Saint Mary’s or Grand Canyon? How to pick 5 vs. 12 matchup in 2024 March Madness bracket

The 12 over 5 seed upset happens fairly often in the NCAA Tournament. No. 12 seeds have an all-time record of 53-99 against No. 5 seeds, and while that may not seem great, the .349 winning percentage of 12 seeds implies that at least one upset should happen any given year.

That didn’t happen in 2023. All four of the No. 5 seeds dispatched the No. 12 seeds, busting the brackets of many across the country. But in 2024, the 12 seeds figure to have a bounce back, as numerous smaller-conference teams are candidates to be giant killers during the 2024 NCAA Tournament.

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Grand Canyon (29-4, 17-3 WAC) is one of them. Bryce Drew’s team is in March Madness for the third time in four seasons but the school is still searching for its first NCAA Tournament victory since making the jump to Div. I. The Antelopes — or simply, “the Lopes” — are led by a nearly 20-point-per-game scorer in Tyon Grant-Foster, and they have the size and experience needed to be a threat against better-seeded opponents.

Saint Mary’s (26-7, 15-1 WCC) is used to being underestimated even despite being a No. 5 seed. It has been one of the best mid-major teams of the last couple of decades, and coach Randy Bennett’s system has allowed the Gaels to win early-round tournament games often in recent seasons. They have one of the best-scoring defenses in the NCAA and figure to try to clamp down on Grant-Foster and the Lopes in this one.

Can Saint Mary’s keep order among the No. 5 seeds in the NCAA Tournament bracket, or will Grand Canyon add its name to the list of 12-seed March Madness winners? Sporting News breaks down this NCAA Tournament matchup that will determine who has a right to play the winner of the Alabama vs. Charleston game.

EXPERT PICKS: DeCourcy (UConn) | Bender (UConn) | Iyer (UConn) | Yanchulis (South Carolina women)

Saint Mary’s vs. Grand Canyon odds

The Gaels are favored to beat the Antelopes, according to odds from BetMGM. Saint Mary’s is the better seed and has two wins over its main conference rival Gonzaga, so the Gaels being favored isn’t a surprise.

Below, you can find odds and details about the first-round matchup, including time, date and TV channel.

  • Odds: Saint Mary’s -5.5
  • Date: Friday, March 22
  • Time: 10:05 p.m. ET
  • TV: TruTV
  • Arena: Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena, Spokane, Wash.

Saint Mary’s (26-7, 15-1 WCC)

Saint Mary’s has been one of the most consistent mid-major teams in the NCAA over the last couple of decades and has been a consistent thorn in the side of their WCC rival Gonzaga. Saint Mary’s won 26-plus games for the third consecutive season and defeated Gonzaga twice en route to winning its first conference title since 2019.

The Gaels had a rough start to the season that saw them go 3-5 in their first eight games with blowout losses against San Diego State and Xavier on their docket. But after losing to NCAA Tournament team Boise State, the Gaels turned things around. They went on a 16-game winning streak and began the WCC season with a 15-0 record before tripping up against Gonzaga.

That loss against the Bulldogs remains the Gaels’ only loss of the 2024 calendar year.

Saint Mary’s has established itself as a tough team to beat thanks, in part, to their effort on the glass. They average a whopping 12 rebounds per game more than their opponent. That’s good for the best rebounding margin in the country, and 1.2 boards per game higher than the next-best team (Purdue, which has 7-2 star Zach Edey).

The Gaels have kept that high-end mark thanks to the size provided by senior center Mitchell Saxen (6-10), sophomore forward Joshua Jefferson (6-8) and senior guard Alex Ducas (6-7). If they can continue to limit second-chance points while creating some of their own, that could give them an advantage over the opportunistic, lower-seeded Grand Canyon.

Randy Bennett’s team is otherwise well-balanced and moves the ball well, as the Gaels rank 18th in the country in assist-to-turnover ratio with a mark of 1.6. They also allow the second-fewest points per game in the country at 58.7. Their five-man starting lineup can lock down opposing scorers, which makes them a threat to any team they face throughout the NCAA Tournament.

  • NET ranking: 16
  • KenPom ranking: 20th
  • Quad 1 record: 5-3
  • Quad 2 record: 3-2
  • Quad 3 record: 5-2
  • Quad 4 record: 12-0
  • Offensive efficiency ranking: 45th
  • Defensive efficiency ranking: 16th

Key players

Aidan Mahaney, G, So. (6-3, 180): 13.9 ppg, 2.6 rpg, 2.5 apg

Augustas Marciulionis, G, Jr. (6-4, 195): 12.4 ppg, 5.2 apg, 3.3 rpg, 1.5 spg

Mitchell Saxen, C, Sr. (6-10, 242): 11.7 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 1.5 apg, 1.3 bpg

Joshua Jefferson, F, So. (6-8, 220): 10.2 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 2.3 apg, 1.2 spg

Alex Ducas, G, Sr. (6-7, 220): 10.1 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 2.0 apg

STREAM: Watch 2024 NCAA Tournament games live with Sling

Grand Canyon (29-4, 17-3 WAC)

Grand Canyon figures to be a popular sleeper in brackets across the country, and it makes sense. The Antelopes won 29 games this season, have Bryce Drew as a coach and are making their third NCAA Tournament appearance in four years, so why not back them?

The Antelopes put forth respectable performances in their first two NCAA Tournament appearances. They lost by 12 to No. 2 seed Iowa in 2021 and were defeated by the same margin against No. 3 seed Gonzaga in 2023.

While Saint Mary’s will still be a tough opponent, the 2021 Hawkeyes and 2023 Bulldogs were tougher ones on paper; that will give Grand Canyon a chance to take home its first March Madness victory.

Grand Canyon is one of the few teams in the country with a winning streak akin to Saint Mary’s 15-gamer. The Antelopes won 14 consecutive games after an early-season loss to South Carolina. That winning streak included a victory over San Diego State, the national runner-up from last season.

The Antelopes rely on Tyon Grant-Foster, who ranks 37th in the country in points per game with a mark of 19.8, to carry their offense. The team is slightly above average in 3-point percentage and pace, and they figure to challenge the Gaels on the glass since all four of their starters are at least 6-4.

For Grand Canyon to pull off the upset, the team will need to do two things. It must even the rebounding battle as much as possible and find a way to speed up the game to keep the stellar St. Mary’s defense out of sorts. That won’t be easy, but it is possible considering this Antelopes squad’s experience.

  • NET ranking: 50
  • KenPom ranking: 53rd
  • Quad 1 record: 1-0
  • Quad 2 record: 2-2
  • Quad 3 record: 11-2
  • Quad 4 record: 14-0
  • Offensive efficiency ranking: 63rd
  • Defensive efficiency ranking: 51st

Key players

Tyon Grant-Foster, G, Sr. (6-7, 210): 19.8 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 1.7 apg, 1.7 spg, 1.4 bpg

Ray Harrison, G, Jr. (6-4, 195): 13.7 ppg, 3.9 apg, 2.9 rpg

Gabe McGlothan, F, Sr. (6-7, 235): 13.0 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 1.3 spg, 1.2 apg

Collin Moore, G, Jr. (6-4, 205): 8.2 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 2.1 apg, 1.8 spg

Duke Brennan, F, So. (6-10, 250): 7.1 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 0.5 apg

MORE: Buy tickets to 2024 March Madness games

Saint Mary’s vs. Grand Canyon prediction

The winner of the Saint Mary’s vs. Grand Canyon game will likely depend on which team can control the pace of the contest. The Antelopes average about 71.7 possessions per game, which ranks at an above-average 117th in the NCAA.

The Gaels? They like to play slow. They average just 65.8 possessions per game, which ranks 352nd among the NCAA’s 362 teams. Bennett’s squad does that because it trusts its defense and likes to make games as low-scoring as possible.

If Grand Canyon gets dragged into a slog of a game, it might be hard for the Antelopes to win. They have a solid offense but are merely a good-not-great 3-point shooting team. That may make it hard for them to maximize their possessions if they aren’t getting open shots.

And while the Antelopes’ size will be an asset to them, this doesn’t project to be as good a matchup for them as it could have been. If they were playing a smaller team with rebounding issues, backing them would have made a lot more sense.

Since Saint Mary’s is the best rebounding team in the country, it should probably be selected to advance in this intriguing matchup.

HISTORY OF UPSETS BY SEED:
16 vs. 115 vs. 2 | 14 vs. 3 | 13 vs. 4 | 12 vs. 5

History of 5 vs. 12 matchups in NCAA Tournament

Every fan-created bracket tends to have a 12 over 5 upset in it, and it’s for a good reason. No. 12 seeds have a .349 winning percentage against No. 5 seeds, which shows that in an average year, at least one 12 seed pulls off an upset.

But that wasn’t the case in 2023, as all four No. 5 seeds won their games. That was a strong crop of 5 seeds, as Miami (FL) made it to the Elite Eight while San Diego State made it to the national championship game before losing to UConn.

Only two other NCAA Tournaments (2015 and 2018) have lacked a 12 over 5 upset since 2010. But in 2013, 2014 and 2019, three 12 seeds were able to beat their higher-ranked counterparts.

Here’s a look back at all the 12 over 5 upsets since 2010:

Year Result
2022 Richmond 67, Iowa 63
2022 New Mexico State 70, UConn 63
2021 Oregon State 70, Tennessee 56
2019 Murray State 83, Marquette 64
2019 Liberty 80, Mississippi State 76
2019 Oregon 72, Wisconsin 54
2017 Middle Tennessee 81, Minnesota 72
2016 Yale 79, Baylor 75
2016 Little Rock 85, Purdue 83 (2 OTs)
2014 Stephen F. Austin 77, VCU 75 (OT)
2014 North Dakota State 80, Oklahoma 75 (OT)
2014 Harvard 61, Cincinnati 57
2013 Oregon 68, Oklahoma State 55
2013 California 64, UNLV 61
2013 Ole Miss 57, Wisconsin 46
2012 VCU 62, Wichita State 59
2012 South Florida 58, Temple 44
2011 Richmond 69, Vanderbilt 66
2010 Cornell 78, Temple 65

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