Saint Mary’s, long in Gonzaga’s shadow, deserves its due

To understand why Saint Mary’s is an easy NCAA tournament team to root for, start with the motto. Gritty, not pretty. That’s the story of this team, its season and two decades of accomplishment perpetually overshadowed by a famous rival that has penned the most outlandish success story in college hoops.

Such is this Gaels life, an existence as the other West Coast Conference power with a longtime and celebrated coach, religious roots, a proud tradition and a rabid fanbase. In any other era, Saint Mary’s would be widely lauded for 21 seasons under coach Randy Bennett. More than 450 victories. Fourteen straight postseason appearances. Named WCC coach of the year for the fourth time this spring. And yet, Bennett and Saint Mary’s exist in the most unlikely (and extensive) shadow in the history of college hoops. Gonzaga dominates the conference every year, snagging national interest, primetime television slots and relevance from its most formidable WCC foe.

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