Posted on: March 5, 2009 2:31 pm

Dear Gary (on UD last season and SMC this season)

Here's Thursday's Dear Gary ...

Dear Gary: The situation is a little different because Patrick Mills will return before the NCAA tournament, but wouldn't Dayton's situation last year with Chris Wright be the most comparable? The Flyers were left out despite that when Wright was healthy they were clearly (good enough to earn an at-large bid).

-- Mike

The problem with Dayton last year is that Wright missed the final 15 games of the regular season -- plus the Atlantic 10 tournament -- with a broken ankle, meaning that on Selection Sunday the committee had no choice but to judge Dayton on what it was without Wright. Best I can remember, Wright wasn't even cleared to return to practice until after Selection Sunday, and he missed the Flyers' first-round NIT game against Cleveland State. So there's no way Dayton should've been included in the NCAA tournament based on its success with Wright because by all accounts he would not have been available for a first-round game in the NCAA tournament.

The Mills situation is much different.

Mills has already been cleared to return to action.

He'll play this weekend in the West Coast Conference tournament.

Then he'll have another 10 days after that to get ready for the NCAA tournament.

And that's why I think -- and I've explained this in a column and in the blog -- that it's safe to assume Mills will be at or close to 100 percent by the time the NCAA tournament begins, because he will have had more than two weeks from the moment doctors cleared him to prepare for the NCAA tournament, and that should be plenty of time. Consequently, SMC should be viewed as the 18-1 team it was when he went down, because anything that happened without him is irrelevant when you consider the Gaels won't have to play without him anymore.

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