Patrick Mills’ return = No NCAA Tournament

It sounded like a great idea at the time. Kind of like the the Hindenburg, Halle Berry playing Catwoman or the Giants signing Edgardo Alfonzo. Saint Mary’s missed Patrick Mills while he was injured, so coming back early for the West Coast Conference Tournament was fantastic news, right?

Wrong. One has to think that the Gaels would have done just as well in the Tourney without Mills, who shot 3-for-12 in a win over Portland and a John Starks-esque 2-for-16 in the 83-59 loss to Gonzaga that effectively made the Gaels a No. 1 seed in the NIT. Loss number three to the Zags during a 26-6 season that the NCAA committee probably looked at as proof that the Gaels (and Mills) weren’t quite ready for prime time, which sounds insane when talking about a team that started 18-1. It was also a blowout that arguably may not have been so pathetic without Mills, since Saint Mary’s seemed to depend on the Aussie to provide a scoring punch he wasn’t capable of yet.

In the end it may not have mattered because so many mediocre teams won their conference tournaments (Hi, USC!), but perhaps the allure of seeing a healthy Mills could have helped the Gaels during the selection process if the team had announced Mills wouldn’t be ready until the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Probably not, but it couldn’t have been worse than Mills’ worst game ever being broadcast on national television.

It’s tempting to think falling short of the NCAA Tournament will cause Mills to stay in Moraga for another season, but that’s far from a lock. There’s still the NIT, where Mills can provide a lasting impression to scouts and general managers with a well-timed dominant performance in Madison Square Garden. Randy Bennett is a favorite to get the Arizona job as well, and it’s difficult to envision a scenario where Mills stays around without the coach who lured him to Saint Mary’s from Australia. And don’t forget, this looks to be one of the weakest drafts in years and half the teams in the NBA could use a good point guard.

Early NCAA bracket observations

–Six Pac-10 teams? Arizona? I know the Wildcats beat Gonzaga and Kansas, but the only game they won out of their final six was against Stanford in the Pac-10 Tournament. And the Pac-10 is surprisingly average this season.

–Oh God, right after I typed that last sentence Dick Vitale just started yelling at me through my TV about how Saint Mary’s was snubbed and should have gotten in over Arizona. Great.

–I guess that means the next posts on BASG will be titled: “Coach K can flat-out coach,” “Tyler Hansbrough is what college basketball is all about” and “OHHHHH!!! SHANE BATTIER!!!! UNBELIEVABLE!!!”

–ESPN is so unpredictable! Can you believe Hubert Davis picked North Carolina to win the South bracket?

–That West bracket is brutal, with UConn as a No. 1 seed and Memphis the No. 2 (even though they’re on a 25-game winning streak).

–Oh man, I’m really looking forward to seeing what Stephen Curry has in store for us this time around! Wait, what?

–You have to admit, Rick Pitino and John Calipari are pretty much the same guy. Both are horrible NBA coaches, both are great college coaches who always stock their teams full of great athletes and both are arrogant enough to deserve a good cock-punching.

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