Monday , Mar , 15 , 2004 C.Y. Ellis

Saint Joseph’s earns top seed in East — Rutherford

=== Saint Joseph’s earns top seed in East — Rutherford ===

By Jim Gillis, TSN Managing Editor

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) – Despite a meltdown in the Atlantic 10
Tournament after a perfect regular season, Saint Joseph’s still earned a top
seed in the NCAA Tournament.

The Hawks (27-1) won their first 27 games of the season and attained the No. 1
ranking in the country last week, but an 87-67 loss to Xavier in the Atlantic
10 quarterfinals put an end to their dreams of an undefeated season.

The body of work in the regular season and possibly some losses by other teams
in conference tournament play were good enough to earn Saint Joseph’s a No. 1
seed for the first time in school history.

The Hawks are the top seed in the East Rutherford region, formerly known as
the East Region, and will open play Thursday in Buffalo against Big South
champion Liberty (18-14).

“The talk is done,” Saint Joseph’s head coach Phil Martelli said. “The talk is
cheap. It’s time to start playing. We’ll be ready to play Thursday.”

Should Saint Joseph’s win against Liberty, and no No. 1 seed has ever lost to
a 16 seed, the Hawks would face the winner of the eight-nine matchup between
Texas Tech (22-10) and Charlotte (21-8).

Thursday’s East Rutherford region games in Raleigh, North Carolina will
feature fourth-seeded Wake Forest (19-9) against Colonial champion Virginia
Commonwealth (23-7) and fifth-seeded Florida (20-10) against MAAC champion
Manhattan (24-5).

On Friday in Kansas City, second-seeded Oklahoma State will take on Big Sky
winner Eastern Washington (17-12) and seventh-seeded Memphis will meet South
Carolina (23-10).

Friday’s East Rutherford region games in Milwaukee will see sixth-seeded
Wisconsin (24-6), the Big Ten tourney champs, playing near home against
Richmond (20-12) and third-seeded Pittsburgh (29-4) against Atlantic Sun
champion Central Florida (25-5).

Pittsburgh, beaten in a close Big East Tournament final by Connecticut,
probably deserved better than a three seed. The reward for the Panthers, a
trip to Milwaukee and a possible second-round encounter with Wisconsin in a
hostile environment.

Oklahoma State also could have been a No. 1 seed, but the Cowboys’ victory
over Texas in the Big 12 Tournament final came a little late for the selection
committee.

Wake Forest, meanwhile, played in the toughest conference in the country – the
ACC — and is battle-tested.

Look for a potential upset from 12-seed Manhattan against Florida. The Jaspers
gave eventual national champion Syracuse all it could handle in a first-round
game in last year’s tournament.

St. Joe’s and Wake Forest will probably make it to East Rutherford and
Wisconsin’s home court advantage may be enough to move past Pittsburgh, but
when all is said and done in the East, Oklahoma State will likely be cutting
the nets down and heading to San Antonio.