Unlike tourists who want to leave everything in Vegas, the teams in the Continental Tire Main Event will try to bring as much momentum back from this weekend as possible.
- San Diego State (2-1)
- Saint Mary’s (2-1)
- Washington (2-1)
- Xavier (2-1)
First Round (Friday, Nov. 17)
- San Diego State vs. Saint Mary’s – 9:30 p.m. (ESPN+)
- Xavier vs Washington – 11:59 p.m. (ESPN2)
San Diego State
SDSU is the favorite to win the Mountain West Conference once again under Brian Dutcher. The Aztecs have a team that is deep with talent and knows how to execute. Jaedon LeDee is making his early case for MW Player of the Year. The senior forward matched his career-high with 27 points against Long Beach State, and he will continue to put this SDSU team on his back.
While BYU isn’t a team that is expected to finish near the top of the Big 12, San Diego State competed with the Cougars through 40 minutes of play. The Aztecs shot better from the field in that game and lost as a result of BYU having Dallin Hall, Richie Saunders, and Jaxson Robinson combine for 42 points from the bench. The starting lineup for San Diego State is strong, but the depth behind them is questionable.
Saint Mary’s and Gonzaga will be fighting for the crown once again in the WCC, and this year is as good as ever for the Gaels to make the leap over the Bulldogs. Saint Mary’s has the fifth-best defense in the country right now, limiting opponents to an average of just 49 points per game. That same defense makes life harder for opponents by averaging 6.3 blocks per game and 6.3 steals per game.
Even though the Gaels lost the game against Weber State, it came down to two simple areas that made the difference. Saint Mary’s shot just 18.5% from behind the arc and allowed Dillon Jones to score 29 points against them. Aidan Mahaney only posted 11 points and was just 2-10 from three but if anyone can bounce back in this early-season tournament, he is the one to do so.
The Huskies have looked strong in each of their three opening games, even the loss at home against Nevada. In that loss, Washington was ripped through by Kenan Blackshear and his 31-point effort. The highest-scoring player for an opponent in each of Washington’s wins was 14 points. Defense is going to make or break the Huskies this year as their offense has scored 75 points or more in each of the first three games.
Keion Brooks Jr is going to lead the Huskies the entire season as he is shooting at an impressive 58.7% so far this season and 36.4% from three while also grabbing eight rebounds per game. Brooks will be the main guy for Washington, but players like Sahvir Wheeler, Koren Johnson, and Nate Calmese will have to step up from time to time when teams start to create their defensive game plan around Brooks.
Sean Miller is looking to take this talented Xavier group even further than the Sweet 16 like he did a year ago, and the Musketeers are a team that will be in a lot of track meets if this season continues the way it has started. They average 75.7 points this season and also give up 67.3 points per game. Miller’s basketball is fast-paced, but the defense has to clamp down sooner rather than later.
Even though Xavier lost by 12 to Purdue, the Boilermakers were certainly tested, especially in the second half. Outside of Zach Edey, the Musketeers did well with containing Purdue’s offense as the second-highest scorer had just 12 points. Xavier won’t see another forward like Edey until March, but it has to prevent opposing teams from shooting 51% from the field and 46.7% from deep. Those are ugly numbers for a team defensively, and the weekend in Vegas is the first chance to correct them.
Continental Tire Main Event Predictions
First Round: San Diego State vs Saint Mary’s
Both teams have recently lost matchups that they realistically should have won, preventing this from being an early Top-25 matchup. The Aztecs have played a game since the loss to BYU while the Gaels will use this matchup as an opportunity to bounce back. Both teams have sharpshooters, so locking them down defensively will be a crucial element of the game plan.
Saint Mary’s has the duo of Aidan Mahaney and Harry Wessels who are the only players for the Gaels averaging double-digit points per game. Wessels has provided a spark off the bench so far for Randy Bennett, but he could push his way into the starting lineup. However, stopping (or limiting) Jaedon LeDee is easier said than done. The Aztecs have an incredible talent who has averaged just under a double-double through three games, but the Gaels know how to lock it down defensively.
Saint Mary’s Wins
First Round: Washington vs Xavier
Washington and Xavier is set to be one of the biggest matchups this week in college basketball and is one that you will want to stay awake to watch. The Huskies and the Musketeers both want to continue to fine-tune their teams heading into the month of December when conference games start.
Keion Brooks Jr leads Washington with 24.3 points per game with Sahvir Wheeler right behind him averaging 16. Xavier’s top scorer, Desmond Claude, sits at 17.3 points per game, but the Musketeers have a much more balanced offense with four players providing supplemental scoring behind Claude. This gives Xavier a slight edge in what should be a matchup that truly takes 40 minutes to decide a winner.
Championship Game: Saint Mary’s vs Xavier
Both teams will have a chance to tack on a win early in the season that will look good in the eyes of bracketologists when March rolls around. Saint Mary’s and Xavier are both teams that could be fighting for the 3-7 seeds in the tournament this year, and a win here would certainly boost either’s chances. This game is going to come down to which team’s playmaker really steps up between Mahaney and Claude. Mahaney certainly has more potential to put the Gaels on his back, but Xavier just gave Purdue a run for its money and looks to be too hot to handle for Saint Mary’s.