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Wisconsin basketball: Saint Mary’s Gaels 2019-20 preview

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The Badgers open the season with a tough opponent in a strange location.

Saint Mary’s v Villanova Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

Saint Mary’s

Nickname: Gaels

Conference: West Coast Conference

Location: Moraga, California

Website: https://smcgaels.com/index.aspx?path=mbball

Head coach: Randy Bennett, 18 years at Saint Mary’s

2018-19 record: 22-12 (11-5 WCC)

Last time in NCAA Tournament: 2019, lost in first round to Villanova

Top three returning scorers: Jordan Ford, senior, guard, 22.1 ppg; Malik Fitts, junior, forward, 15.2 ppg; Tanner Krebs, senior, guard, 8.9 ppg

Key loss: Jordan Hunter, center, 7.9 ppg, 6.7 rpg

Exciting newcomer: Kristers Zoriks, point guard, Latvia, redshirted last year after tearing his ACL, could start at point guard

Date of game: Tuesday, Nov. 5th, 8 p.m. CT, ESPNU

Location: The Pentagon, Sioux Falls, South Dakota

Preview: Saint Mary’s comes into this season with pretty high expectations. They beat Gonzaga in the WCC conference tournament finals last year and have made the NCAA Tournament two of the last three years. They’ve also won 20 or more games for the past dozen seasons. What I’m trying to say is, Saint Mary’s is not to be overlooked.

Ford should be in the conversation for WCC player of the year and also shouldn’t have to shoulder any ball-handling duties with the return of the injured Zoriks at the point guard position. A lot of preseason top-25 polls have the Gaels hanging around in the 20-25 range and this veteran laden team should be favored to beat the Badgers in the season opener.

Prediction: Gaels win, 68-61