For a while there I wondered how I was going to reconcile an internal conflict that was developing, how I was going to flip the switch from rooting for St. Joe’s last night to burn them until they’re dead on Saturday. Unfortunately, Phil Martelli and his inability to orchestrate even the most basic of plays to put away UCONN cost the Hawks their lead and pretty much any shot of winning in overtime. The fact that they play five players doesn’t help, either. UCONN looked harder, better, faster, stronger down the stretch and in overtime. That was a winnable game for St. Joe’s and they pissed it into the night. It also demonstrated the difference between A-10 teams and major programs– depth. St. Joe’s and their starting five matched up fine with UCONN, but you can’t have a team with NO BENCH PLAYERS and expect to beat a program like UCONN. St. Joe’s didn’t get a point from a non-starter. Not a single fucking point. I’m sure Neil Hartman is disappointed that there will be no Hanging with the Hawks brought to you by some shitty local business segment this year.
I was never really worried when they were down in the first half and only up four at halftime. They didn’t make a three-pointer until midway through the second half, and they were still winning. Their defense looked quite good. [They were down 10 at halftime to American in the opening round in 2009 and went to the Final Four.] That said, they absolutely can not come out of the gate like that again. Their season will be over the next time they do. All year they took it to lesser opponents, but in the last two games they played down to their level for way too long. I don’t think getting up for UCONN (who looked disinterested for a while last night) will be a problem, and obviously anything after that is a huge game. Villanova will never stop shooting. Make or miss– their motto is shoot ‘em up, sleep in the streets (that’s actually their motto). That’s what Jay tells his kids– keep shooting. It’ll take them as far as they can go. If they’re making shots, coupled with their defense, they’re good enough to win the National Championship. Seriously. The problem is all it takes is one off shooting night to send them home quietly. They’re more well-rounded than other teams Jay’s had, but they still rely on the three. They should beat UCONN. They should beat them by a lot. But they should’ve beat Seton Hall by a lot and they should’ve crushed Milwaukee. I’m nervous.
Villanova-UCONN starts at 9:40 p.m. on Saturday.