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Published February 22, 2017
Saint Mary's College puts on a show for the basketball nation
College GameDay hosts ponder their repartee prior to airtime. From left, Rece Davis, Jay Williams, Seth Greenberg and Jay Bilas. Photo Nick Marnell

Saint Mary's showcased a rocking national pregame production, but the main event featuring the Feb. 11 basketball matchup between the Gaels and No. 1 Gonzaga fizzled.
"We never take this for granted. It never loses its luster," said Drew Gallagher, production director of ESPN College GameDay, which made its first trip to Moraga for the showdown between the two nationally ranked schools. "Especially going to a place for the first time. The energy. The crowd. You never know what's in store for you."
McKeon Pavilion opened to fans at 6:30 a.m. with the network crews well into their production. Lights and cameras everywhere, wires strewn along the floor, the floor manager yelling his on-air countdown to 1,000 early-rising fans who packed along the north ends of the bleachers and filled the balcony for the 8 a.m. live broadcast. Nearly everybody waved a sign, one pleading for a mom's audition as a studio host. Working ESPN crew members had no time to talk, but one puzzled New Yorker asked how Saint Mary's came to be in Moraga, as if he thought the college had dropped from the sky into a vacant field.
Nick Sciallo, ESPN College GameDay producer, said that Saint Mary's was the first venue where he produced a show that had no large arena monitors on which fans could watch the program. "We were unsure how the crowd would respond throughout the show without actually being able to watch it," Sciallo said. "The crowd didn't appear to be confused or bored in any way, but it was something that we had never needed to consider in the past."
College GameDay hosts Rece Davis, Jay Williams, Seth Greenberg and Jay Bilas, who must practice doing these shows in front of roaring jet engines, sat near the south basket with their backs to the frenzied balcony. They worked the crowd, but nothing brought down the house more than the appearance of coach Randy Bennett; and nothing riled up the house more than Williams ripping off his jacket and flashing a Gonzaga jersey, as he picked the Bulldogs to beat the Gaels.
After the show, and the requisite sponsor and alumni photography sessions, Davis stayed on the court and interacted with nearly everyone who approached him. He posed for selfies, took group shots, he even discussed baseball with a group of ballplayers. "This is definitely the smallest place we've been," Davis said as he left the gym. "It's the way basketball should be, no Jumbotrons, like the roots of basketball." He said he was taking a redeye back east that night, so he had no further opportunity to experience Moraga. Bilas remarked about the beauty of the town but said the crew was staying at the Renaissance in Walnut Creek.
Sadly for Gaels fans, Williams was right, as Saint Mary's dropped to 0-7 in games against a
No. 1 opponent. The crowd dissolved into the night, and GameDay disappeared from the campus by Sunday afternoon.

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