Picking the two "All-Time Teams" of the Randy Bennett/Mark Few Era

The Gaels celebrate after beating Villanova in the 2010 Tournament to punch their ticket to the Sweet 16. (photo by Jim Rogash)

The Gaels celebrate after beating Villanova in the 2010 Tournament to punch their ticket to the Sweet 16. (photo by Jim Rogash)

By Connor Buestad | Connor@Section925.com

Right around the turn of the millennium, in a couple of poorly lit gyms in the all-Jesuit West Coast Conference, the programs at St. Mary's College and Gonzaga University found a spark. For Gonzaga, the fire was found under coach Dan Monson, who was hired in Spokane in 1997. In just two seasons, Monson (assisted by Mark Few) laid the groundwork for an unforgettable run in the 1999 NCAA tournament behind the leadership of Matt Santangelo and Casey Calvary along with the sweet shooting of Richie Frahm. 

For Moraga, the flame was lit by Ernie Kent, who rode "Big Continent" Brad Millard and David Sivulich to an NCAA tournament birth in 1997 where they would face off with Tim Duncan and Wake Forest. 

By the fall of 2001, both the Zags and Gaels had welcomed in new coaches with the inflated dreams of somehow turning their tiny schools into major stalwarts of college basketball. With Mark Few at the helm at Gonzaga, and Randy Bennett at St. Mary's, basketball fans have been treated to a steady rise in both programs. Every year, the two schools play each other at least twice and usually a third time in the WCC tournament championship. The rivalry, once lopsided and predictable, has turned into what announcers love calling, "the best college basketball rivalry on the west coast." 

For roughly the last 20 years, both Few and Bennett have recruited some of the most colorful, fun-to-watch players in the world to come to their campuses and battle it out for the all-important WCC automatic bid each year. Section925 decided to take a look back and compile and "All-Time Team" that has played for each coach. Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below. 

Randy Bennett's Saint Mary's Gaels

Starting 5:

1.     Matthew Dellavedova

2.     Mickey McConnell 

3.     Patty Mills

4.     Omar Samhan 

5.     Jock Landale


1.     Daniel Kickert

2.    Adam Caporn

3.    E.J. Rowland

4.    Diamon Simpson

5.    Paul Marigney 

6.    Stephen holt

7.     Emmett Naar

Honorable mention:

Mitchell Young

Rob Jones

Joe Rahon

Clint Steindl 

Richie Frahm and Gonzaga beat Stanford in 1999 to go to their first ever Sweet 16. (photo by Robert Beck)

Richie Frahm and Gonzaga beat Stanford in 1999 to go to their first ever Sweet 16. (photo by Robert Beck)


Mark Few's Gonzaga Bulldogs

Staring 5:

1.     Matt Santangelo 

2.    Kevin Pangos  

3.     Adam Morrison 

4.     Ronny Turiaf

5.     Przemek Karnowski


1. Dan Dickau 

2. Casey Calvary 

3. Robert Sacre

4. Nigel Williams-Goss

5. Derek Raivio

6. Kelly Olynk

7. Richie Frahm 

Honorable Mention:

Cory Violette

J.P. Batista

Jeremy Pargo

Josh Heytvelt

Matt Bouldin

Elias Harris

Kyle Wiltjer

Ring the bell on Round 2: Gonzaga visits red-hot Saint Mary's this Saturday at 7pm

The class of the West Coast (photo by Ethan Miller)

The class of the West Coast (photo by Ethan Miller)

By Connor Buestad | Connor@Section925.com

The biggest game on the west coast this week will undoubtedly take place inside the sweaty bandbox that is McKeon Pavilion on the bucolic campus of Saint Mary's College. The 7pm tip on ESPN2 will likely feature a Saint Mary's team gunning for an unprecedented 20th straight win (assuming a Thursday night victory at LMU) versus a Gonzaga team coming off last year's run to the National Championship game. Their first meeting up in Spokane earlier this year was a back and forth affair that eventually ended in the Gaels' favor 74-71, but not before 22 lead changes took place inside the Kennel. On Saturday, the two titans of the West Coast Conference will trade blows in round 2 of their season series. 

If you don't already have a ticket to Saturday's game and find yourself browsing StubHub at the last minute, you'll see there's nothing on the market for less than $100. The rivalry has gotten so big that one could argue it's cheaper and easier to find a ticket to see the world champion Warriors inside Oracle Arena than it is to witness a Zags-Gaels tilt on a Saturday night. 

Even in a season where Mark Few has been forced to replace three starters from a year ago, it goes without saying that he still expects to beat St. Mary's. Since they built a new arena and signed a splashy Nike sponsorship, the Zags have turned their attention to beating the blue bloods of college basketball including Kansas, Kentucky, Duke and North Carolina. In the process, they've become a household name in college hoop themselves. A marquee team with name-brand value reaching across America and beyond.   

During Randy Bennett's illustrious run as SMC's head coach, the Gaels have constantly been nipping at the Zags' heels, finishing in second place in the WCC nine times since 2004 and winning the league three times (tying for first twice). Never once, however, has St. Mary's been able to sweep all three games away from Gonzaga in a single season since Mark Few arrived in Spokane. Could this be the year where the Gaels finally break through and prove wire-to-wire supremacy over the Zags?

As long as Jock Landale is being fed the ball in the painted area, there's no reason to think the Gaels can't pull this off. The 6-11 senior has developed into a All-American candidate who averages 23 points a game and is virtually unguardable when he catches the ball near the basket. It doesn't hurt that his fellow Aussie countryman, Emmett Naar is currently second in the nation in assists with nine a game. (Oklahoma's Trae Young produces 9.7).

Purdue currently owns the nation's longest winning streak at 19 games, but by the time things tip off on Saturday, there's a good chance the Boilermakers will be upended by either Ohio State or Michigan State who they see on Wednesday night and Saturday afternoon, respectively. For the Gaels, waking up on Sunday morning with a nation-leading 20 game win steak would be quite the feat. A far cry from Bennett's first year on campus in 2002, a year in which he lost 20 games. Back then, ESPN cameras and $100 general admission tickets were unthinkable in Moraga. Somehow, we've reached that exact destination. 

Take a look at the A's projected starting nine as pitchers & catchers report to Spring Training on Feb 13th

Matt Chapman is the A's future at the hot corner. (photo by Maddie Meyer)

Matt Chapman is the A's future at the hot corner. (photo by Maddie Meyer)

The 50th year of A's baseball in Oakland is fast approaching as players will be packing up their tools of the trade and heading down to Arizona for some Cactus League baseball starting next week. Below, Section925 outlines the projected starters at each position for the 2018 Athletics. 

Designated Hitter: Khris Davis

Catcher: Bruce Maxwell

First Base: Matt Olson

Second Base: Jed Lowrie

Shortstop: Marcus Semien 

Third Base: Matt Chapman

Left Field: Matt Joyce 

Center Field: Dustin Fowler 

Right Field: Stephen Piscotty 

Starting Pitchers

1. Kendall Graveman

2. Sean Manaea

3. Jharel Cotton

4. Daniel Mengden 

5. Paul Blackburn


Blake Treinen 

The Gaels head up to The Kennel in Spokane to try to steal one from Gonzaga  

Josh Perkins of Gonzaga and Calvin Hermanson of SMC will play major roles in Thursday's showdown in Spokane. (photo by Ethan Miller)

By Connor Buestad | Connor@Section925.com

As is almost always the case, the St. Mary’s Gaels head into Thursday’s 6pm (ESPN) matchup at #13 Gonzaga knowing full well that the Zags are an outstanding team, bound for yet another NCAA Tournament appearance. The Gaels will get at least two shots at Mark Few's squad, if not a third in the West Coast Conference tournament title game. And if the lads from Moraga want to avoid having their bubble burst on Selection Sunday come mid-March, at least one win against their rival from the great Northwest is all but essential resume material.

Since 2001, Gonzaga has won the WCC regular season crown every single year, save for 2012. That’s the year the Gaels trotted out Matthew Dellavedova, Brad Waldow, Mitch Young, Clint Steindl, and Stephen Holt to counter Few’s college basketball mid-major machine. Not only did the Gaels win the regular season league title that year, but they also won the conference tournament in Vegas, outlasting the Zags in overtime. Something not even Omar Samhan can claim.

Coming off their best year in program history in which they narrowly lost to North Carolina in the National Championship Game, Gonzaga looks to be relatively vulnerable here in 2018, having lost three key starters from a year ago (Jordan Mathews, Nigel Williams-Goss and Przemek Karnowski). Returning starters include guard Josh Perkins and forward Jonathan Williams who are supported by Killian Tillie, Silas Melson, Rui Hachimura of Japan and Zach Norvell, a star freshman guard from Chicago.

Unlike St. Mary’s, Gonzaga has a tough non-conference schedule under their belt in addition to their undefeated WCC record thus far. Gonzaga’s three blemishes came to Villanova (currently #1 in America), Florida (in Double OT) and at San Diego State (certainly their worst lost). Meanwhile, Gonzaga has squared up with Ohio State, Texas, Creighton and Washington and beat them all, proving that a post Final Four hangover isn’t in the cards if that was what the rest of the WCC was hoping for.

An impressive six different Zag players score more than 10 points a game, making it tough for Randy Bennett to drill down during game planning. As usual, Gonzaga is good in all facets, with players that can beat you wherever you look.

That being said, St. Mary’s should have their best chance since 2012 of claiming the pole position in the WCC. Trusted point guard Joe Rahon is gone from last year’s team, but beside that, everyone is back, including Aussies Tanner Krebs, Emmett Naar and Jock Landale as well as Calvin Hermanson of Oregon and Jordan Ford from Sacramento. Ford has stepped up big as the Gaels new point guard, running an offense led by Landale who is perhaps the best player in the entire conference (see 21 points, 10 rebounds a game). Hermanson is a lethal 44% from beyond the arc, featuring a quintessential jump shot that is tough to guard. Meanwhile, Naar leads the team in assists by a huge margin with nine a game. Ford is second on the team with only two a game.

SMC comes into Thursday’s matchup with the best overall record in the league at 17-2, but that can be deceiving considering who’ve they played thus far. Beside Cal, the biggest name schools Bennett was able to schedule came in the Wooden Legacy Thanksgiving tournament held at Cal State Fullerton against Washington State of the Pac-12 and Georgia of the SEC. St. Mary's dropped both, albeit by a total of just seven points combined. As it stands today, the only ranked team the Gaels will play all year before the tournament will be 13th ranked Gonzaga. This will only make the stakes that much higher inside The Kennel.

Despite losing to Gonzaga all three times last year, Bennett’s Gaels managed to punch their ticket to the Big Dance and do damage by beating VCU and playing Arizona tough in the second round. But it’s not every year that the WCC will be a “two bid league” in the eyes of the Joe Lunardi’s of the world. Gonzaga has come back to earth and appear to be as beatable as they’ll ever be. Especially against a team as experienced and savvy as St. Mary’s. We’ll see if the Gaels can head inside The Kennel and silence the big dogs of the west coast. It promises to be as entertaining as ever.

The Giants acquire Andrew McCutchen for a 2018 World Series run. Will it pay off?

"Cutch" has a been a fan favorite in Pittsburgh for his entire nine year career (photo by Justin Berl)

By Connor Buestad | Connor@Section925.com

The San Francisco Giants may have fallen short in the Giancarlo Stanton Mega Millions Sweepstakes in December, but since then, the club has acquired the face of two franchises, Evan Longoria from Tampa Bay and now Andrew McCutchen of Pittsburgh. Say what you will about the Giants being too old, or not hitting enough homers, but you have to hand it to their front office for doing everything in their power to put a winning product on the field each and every year. Especially this “even year” coming up in the spring of 2018.

Since being drafted out of a Florida high school in the first round of the 2005 draft, McCutchen or “Cutch” has spent nine years roaming the outfield for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Lifetime, McCutchen is a .291 hitter who averages 24 long balls a year. In 2018, advanced metrics predict him to provide 23 homers and a .268 average as a 31-year-old in SF.

From 2011 to 2015, McCutchen was a National League All-Star for five years in a row, finishing in the top five in MVP voting for four of those years. McCutchen was MVP in 2013, but his best year was arguably in 2012 when he scored 107 runs, hit .327, homered 31 times and stole 20 bases. Most recently in 2017, Cutch scored 94 runs, hit .279, homered 28 times and stole 11 bases.

It was no secret that the Giants desperately needed an outfielder who could hit for power and play good D, so it makes sense that they decided on McCuthen, but one has to wonder if this is enough to result in a deep playoff run for San Francisco.

The naysayers will point to the fact that McCutchen is north of 30 with a declining stat trend who will be a free agent in 2019 who will make $14.5 million in 2018. A Gold Glove winner in 2012, McCutchen’s defense is said to have dipped as of late, as evidenced by this demotion to right field in favor of Starling Marte last season, before Marte was lost to a PED suspension. Meanwhile, the exciting speed that McCutchen is known for has also dipped with age. Back in 2010, McCutchen was good for 33 stolen bags, while over the last two years (309 games), McCutchen was only able to swipe a total of 17 bases.

Similar to the narrative with 32-year old Evan Longoria, the Giants are clearly hoping that McCutchen benefits from a second-wind of sorts when he arrives in The City by the Bay. Both are superstar type players that have carried their franchises in the past. Both had breakout rookie years, have won Gold Gloves, put up MVP type numbers and been extremely durable. The question remains then, will these two stars shine bright yet again in 2018? AT&T will certainly be sold out to see first hand. They will have good reason to expect a winner.

Warriors champion D-Lee calls it a career after 12 NBA seasons

By Connor Buestad | connor@section925.com

David Lee announced his presence in the basketball world back in 2001 at the McDonald’s High School All-American Game Dunk Contest. Pitted up against the highest flyers from around the nation, Lee shocked the ESPN audience when he whipped out a pale, shaggy haired version of J.R. Rider’s “East Bay Funk Dunk” as well as a shirtless reverse to win the contest.

By the end of his 12-year NBA career, Lee was thought of more as an unselfish, below the rim role player who helped bring teams together and maximize the talent they were given. But whichever phase of Lee’s career you tuned in for, he was always a joy to watch play the game of basketball.

The All-Everything high school prospect from Missouri would ride his McDonald’s Dunk fame into Gainesville where he cut out a stellar career playing for Billy Donovan and the Florida Gators. The Knicks liked what they saw in Lee enough to grab him in the first round of the 2005 NBA Draft, and for the next five years, Lee would grind out games inside Madison Square Garden for a variety of bad New York teams. By his fifth and final year in Gotham City, Lee earned his first All-Star Game selection while cementing his name in Garden lore as a “great Knick” who “played the game the right way, night in and night out.”

By the end of that fifth season with the Knicks, Lee was traded to Oakland in 2010 to play for coach Keith Smart and the Warriors. In his five seasons with the Dubs, Lee not only served as a tremendous leader but also more or less averaged a triple double with 16.7 points and 9.6 rebounds a game while roaming the frontcourt inside Oracle.

In 2013 with Mark Jackson now steering the Dubs’ ship, Lee was named an All-Star for a second time, while helping the Warriors get back to the playoffs for the first time since the "We Believe" boys back in 2007.

Lee’s career arc reached it’s zenith when the veteran was able to hold the Larry O’Brien trophy for the first time in 2015. Much of Lee’s youthful explosiveness was a thing of the past by now, and he had the injuries to show for it, but that didn’t stop Lee from mentoring younger stars in the making like Draymond Green as the Warriors finally brought a championship back to Oakland.  

With an elusive championship now under his belt, Lee bounced around the NBA for two more seasons, making stops in Boston, Dallas and finally San Antonio before leaving the hardwood for good. Lee now will turn his attention to his recent fiancée Caroline Wozniacki, the Danish tennis star who has enjoyed extensive time as the top ranked female in the world.

Cheers to D-Lee.

(Video) JaVale McGee's Parking Lot Chronicles

By Connor Buestad | Connor@Section925.com

For the last few weeks, Dubs big man JaVale McGee has been holding court in the coliseum parking lot, talking to some of the most recognizable faces in the Bay Area. The show is called "JaVale McGee's Parking Lot Chronicles" and the first three episodes are below for your viewing pleasure. Along the way, you'll learn more about Mistah F.A.B.'s Dope Era clothing line, E-40's hustle, Klay Thompson's "China Klay" phase, Swaggy P's latest styles, and what Andre Iguodala is currently reading on road trips. Suffice it to say, JaVale is successfully out of Shaq's doghouse at this point. 

Cal beaten soundly by UC Riverside on opening night in Berkeley

Marcus Lee had just 8 points in his debut as a Cal Bear. (photo courtesy of calbears.com)

Marcus Lee had just 8 points in his debut as a Cal Bear. (photo courtesy of calbears.com)

By Connor Buestad | Connor@Section925.com

The Wyking Jones era of Cal basketball kicked off late Friday night in Berkeley, with the Bears turning in a dismal effort resulting in a 74-66 loss to the UC Riverside Highlanders. A game that was originally booked on the schedule as a gimmie win for the Bears turned into a disheartening loss at that hands of team picked in the preseason to finish toward the bottom of the Big West Conference. Riverside, who went 8-21 last season, were flat-out better than Cal for all 40 minutes as they showed little problem penetrating the Bears' zone defense or breaking through their trapping press. Riverside was up 17-3 to start the game and more or less cruised the rest of the way. 

With a new head coach and a staggering nine players new to their roster, Cal fans certainly expected a rebuilding year. But with 6'11" senior Marcus Lee moving back home to the Bay Area from his Final Four days in Kentucky and Kingsley Okoroh manning the middle, it made sense to believe Cal could hold its own in the Pac-12 this year. However, Friday night left Cal fans rethinking the idea of a competitive season altogehter. 

The Bears finished sixth in the Pac-12 a year ago, behind home-grown Bay Area draft picks in Ivan Rabb and Jabari Bird, along with shifty point guard Charlie Moore who has since left for greener pastures in Kansas. Cal's hot young coach in Cuonzo Martin also bolted for the Big-12, landing a larger contract at Missouri with half the cost of living, effectively leaving the cupboard as bare as it's been in recent memory in Berkeley. 

It certainly felt that way at the home opener inside Haas Pavilion as more than half the gym was left empty throughout the ugly loss. Bear fans that showed up were let down by Lee's debut in the blue and gold, as he failed to score a point in the first half. Lee, who played 100 games for John Calipari at Kentucky, looked overly reliant on his teammates to create consistent scoring opportunities for himself. To his credit, Lee did grab 10 rebounds, but that might have been his only bright spot as he ended with just eight points while shooting just 40% from the charity stripe. Returning starter Okoroh fared even worse against Riverside's defense, tallying just five points on the evening while going 3of7 at the line.    

The only bright spot on the night came from junior wing Don Coleman, who took the offense load upon himself, pouring in a career high 32 points in the losing effort. Even so, Coleman left much to be desired when you consider he attempted 28 shots and missed eight free throws on the night. His inefficient output still leaves fans wondering, who will consistently score the basketball for the Bears this year? It's not an easy question to answer, even after Coleman's career high night from the field. 

This time last year in Berkeley, the Bears were riding a home winning streak that would eventually reach 27 straight games. They had a proven head coach who had won at other schools. They had NBA prospects and solid shooters scattered up and down their lineup. Suddenly, those days are over and left to be rebuilt, hopefully sooner than later. By Sunday, Cal hopes to get their act together to avoid a loss to Cal Poly on Sunday at 1pm in Berkeley. A home sweep at the hands of two mediocre Big West schools would be hard for the most casual of Cal fans to swallow.