They say it’s better to be lucky than good; St. Joseph’s was both in the final seconds of their A-10 tournament first round game against Xavier. First, down one with the ball, the Hawks’ Langston Galloway drove to the hoop and drew the foul with 1.4 seconds left. Galloway sunk the first free throw before Xavier used a timeout to ice the shooter. But Galloway had ice in his veins and calmly swished the second to give the Hawks a 58-57. Then, on the ensuing in-bounds pass, Xavier threw the ball the length of the court only to have the ball ricochet off the backboard. The ball bounced directly to the Musketeers’ Isaiah Philmore for a wide open lay-in but the shot rimmed out. A wonderful turn of fortune for the Hawks but I’m sure that shot will haunt Philmore for the rest of his life.
The key for the Hawks was a 12-0 run midway through the second half, to turn an eight-point deficit into a four-point lead. Halil Kanacevic was huge for St. Joe’s during that stretch, recording 7 points and an assist. Kanacevic finished with 11 points, 7 rebounds, and 6 assists, while Galloway led the Hawks with 14 points. With the victory, St. Joseph’s keeps its NCAA tournament dreams alive for another day, as they’ll take on VCU tonight (see below).
After playing the night before in their win against St. John’s, it seemed Villanova did not have enough left in the tank to beat a team of Louisville’s caliber, falling 74-55. The Wildcats did not have their legs under them on their outside shooting, missing 10 of their 12 three-point attempts. Villanova also did a terrible job securing the basketball, turning the ball over 24 times. You cannot beat any team turning the ball over that many times, let alone an elite team like the Cardinals. One guy who did come to play for the Wildcats was JayVaughn Pinkston, who scored a team-high 21 points on 8-17 shooting. For Louisville, Russ Smith was too much for the Wildcats to contain, dropping a game-high 28 points. Smith’s elite ability to get to the free throw line was on full display, as he sunk 10-11 on the evening.
There is no shame in losing to one of the best teams in the country when you had to play the night before. Despite this loss, Villanova has built a strong tournament resume and should certainly expect to hear its name called by the selection committee on Sunday.
2:30 PM: La Salle (21-8. 11-5 A-10) vs. Butler (25-7, 11-5 A-10) [Quarterfinals, A-10 Tourn.]
The Explorers open their 2013 A-10 Tournament journey against the Butler Bulldogs, fresh off their victory against Dayton in the first round yesterday. La Salle is currently listed as one of the last four teams in the NCAA field; another win against a highly-regarded Butler squad would be a huge boost to their tournament hopes. In the teams’ lone meeting this season back in January, La Salle prevailed in dramatic fashion, winning 54-53 on a Ramon Galloway shot with under three seconds remaining.
Butler had entered that game ranked 9th in the country and riding a 13-game winning streak. The Bulldogs have struggled a bit since then, having lost an additional 4 games and dropping out of the rankings entirely. The Bulldogs are led by senior guard Rotnei Clarke, who leads the team at 16.7 ppg. The Arkansas transfer is the main threat for Butler from the outside, accounting for over 50% of the team’s made three point shots this season. As a team, Butler has a solid profile but may be a bit overrated as this season’s team is among the 10 luckiest teams in the nation in regard to record versus point differential.
Certainly, Butler is a dangerous team capable of taking down any opponent in a given night. Brad Stevens is an excellent coach and his tournament resume speaks for itself. However, this Bulldogs’ team does not quite have the talent the program has possessed in past years. If the Explorers play up to their capabilities, there is no reason they can’t send Butler home unhappy for the second time this season.
6:30 PM: St. Joseph’s (18-12, 8-8 A-10) @ VCU (24-7, 12-4 A-10) [Quarterfinals, A-10 Tourn.]
After escaping their first-round game against Xavier by the skin of their teeth, the Hawks take the court once again to face a rested VCU squad. When the two teams met in Richmond in January, the Hawks forced overtime before falling to the Rams, 92-86. The Hawks shot the ball extremely well in that contest at 52,3%; however, VCU’s signature full court pressure gave St. Joseph’s a ton of problems, as they committed 19 turnovers as opposed to only 5 for the Rams. The Hawks are among the slowest-paced teams in the nation, playing the game at VCU’s speed is not playing to their strength. Unfortunately, the Rams excel at speeding up their opponents and it will be a tough task for the Hawks to play the game at their desired tempo.
The Rams lost last Sunday at Temple, in what was an extremely difficult road environment on the Owls’ Senior Day. However, VCU had won 8 of 9 games before traveling to Temple and are likely to have a bounce-back game. Given the poor match-up in terms of style and the talent and depth of the VCU roster, I believe the Hawks’ postseason run will end here. However, Phil Martelli is one of the great minds in college basketball so we’ll have to see what he has in store.
9:00 PM: Temple (23-8, 11-5 A-10) vs. Massachusetts ([Quarterfinals, A-10 Tourn.]
Temple enters its quarterfinal contest against UMass riding a season-high 7-game winning streak and featuring the A-10 Player of the Year, after Khalif Wyatt received the honor two days ago. The Owls played one of their best games of the season Sunday in their victory over VCU and will look to avoid a let-down against a Minutemen team they squeaked past last month on the road, 83-82. Wyatt scored 24 points in that game behind 6-11 shooting from behind the arc. Freddie Riley was the main outside threat for Massachusetts, hitting 5-9 threes on his way to a team-high 17 points. However, the keys to the Minutemen offense were in the hands of junior Chaz Williams, who recorded 16 points and 13 assists. Williams has been the driving force for UMass all season, leading the team at 15.4 ppg and 7.6 apg (good for 5th in the nation).
Like the Owl’s last opponent VCU, the Minutemen look to speed up the game, playing at a top-20 pace. That tempo should suit Temple and its talented group of guards just fine, especially after preparing for the Rams in their last contest. Rotate Cummings and DiLeo on Chaz Williams and constantly dog him off the ball defensively. Although UMass is no pushover, with the way the Owls are playing of late, I would be surprised if they did not advance to the semifinal round to play the winner of VCU and St. Joe’s.