March 21, 2008
BIRMINGHAM, ALA. - Saint Joseph's makes it return to the NCAA Tournament on Friday evening when it meets Oklahoma in the NCAA First Round at the Birmingham Jefferson Civic Center. Game time is 7:10 p.m. EST (6:10 p.m. local).
The game will be televised by CBS with Verne Lundquist and Bill Raftery calling the action. The SJU radio team of Tom McCarthy and Joe Lunardi will broadcast the game on WNTP (990 AM). Westwood One radio will also carry the game.
The winner of this game plays the winner of Louisville-Boise State on Sunday afternoon.
GAME NOTES: This is Saint Joseph's first NCAA appearance since 2004, with its last win coming against Wake Forest in the East Regional Semifinals. It is the fifth appearance for the Hawks under Phil Martelli, who owns a 6-4 record in NCAA Tournament play. Pat Calathes tops the Hawks in scoring (17.8 ppg) and rebounding (7.6) and is second assists (2.7). Ahmad Nivins ranks fifth in the nation in field goal percentage at 64.5 percent. He's also the Hawks' career leader at 63.3 percent. This is the sixth time the Hawks have won at least 20 games under Phil Martelli and the first time it's happened since 2004-05 (24-12).
PHIL AND THE POST-SEASON: Saint Joseph's has earned its ninth post-season bid in Phil Martelli's 13 years. The Hawks missed the post-season in 2007, ending a streak of five consecutive seasons. Martelli has now guided SJU to five NCAA berths and four in the NIT. During this time, the Hawks have reached the NCAA Elite Eight in 2004 and the Sweet 16 in 1997, while advancing to the NIT Championship game twice (1996, 2005). He owns 17 post-season victories, the most of any SJU coach, including Hall of Famer Dr. Jack Ramsay (12).
MARTELLI IN MARCH: This is the time of year when Phil Martelli's teams are generally at their best, exemplified by some strong runs into the postseason. In the last five years, the Hawks are 23-11 in the month of March. A year-by-year breakdown follows: 2003-04: 4-2 2004-05: 9-2 2005-06: 5-2 2006-07: 1-2 2007-08: 4-3
PLAYING THE FIELD: Saint Joseph's enters the 2008 NCAA Tournament with a 5-4 record against this year's field. The Hawks posted a 2-1 record against Xavier (3rd-seed West), a 1-2 mark against Temple (12th-seed South), a 1-0 mark versus Villanova (12th-seed Midwest) and Siena (13th-seed Midwest) and an 0-1 record against Gonzaga (7th-seed Midwest). Oklahoma is 7-8 against the field.
STATE OF MIND: Oddly enough, the Hawks' last NCAA Tournament opponent was from the same state as the Sooners - it was Oklahoma State, which beat SJU in the 2004 East Regional Final.
A LOOK BACK: SJU's last appearance in the NCAA Tournament was in 2004. After completing a perfect regular season (27-0), the Hawks entered the tournament as a No. 1 seed, earning the program's highest bid. Saint Joseph's opened the play in Buffalo, downing 16th-seeded Liberty 82-63. Facing a tough matchup in Bobby Knight's Texas Tech squad, the Hawks held a five-point lead at the half, and were able to hold keep the same difference throughout the second half as SJU punched its ticket to the East Regional with a 70-65 win. Traveling just two hours to the north, the Hawk faithful packed Continental Airlines Arena to see SJU square off with Wake Forest in the Sweet 16. Despite trailing by one at the half, Saint Joseph's outscored the Demon Deacons down the stretch as senior Jameer Nelson and junior Delonte West combined for 48 points as SJU advanced with an 84-80 win. Just 40 minutes shy of a berth in the Final Four, the Hawks jumped out to a 33-27 halftime lead over Oklahoma State. However, in a frantic final minute, the lead changed hands twice, with Pat Carroll giving SJU a 62-61 edge on a 3-pointer with less than 30 seconds remaining. The Cowboys answered though, as John Lucas nailed a 3- pointer with 6.9 seconds left to give Oklahoma State a 64-62 lead. With the ball in Nelson's hands, the Hawks' hopes fell short as his jumper was off the mark.
THREE FROM THE A-10: This is the first time since 2003-04 that three teams from the Atlantic 10 Conference have reached the NCAA Tournament. That season, Dayton, Xavier, Richmond joined Saint Joseph's in the tourney. The A-10 went 6-4 that season with two teams (SJU, Xavier) advancing to the Elite Eight.
UPSET SPECIAL: The Hawks have posted a 4-3 mark as the lower-seeded team in NCAA Tournament play. The last "upset" for the Hawks was one of the biggest in school history, when ninth-seeded SJU defeated No. 1 seed DePaul in the 1981 NCAA Second Round, 49-48, on a last-second layup by John Smith. The Hawks would go on to defeat Boston College before falling to Indiana in the Regional Final.
STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE: Saint Joseph's has played an additional seven teams that have also earned postseason bids. The Hawks faced NIT participants Dayton (0-1), Charlotte (0-1), Creighton (0-1), Syracuse (0-1), Rhode Island (1-0), Massachusetts (2-0) and CBI participant Richmond (2-0). SJU has a combined 5-4 record against those teams this season.
CITY OF BROTHERLY LOVE: it's the first time since 2001 that three Philadelphia schools (SJU, Temple, Villanova) have reached the NCAA Tournament in the same year. In 2001, Temple, Penn and Villanova represented the city.