St. Joseph’s Solidifying Its Position as NCAA Tournament Worthy

Posted by Chris Stone on February 11th, 2016

The college basketball season is quickly approaching that time of year when mock brackets pop up daily, resumes are scrutinized intensely, and every win matters just a bit more. But don’t tell St. Joseph’s head coach Phil Martelli any of that. When asked after the Hawks’ dominating 84-66 win over a good George Washington team if he’d thought about his team’s position relative to the upcoming NCAA Tournament field, Martelli’s response was sharp and simple, “Nope.” He followed up with a few more nopes before proclaiming, “We have practice tomorrow.” And yet, it’s difficult to ignore just how much his team helped its NCAA Tournament chances on Wednesday night.

Isaiah Miles slams home two of his 21 points against George Washington. (USATI)

Isaiah Miles slams home two of his 21 points against George Washington. (USATI)

Despite holding a 20-4 record (9-2 in the A-10), the victory, which Martelli called “a very poised effort,” is St. Joseph’s first RPI top 50 win of the season. Entering the contest, the Hawks’ best win had been against a Princeton team that currently trails Yale for first place in the Ivy League. St. Joe’s had been 3-4 against the RPI top 100, but 0-4 against the top 50 with losses to Florida, St. Bonaventure, VCU and Villanova. The win over George Washington gives the team a quality win that it can rely on come Selection Sunday. Senior Isaiah Miles touted the triumph as the team’s best road win, an impressive feat given that St. Joe’s schedule is littered with them. The Hawks are undefeated away from home this season, something Martelli hopes will resonate in March. “I’m hanging my hat on [the fact that] we’re undefeated on the road and that is an unbelievable achievement in today’s college basketball,” he told the media.

Should the Hawks eventually make it into the field of 68, they won’t be an easy out. Miles, a 6’7″ forward, regularly plays the four and five spots, and his ability to shoot from behind the arc (39.8 percent this season) makes St. Joe’s difficult to guard. In addition to Miles, the Hawks also feature 6’6″ point forward Deandre’ Bembry, a potential pick in this June’s NBA Draft. Bembry is a slasher who can get into the lane against nearly any defender in college hoops, and he’s a capable finisher once there. But it is his ability to distribute the basketball that makes him a special player — the junior has assisted on approximately 25 percent of St. Joe’s makes while on the floor this season. With a combination as talented as Miles and Bembry, the Hawks will be a dangerous matchup no matter which teams they face in March.

St. Joe’s focus will shift its focus now toward a pair of winnable home games. First, the Hawks will welcome La Salle to Hagan Arena on Saturday, and Miles says they won’t take the Explorers lightly. Next, Dayton, at 20-3 (10-1) the only Atlantic 10 team currently ranked in the AP Poll, will travel to Philadelphia on Wednesday for a battle between top-tier teams. Get that win and St. Joseph’s can start to dream about second weekend trips to somewhere exotic like Louisville or Anaheim. The Hawks are certainly good enough to get there.

Chris Stone (136 Posts)

Chris Stone is a contributor to the Big 12 microsite. You can find him on Twitter @cstonehoops.

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