Diamon Simpson. Both average better than 10 points and 8 rebounds a game. St. Mary's can go 10 deep, and that suits their up-tempo style.
The Miners 1 loss is deceiving. It was to UNLV, a top 25 team, and they played the Rebels very close until the end. Last year there was no dispute as to who the main man was for UTEP. Stefon Jackson scored over 23 points a game, making him one of the most dangerous scorers in the country. This year, the Miners retained Jackson, but through 3 games another big time scorer has emerged. Randy Culpepper has teamed with Jackson to give UTEP two players averaging better than 20 points a game. The catalyst of this team is Julyan Stone. He scores around 10 points a game, but also gets 7 assists, 5 rebounds and 3 steals per performance. Arnett Moultrie will be the man who has to match up with Samham and Simpson down low. Moultrie is a good basketball player, and a solid performance here would be a statement game to the rest of the C-USA.
I think the Gaels have too much down low for the Miners. If Culpepper and Jackson go off for 25 each however, I don't know if St. Mary's can keep pace.
Winner: St. Mary's Margin: 1-4