Atlantic 10 Tournament preview: St. Joe's, La Salle have tough roads

Atlantic 10 Tournament preview: St. Joe's, La Salle have tough roads

Last year, for the second time in three seasons, Saint Joseph's went to Brooklyn and came home with an Atlantic 10 championship.

But as this year's Atlantic 10 Tournament is set to begin, the battered Hawks will be significant underdogs to win another one -- or even a game. And Big 5 rival La Salle will also have its work cut out to make a deep run.

Here's a closer look at both of the league's Big 5 teams heading into the tourney, which has shifted to PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh after four years at the Barclays Center: 

Saint Joseph's

Record: 11-19 overall, 4-14 league

Seed: 13

Opener: 12th-seeded UMass (14-17, 4-4) in first round (Wednesday, 6 p.m., CSN)

Postseason hopes
The Hawks need to win five games in five days or their season is over. 

Looking at St. Joe's
It was always going to be tough sledding for the Hawks after the program lost two stars in DeAndre' Bembry and Isaiah Miles from last year's terrific team. But then things went almost comically awry when four players were lost to season-ending injuries, including the dynamic starting backcourt of Shavar Newkirk and Lamarr "Fresh" Kimble. Without their top guys, St. Joe's lost nine straight before snapping the skid with a 63-60 win over Duquesne in its regular-season finale, riding 19 points apiece from junior swingman James Demery and sophomore guard Chris Clover.

Looking at UMass
The Minutemen finished with the same record in league play as St. Joe's (both finishing a game ahead of last-place Duquesne) and have won just twice in their past 12 games. UMass is led by junior guard Donte Clark, who's averaging 13 points per game and has already eclipsed 1,000 points for his career.

The Minutemen have beaten the Hawks in both matchups this season, winning by five in Amherst and by 11 in Hagan last month behind four threes from Clark in the first three minutes. Overall, the series has been very even with UMass holding a slight 36-34 edge.

Player to watch
Charlie Brown has been a bright spot for the Hawks and was just named to the 2017 Atlantic 10 All-Rookie Team. The freshman forward from Philly is averaging 12.8 points and 5.1 rebounds per game -- both second on the team. And he led the Hawks with 15 points and eight rebounds while shooting 4 for 8 from three-point range in their last game vs. UMass. 

Tourney facts
The 13-seed is the lowest the Hawks have ever had in the Atlantic 10 Tournament. ... This will be the first A-10 tourney meeting between St. Joe's and UMass since 2001. ... St. Joe's head coach Phil Martelli is 28-8 in the Atlantic 10 Tournament, including a 16-5 mark in the team's first game. 

Up next
The winner advances to face fifth-seeded Saint Bonaventure in the second round on Thursday (2:30 p.m.). 

La Salle

Record: 15-14 overall, 9-9 league

Seed: 8

Opener: 9th-seeded Davidson (15-4, 8-10) in second round on Thursday (noon, NBCSN)

Postseason hopes
The Explorers need to win their first-ever A-10 tourney title to get into the Big Dance, but a couple of wins may put them in the conversation for the CBI or the CIT.  

Looking at La Salle
The Explorers were in the picture for a top-four seeding and a coveted double-bye before losing five of their last seven games. La Salle heads into the tourney following a 66-54 win over Fordham behind 19 points from junior transfer B.J. Johnson.

Johnson (17.5 ppg), Jordan Price (15.1 ppg) and Pookie Powell (13.6 ppg) are all among the league's top 20 scorers, but the Explorers rank last in the A-10 in scoring defense, allowing 77.4 points per game.

Looking at Davidson
The Wildcats finished one game back of La Salle in the standings, losing three of their last four games. They feature two of the league's top three leading scorers in senior guard Jack Gibbs (22.0 ppg) and junior forward Peyton Aldridge (20.6 ppg), and they make over nine three-pointers per game -- a league-best. Gibbs and Aldridge are the second-highest scoring duo in the nation.

La Salle beat Davidson in the only matchup this season with Price scoring 29 points in a 91-83 win. 

Player to watch
Davidson appears to be a good matchup for Price. On top of his season-high 29 points vs. Davidson this year, Price had 15 points, seven rebounds and six assists in a loss to the Wildcats last year and 23 against them the year before. What might the senior have in store for his final A-10 tourney?

Tourney facts
Davidson has knocked La Salle out of the last two A-10 tourneys, beating them in last year's second round and in the 2015 quarterfinals. ... Gibbs needs 33 points in the tournament to become the fourth player in Davidson history with 2,000 career points. ... La Salle hasn't been to the A-10 semifinals since 2002, and the Explorers have never been to a tourney final. 

Up next
The winner faces top-seeded Dayton in the quarterfinals on Friday (noon).

Penn State holds off Marquette to reach NIT semifinals

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Penn State holds off Marquette to reach NIT semifinals


MILWAUKEE -- Lamar Stevens tied his career high with 30 points, Tony Carr added 25 and Penn State beat Marquette 85-80 on Tuesday night to advance to the NIT semifinals.

The Nittany Lions (24-13) will face Mississippi State (25-11) at Madison Square Garden in New York on March 27. They advanced to the NIT semis for the first time since winning the 2009 tournament.

Stevens hit three crucial buckets in the final three minutes, including a dunk off an alley-oop pass from Josh Reaves for an eight-point lead with one minute left. The 6-foot-8 Stevens then maneuvered through a couple Marquette players to secure a rebound off Andrew Rowsey's missed 3 with 46 seconds left.

Carr went 5 of 8 from the foul line over the final 30 seconds to give Marquette another chance. Rowsey hit a 3 and a layup to get the Golden Eagles as close as 83-80 with six seconds left before the Golden Eagles ran out of time.

Shep Garner scored 19 points and set two Penn State records, including most 3s in a season (112). Garner's 73 career wins are the most in a four-year span since Penn State joined the Big Ten in 1992-93.

Rowsey, a senior, scored 29 points for Marquette (21-14).

The Golden Eagles had whittled a 14-point deficit early in the second half to 72-68 with 2:39 left on three foul shots by Rowsey. Penn State went nearly three minutes without a bucket and got sloppy with the ball and the sharpshooting Golden Eagles started hitting 3s to get back in the game.

Villanova, Penn with polar opposite NCAA Tournament draws

Villanova, Penn with polar opposite NCAA Tournament draws

No surprises on the Main Line and well, the Quakers have quite the hill to climb to advance.

Villanova on Sunday night was awarded the 1-seed in the East Region and will face the winner of the LIU Brooklyn/Radford game Thursday in Pittsburgh. Tip-off is scheduled for 6:50 p.m. on TNT.

The Wildcats have been a top-two seed since 2014 and it's the second straight year they're a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Villanova was the No. 1 overall seed in last year's tournament.

Penn was named the 16th seed in the Midwest Region and will face the No. 1-seeded Kansas Jayhawks on Thursday at 2 p.m. on TBS in Wichita, Kansas.

Steve Donahue has the Quakers back in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2007 in his third season as Penn's head coach.

The Quakers are 24-8 and this will be their 24th-ever appearance in the tournament.

'Nova survived a scare from Providence on Saturday night to win its second straight Big East title and its third in the past four years.

If the Wildcats beat LIU Brooklyn/Radford, they'll face the winner of the No. 8-seeded Virginia Tech and No. 9 seed Alabama. Purdue is the No. 2 seed in the East.

Also in the East are No. 3 Texas Tech and No. 4 Wichita State.