DAYTON, Ohio -- The Saint Mary's College men's basketball team had no time to celebrate its selection to the NCAA tournament.

Soon after learning they'd be playing 48 hours later in a "First Four" game more than 2,000 miles away, players rushed home to do laundry, pack and learn as much as they could about the Middle Tennessee State team they're facing Tuesday at 6:10 p.m. at the University of Dayton.

"I'll tell you this, I didn't see the rest of the (selection) show," Saint Mary's coach Randy Bennett said. "Once I saw our name called and that we were playing Tuesday, it was a mad scramble."

Saint Mary's left Moraga at about 6 a.m. Monday for its charter flight and arrived in Dayton just 90 minutes before its late afternoon news conference.

The Gaels (27-6) are making their third NCAA tournament appearance in four years, but the logistics of the first-round game make this year's trip much different.

"I think the focus is more on getting your team ready to play and not as much about the opponent you're playing," Bennett said. "You just don't have much time to prepare for the other opponent with just 48 hours notice."

Gaels senior Matthew Dellavedova said he spent time Sunday night watching film of the Sun Belt Conference tournament and noted how hard and physical the Blue Raiders play. Bennett called them "athletic, strong and physically gifted."


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Dellavedova likely will be guarded by Bruce Massey, the Sun Belt's Defensive Player of the Year. The Blue Raiders are known for putting a lot of pressure on the ball and defending the 3-point line well. At times, they've gone with a four-guard starting lineup.

"Their strength is guard play, our strength is defensive guard play," Middle Tennessee State coach Kermit Davis said.

Though Middle Tennessee State (28-5) lacks NCAA tournament experience, it's a veteran team with 13 juniors or seniors. The Blue Raiders are also deep, playing nine players more than 12 minutes a game.

Marcos Knight, a 6-foot-2 senior guard, leads the balanced squad in scoring (12.5 points) and rebounding (5.8).

While the Gaels said they know little about Middle Tennessee's personnel, the Blue Raiders are familiar with Dellavedova.

"In watching the last six games, there's no doubt he's the most impactful player on his college team than anybody else in college basketball," Davis said.

The Gaels traveled to Dayton without starting guard Jorden Page, who suffered a knee injury against Gonzaga in the conference final a week ago. He was scheduled to see a doctor Monday, with the hope that he might be able to play later this week if the Gaels advance.

Bennett said redshirt freshman Jordan Giusti, a recruited walk-on from San Ramon Valley High, would start in Page's place. Giusti, known for his tenacious defense, has occasionally started the second half of games.

Though the two guards play similar minutes, Page has competed in two NCAA tournaments and adds a little more in scoring and play-making abilities.

Tuesday's game
Saint Mary's (27-6) vs. M. Tennessee St., (28-5), 6:10 p.m. truTV