The St. Mary’s Gaels men’s basketball team made history this season by winning the West Coast Conference regular season and tournament titles on March 12, earning them an automatic bid for the NCAA men’s tournament.

It’s the third time in program history that the team has won both titles in the same season. This is their fifth tournament title. Their previous tournament title wins came in 1997, 2010, 2012, and 2019.

Since the beginning of the calendar year, the Gaels have only lost one game, winning 17 out of 18 games and ended the regular season 26-7 overall. The Gaels going into the tournament as the No. 5 seed in the West Region. 

St. Mary’s will now face No. 12 Grand Canyon Antelopes in their first-round game at 10:05 p.m. ET on Friday, March 22.

St. Mary’s College, located in Moraga, California, was founded in 1863 by Father Joseph Sadoc Alemany, OP, who became the first archbishop of San Francisco. In 1868 the college was handed over to the De La Salle Christian Brothers, who still administer the school. The private Catholic liberal arts college has a student body of approximately 4,000 students. 

Several other Catholic colleges will be joining St. Mary’s in the “Big Dance,” including Creighton University, Gonzaga University, Marquette University, St. Peter’s University, and the University of Dayton. There are also eight Catholic universities that made it to the NCAA women’s tournament — University of Notre Dame, University of Portland, Gonzaga University, Creighton University, Fairfield University, Sacred Heart University, College of the Holy Cross, and Marquette University.

Denny Bulcao, a St. Mary’s alum and former play-by-play announcer for the Gaels, told CNA that he believes the team has a “good chance of getting to the Sweet 16, possibly farther.”

“This would be our first Sweet 16 since 2010,” he said. “We’ve come pretty close about two or three times since. The last two seasons we lost in the round of 32.”

Bulcao was in attendance at the Gaels West Coast Conference Tournament championship game at Orleans Arena in Las Vegas, where the team beat Gonzaga 69-60.

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“​​The energy and atmosphere in Las Vegas is always electric, especially the semifinal and final games because so many Gonzaga fans attend,” Bulcao shared. “This year there were more St. Mary’s fans than I’d ever seen, which was excellent!”

St. Mary’s “won the semifinal game against Santa Clara pretty easily,” he added, “and the final was a hard-fought win over Gonzaga, a team that usually wins the conference and tournament championship.” 

“St. Mary’s winning the regular season championship and the tournament championship is a really big deal, and it’s also especially fun to see St. Mary’s alumni and people that I worked with in the athletics department at the games.”

The former announcer highlighted the team’s defense and solid rebounding as its strengths.

“These are things that our head coach, Randy Bennett, has always stressed,” he explained. “We have a few talented shooters in guard Aidan Mahaney and forward Alex Ducas. Our ‘bigs,’ Mitchell Saxen and Mason Forbes, are usually solid. We also usually don’t make stupid mistakes or commit too many turnovers.”

Despite having a rocky start to their season, Bulcao said, “I think the team finally figured out who the true five starters would be and how they could play well together. Our point guard Augustas Marciulionis really stepped up and became the leader of the team, something we didn’t have and desperately needed for the first 10 games.”