Perhaps overlooked amid speculation of the possible Big 5 Brooklyn clash between Temple and Villanova in the NCAA tournament's second round is the shocking rebirth of the St. Joe's Hawks.
After a dreadful 13-18 season last year, the 27-7 Hawks became one of the nation's most surprising successes in 2015-16, as the squad had the best year of any St. Joe's team since the now legendary 2004 squad. They won the automatic bid that comes from winning the A-10 tournament after they lost three of four key games down the stretch.
"We went through a rough year last year," DeAndre Bembry told reporters. "I'm happy the guys on the team last year got to see a championship this year."
And after taking a long flight out west to Spokane, Washington, Phil Martelli's squad is set to do battle against the AAC's Cincinnati, at 9:57 on TruTV Friday.
“It’s a big dream come true,” James Demery told CSNPhilly.com. “I think it’s going to be an amazing experience you’ll always remember that you experienced in your lifetime.”
Demery, A-10 player of the year Bembry and the rest of the Hawks will see their offensive attack -- averaging a robust 77.6 points per game -- pitted against a top-10 defense in the Beatcats. Cincy allows an impressive 62.9 points per game.
A few years ago, during the Hawks' most recent trip to the NCAA Tournament, the squad saw their hopes falter in the opening round in a heart-breaking overtime loss to eventual champion UConn.
No St. Joe's team has won an NCAA Tournament game since the '04 squad ran all the way to the Elite Eight.
According to CBSSports, 52 percent of bracket pickers currently have the No. 8 Hawks beating the No. 9 Bearcats. The victor in Friday's round of 64 game will likely face the West's No. 1 team Oregon Sunday night.