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After defeating Gonzaga, Saint Mary's proves they are the real deal | Locked on College Basketball

The Saint Mary's Gaels are No. 15 in the new AP Poll, and they have a chance to do some real damage in March.

MORAGA, Calif. — For the first 35 minutes of gameplay between the No. 12 Gonzaga Bulldogs and No. 18 Saint Mary's Gaels on Saturday, it looked like Gonzaga was once again going to send a message to their 'little brother' in the WCC: this is still our conference.

However, an astonishing stretch of basketball from freshman guard Aidan Mahaney willed the Gaels to force overtime in Moraga, and they outscored Mark Few's squad 17-9 in the final five minutes to secure a huge 78-70 victory.

The win not only gave Saint Mary's a two-game lead in the WCC standings, it solidified their place as one of the premier college basketball teams in the entire country - and a team not to be trifled with in March.

Andy Patton and Isaac Schade of the Locked on College Basketball podcast discussed Saint Mary's and the ceiling this team has after the big win on Saturday.

"I think some people probably look at this and think 'oh that's cute they're just a feel-good mid-major Cinderella story,'" Schade said. "No. The Gaels, to me, are legitimately a very good basketball team, regardless of conference, regardless of region, regardless of high major, low major, whatever it is. This is just a good basketball team."

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Saint Mary's earned a five seed in last year's NCAA Tournament - a program record - and responded by destroying No. 12 Indiana, 82-53, before falling to No. 4 UCLA in the second round.

This year's squad not only has a chance to earn an even higher seed in the 2023 NCAA Tournament - they could find themselves in the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2010. And once there, well, the ceiling is nearly limitless thanks to Mahaney's clutch gene and the team's incredible defense.

"I could see them going to a Sweet 16, I could [even] see them going to an Elite 8," Patton commented. "Mahaney is relentlessly talented, Mitchell Saxen is potentially going to be the Defensive Player of the Year in the WCC, they got three guys shooting over 43 percent from deep....I wouldn't be shocked to see this team in an Elite 8."

The Gaels take on Gonzaga February 25 in Spokane, and could face them one more time in the WCC Tournament in Las Vegas. 

Those matchups will go a long way in determining how Saint Mary's is evaluated by the NCAA Tournament committee - but regardless of where they are seeded this team is going to be a tough out in March.

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