NCAA Bracket 2012: How St. Mary's Basketball Got To March Madness

March 05, 2012; Las Vegas, NV, USA;Saint Mary's Gaels forward Brad Waldow (00) celebrates after cutting the net after defeating the Gonzaga Bulldogs during the finals of the 2012 West Coast Conference Tournament at Orleans Arena. The Saint Mary's Gaels defeated the Gonzaga Bulldogs 78-74 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-US PRESSWIRE

For the first time in school history, Saint Mary's won both the WCC's regular season and conference tournament.

As it has been ever since the St. Mary's Gaels (27-5) burst onto the national scene several years ago, expectations were reasonably high in 2011-12. Only Gonzaga was picked to finish ahead of the Gaels in the West Coast Conference and they drew a smattering of votes in preseason national polls.

A loss to Denver in their third game essentially derailed any chances of them getting into the Top 25 early in the season. But the Gaels did break through, eventually. After beating then-No. 23 Gonzaga by a whopping 21 points, the Gaels made their 2012 debut in the Top 25. That game probably marked the pinnacle of their regular season, even if they eventually were ranked as high as No. 13 in the Coaches' Poll.

Matthew Dellavedova scored 26 points and had six assists in a game that was followed by students rushing the court.

The rematch with Gonzaga did not go so well. The Gaels lost 73-59 and that kicked off a stretch in which they lost three of four that threatened to derail their season. But they won their final two regular-season games to hold off Gonzaga and then clinched their spot in the NCAA Tournament by downing the Bulldogs 78-74 in overtime of the West Coast Conference tournament final.

The win marked the second time in three years that the Gaels had earned the automatic qualification for the NCAA Tournament, but the first time in school history they did it by winning both the regular season and conference tournament. As the No. 7 seed, they'll face No. 10 Purdue in the Midwest region.

Join our 2012 NCAA Bracket pool to compete against the best and brightest from around the network.

For more on the 2012 NCAA Tournament bracket, stay with SB Nation's Selection Sunday StoryStream, and stick around SB Nation's NCAA Tournament hub for a complete printable NCAA Tournament bracket and tons of analysis on who was snubbed, who got the best bracket, and who will make it all the way to New Orleans and the Final Four.

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