Whew, we can finally take a sigh of relief. The last month of the college basketball season has been filled with uncertainty for the city of Philadelphia and its fans. We have been sweating bullets wondering if the Big 5’s (+ Drexel) NCAA tournament streak would be broken in 2008. If you doubt that insecurity in Philly, read this, this, this and this.
The 31-year streak is in tact. With both Temple and St. Joe’s advancing to the Atlantic 10 Conference Final, we are guaranteed at least one team will represent Philadelphia in the NCAA tournament.
Even before the St. Joe’s/Xavier game Joe Lunardi had the Hawks as one of the last 4 teams in.
|ON THE BUBBLE|
|LAST FOUR IN|
That didn’t stop the Hawks from using a sense of desperation to jump all over A10 leader Xavier in the semi-finals. St. Joseph’s took a 10-point lead into the half and never looked back. The Hawks beat Xavier for the 2nd time in nine days, 61-53. In my opinion that officially locks up an at-large bid for Saint Joseph’s.
Game Note: I give Phil Marteli and the St. Joe’s coach staffing tremendous credit for winning this game because of their game management. If they didn’t have an abundance of timeouts under 2-minutes the outcome very easily could have been different. Xavier was able to cut to the lead to 6 with 1:15 left using their pressure defense. The pressure was clearly causing St. Joe’s problems, and if not for all the timeouts the Hawks may not have been able to get the ball in-bounded or past half court at the end of the game.
Temple on the other hand hasn’t been in the NCAA tourney picture most of the season. Why? They played a really tough out-of-conference schedule (as usual), and their overall record suffered (19-12 before tonight’s game). The owls played Duke, Tennessee, Villanova and Florida, all losses. When you factor in that both Florida and Nova had sub-par seasons and probably would make the field of 65, those losses hurt more than the perceived strength of schedule helped. The biggest win of the season came in the form of a rout over Xavier at home. The only other win against a tournament team was a one-point win over Big 5 rival St. Joe’s.
Lunardi had Temple on the outside looking in as one of his “Next Four Out.” But, after their comfortable win tonight over Charlotte the Owls resume has become a bit stronger.
- 20-12 overall
- 2nd in the A10 with an 11-5 record
- Reached the A10 tournament final
- Won 9 of their last 12 games
- 45 strength of schedule (better than Arizona State (19-12), a team in Lunardi’s “last 4 in”)
- 70 RPI (again better than Arizona State who is only 5-7 in their last 12 and 4-6 on the road)
Again the only weakness is their lack of a few more quality wins. With that said, it would behoove Temple to go into the A10 final believing they have no chance to get in without a win.
Having not attended either Temple or Saint Joseph’s and not having any friends or relatives on either team, I find myself likely rooting for Temple to win this game. Why? I am 100% confident St. Joe’s is in, regardless of whether they win or lose this game. So that means we would get two Big 5 schools in the dance. What better outcome could I have asked for considering a month ago this ending was nothing but a hoop dream.
So the question remains – who are you rooting for in this all Philly affair, and why?