Saint Joseph's (18-12) vs. (25) Virginia Commonwealth (24-7)
Friday, March 15, 6:30 p.m. (et)
The Sports Network
By Lucas Gulotta, Associate College Basketball Editor
FACTS & STATS: Site: Barclays Center (17,732) -- Brooklyn, New York. Television: TCN, FSN-OH, MW, CSN. Home Record: SJU 11-3, VCU 15-2. Away Record: SJU 5-8, VCU 8-3. Neutral Record: SJU 2-1, VCU 1-2. Conference Record: SJU 8-8, VCU 12-4. Series Record: Virginia Commonwealth leads, 2-1.
GAME NOTES: After being projected as the preseason favorite to win the league, the Saint Joseph's Hawks find themselves in a must-win scenario as they square off with the 25th-ranked Virginia Commonwealth Rams in the quarterfinals of the Atlantic 10 Conference Tournament.
The winner of this game will take on either the third-seeded Temple Owls or sixth-seeded Massachusetts Minutemen in the semifinals.
Phil Martelli's Hawks had a very disappointing season considering the high expectations associated with them prior to the inaugural tip-off. It was not all bad, as Saint Joseph's notched victories over Notre Dame, Harvard, Iona, Xavier and Temple, but it also fell to teams it was clearly better than in Fairfield and St. Bonaventure. Saint Joseph's barely survived its first round tilt against Xavier on Thursday as Langston Galloway saved the day with a pair of free throws with just over one second remaining.
Galloway finished the night wit a team-best 14 points for the 10th-seeded Hawks, while Carl Jones and Halil Kanacevic both contributed 11 points, the latter also accounting for seven rebounds and six assists before fouling out. Saint Joseph's trailed by eight points in the second stanza before charging back to punch its ticket to the next round. The team revolves around its high- scoring backcourt of Carl Jones (14.1 ppg) and Langston Galloway (13.3 ppg). Those two have accounted for 60 percent of the team's 3- pointers on the year. Ronald Roberts (11.6 ppg, 8.5 rpg) and C.J. Aiken (10.9 ppg, 5.6 rpg) are more active near the rim. Aiken was the 2012 Defensive Player of the Year, but did not make the First-Team this season despite blocking 2.8 shots per tilt.
This will be just the fourth meeting in history between these schools on the hardwood. VCU owns a 2-1 all-time series lead after it barely survived its bout with the Hawks this season with a 92-86 overtime win.
Virginia Commonwealth (24-7, 12-4) managed to clinch the second-seed despite losing to Temple, 84-76, in its regular-season finale. Shaka Smart's Rams play a style defense that applies devastating full-court pressure. They have the highest turnover and steal percentage in the nation, but they rely on forcing turnovers very much. VCU is 24-0 when forcing 15 turnovers or more, but 0-7 when failing to reach that mark. Smart coached VCU to the Colonial Athletic Association Tournament championship last season as he led his squad to the NCAA Tournament for the second consecutive year.
Treveon Graham has been a huge part of the Rams' success this season as he spearheads a list of four double-digit scorers with 15.7 ppg. The second most productive scorer is Juvonte Reddic (14.5 ppg) thanks to his 57.2 percent shooting from the floor. Reddic is also first on the unit with better than eight rebounds per contest. While Reddic maintains a presence in the paint, Troy Daniels (12.2 ppg) is the top 3-point threat, connecting on 3.5 3-point baskets per game at a 40.8 percent clip.
The Hawks are more talented than their record indicates and it is amazing what desperation can yield in a win or go home scenario. Saint Joseph's will need to win out to avoid the NIT, but it is very possible Martelli's squad becomes the first team to ever cut down the nets in the Barclays Center. VCU, which thrives off its opposition's mistakes, can down SJU a second time if it manages to force its magic number of 15 turnovers.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Virginia Commonwealth 68, Saint Joseph's 63
03/15 10:32:19 ET