A riveting 82-72 victory over Temple last Saturday at Hagan Arena propelled Saint Joseph’s to its 19th win this season.
It gave the Hawks a share of the Big 5 title. It snapped a frustrating, 10-game losing streak against the Owls.
Most importantly, it pushed St. Joe’s back into the NCAA tournament picture. At 19-11 overall and 9-6 in the Atlantic 10 — with one more regular-season game looming tomorrow at St. Bonaventure — the Hawks are among the last four teams in the Big Dance, according to ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi.
St. Joe’s last advanced to the NCAAs in 2008, when it lost to Oklahoma in the first round. After a couple of frustrating seasons, the Hawks are back in the postseason discussion. Still, the Hawks are focused solely on their next game and then the Atlantic 10 tournament in Atlantic City.
“We don’t really acknowledge it [the NCAA tournament],” St. Joe’s coach Phil Martelli said. “We focus everything on the Atlantic 10. I think we’re raising a generation of basketball players that don’t really pay attention to it. I think my guys know more about the NBA Celebrity All-Star Game.”
After last Wednesday’s home loss to Richmond, Martelli said he quizzed his players about the postseason. They were looking ahead to Temple, nothing more.
“You’d have a better chance of discussing professional basketball than you would of saying, ‘How’s Murray State playing? How do they play?’” Martelli said.
How do the Hawks play? Well, they have won four of their last five and six of eight. They are back on the NCAA bubble. No question.