Monday, March 17, 2008

3 Philly Teams in the NCAA Tourney

This is one of my favorite times of the year. St. Paddy's day, with it's irresponsible binge drinking and rowdy Irish women, always seems to occur at the same time with the NCAA tournament. Not to be underestimated is the anticipation that comes with the winding day of Spring training and having MLB Opening day right around the corner (2 more weeks!).

A nice little gift that the sporting gods have given Philadelphia is that 3 teams from the Philadelphia area have made the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1999.

Each of Temple, St. Joe's, and Villanova made it to the NCAA Tournament as a result of their work in their recent conference tournaments.

Temple, sort of the long shot in the group, got their bid the hard way. Temple defeated St. Joe's in the finals of the Atlantic 10 tournament on Saturday night by a score of 69-64 in one of those games that will probably enter Philadelphia college basketball folklore for the magnitude of the game between two long time local rivals. Before this game, St. Joe's and Temple had never met for the A-10 title before.

St. Joe's was up at half-time, and then Temple seemed to simply blow past the Hawks behind junior guard Dionte Christmas. Christmas had 22 points on 8 of 14 shooting, which was in direct contrast to the struggles of Hawks' swingman Pat Calathes, who never seemed comfortable in posting his 14 points. Calathes, usually an excellent outside with a 40% average from 3-point land, hoisted up 10 3's making only 2.

As a result of the win, Temple got the automatic bid for the Atlantic 10 conference. That left St. Joe's at the mercy of the NCAA selection committee, which saw fit to admit St. Joe's as an 11 seed in the Eastern bracket (ironically, higher than the Owls, who drew a 12 seed in the Southern bracket).

The team that turned the dancing duo into a traipsing threesome (no McGreevey jokes, please) was the Villanova Wildcats. Some thought the 'Cats would be in as long as they won their first round game in the Big East tournament against Syracuse, which they managed to do easily. They eventually got thumped by Georgetown in the Big East tournament and had to sit and wait for the NCAA selection committee, just like the Hawks. Their prayers were answered in the form of a 12th seeding in the Midwest bracket of the tournament.

The first round matchups for the teams are as follows:

Thursday 12:30pm: Temple (12) vs. Michigan State (5)
Friday 7:10pm: St. Joe's (11) vs. Oklahoma (6)
Friday 9:50pm: Villanova (12) vs. Clemson (5)

Quick Asides

- Can't believe the Sixers beat the Spurs on the heels of taking out Detroit. Wow. Just. WOW.

- After yesterday's 7 - 1 drubbing at the hand of the Pens, John Stevens better update his resume as I think if the Flyers miss the playoffs, he is likely going to be fired.

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