The700Level

St. Joe's lost the game but won March Madness in so many ways

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St. Joe's lost the game but won March Madness in so many ways

The problem with the NCAA Tournament, sometimes, is we too often remember only the final moments. The incredible buzzer-beaters. The crazy meltdowns. The celebrations and the tears. (And also stuff that doesn’t involve Northern Iowa over the last four days).

So when Saint Joseph’s ride came to a gut-wrenching end Sunday in Spokane, it will be the late turnovers that sealed Oregon’s 69-64 win over the upset-minded Hawks that many people will likely remember for years to come.

And that’s a shame because, despite the tough loss, this very likable St. Joe’s team won March Madness in so many ways. Let’s count them:

1. A star is born noticed

Every hoops fan in Philly may know about DeAndre’ Bembry and his ‘fro but it quickly became apparent that not everyone in the country does, especially when analyst Doug Gottlieb referred to him as the “best player you’ve never heard of.” It was nice to see, then, that the junior swingman was able to shine on the national stage, scoring 23 in the Hawks’ first-round win over Cincinnati and going for 16 points and 12 rebounds vs. Oregon -- this after his 30-point monster game in the Hawks’ Atlantic 10 title-game triumph. He even showed what kind of leader he is for taking the blame for the loss to the top-seeded Ducks because of a late turnover before expressing gratitude and appreciation for the ride. He will be missed on Hawk Hill if he decides to turn pro.

2. A perfect game-winning shot

The Hawks couldn’t have drawn this one up any better. Trailing by one to Cincy in the opening-round 8-9 game, head coach Phil Martelli called a brilliant play out of a timeout to get Isaiah Miles open for a three-pointer that the senior drained. Miles said afterwards that it was the first game-winner he ever hit at any level even though he had been dreaming about it all his life. And it was fitting end to a remarkable senior season in which Miles turned into a bona fide star following three mostly pedestrian seasons.

3. Martelli’s got jokes

When he wasn’t thinking up great plays, Martelli was thinking up interesting responses to reporter’s questions (or their posture). After comparing Cincinnati’s defenders to bouncers at a club, the Hawks’ coach had a little fun with a writer that was, um, too relaxed at the postgame press conference following the win. “You need like a cushion or anything” is definitely going to be the name of my NCAA Tournament bracket next year.

4. “Fresh Kimble” shows the future is bright

His real name is Lamarr but everyone calls him “Fresh.” He certainly helped the Hawks look fresh Sunday night with some clutch shots and great drives in the second half while some of the veterans battled foul trouble. The point guard finished with 11 points off the bench against the Ducks but my favorite moment came when he -- a freshman -- was doing his best to console Bembry coming off the court. That shouldn’t come as much a surprise as he clearly loves the guy. And if Bembry leaves, perhaps he’ll take his mantle as the next St. Joe’s star.

5. Aaron Brown’s last hurrah

Other players came through with some big March moments for the Hawks but it’s hard not to specifically highlight Aaron Brown, who scored in double figures in both NCAA Tournament games. The senior has been through a lot and actually played in the Big Dance back in 2012 while at West Virginia. But that must seem like a lifetime ago. So it was cool to see him bookend his college career with another trip to the NCAA Tournament -- and an impressive one at that.

6. The walk-ons got moves

Do not try these dance moves at home:

7. The return of little Phil

He’s no longer wearing a custom suit, holding a clipboard and mimicking the coach like he did two years ago but Martelli’s cute grandson was stealing camera time again this March -- this time decked out in a full uniform.

8. The alums were all in

Even the ones that are now in the NBA.

9. The Hawk loses his head

Props, as always, to the Hawk. It’s alway fun hearing people marvel (or mock) how it flaps its wings the entire game, especially this time of year. Turns out, there’s a real person inside there too.

 

10. Underdog spirit

It may get overlooked since Oregon isn’t a traditional power but it’s important to keep in mind that a St. Joe’s team that had little to no expectations before the season began not only won the A-10 Tournament and a game in the Big Dance (its 28th of the season) but also went toe-to-toe with a No. 1 seed. And they did so after flying across the entire damn country. And with no true big man. And with their own city probably focusing more on Villanova and Temple than them. This is a team that needs to be remembered for a very long time -- and not just for how the season ended. 

Is the Philadelphia Eagles dog mask movement good or bad?

Is the Philadelphia Eagles dog mask movement good or bad?

I'll admit it. I thought -- maybe still do -- that the dog mask thing was bad.

See, I even tweeted about it for posterity: 

Some people agreed. Others said mean things about my mother. Many purchased dog masks from the Internet. Even more purchased t-shirts with dog masks on them. Television show hosts put on dog masks and filmed television show segments wearing dog masks.

Now, for the record, I don't really care at all about dog masks. So if Lane Johnson or Chris Long wants to wear a dog mask after a win, more power to him. And if an Eagles fan wants to act like a Cleveland Browns fan and wear a dog mask to a game, that's their own decision. I am not going to judge.

And then today I saw a dog mask on a billboard and I kind of liked it.  So I don't know. I am left still wondering: are dog masks good? Or are dog masks bad?

This billboard is near Pottstown, according to Reddit. There's a dog mask on it.

If the Eagles win on Sunday against the Vikings dog masks are great and if the Eagles lose dog masks are very bad. That's my take on dog masks.

Eagles are right. Nobody respects this defense, and nobody ever has

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USA Today

Eagles are right. Nobody respects this defense, and nobody ever has

“Nobody respected us as a defense. Gimme some respect right now...I’ll tell you what. I wanted to set a tone. We wanted to set a tone as a D. It’s not just me, it’s dem Defense, it’s my line, it’s Burgess, it’s Kearse, it’s all them Boys, Trott. We came and we brought it every doggone play.”

Those are the words of Mr. Brian Patrick Dawkins just moments after the last Philadelphia Eagles home NFC Championship Game. For those who are too young to remember, or perhaps have forgotten due to fits of hysteria because Andy Reid didn’t know how to run a two-minute drill a couple weeks later, the Eagles and their fans spent the week leading up to that game listening to a lot of national media telling us just how great some fella named Mike Vick was.

The commonly-held belief was that Vick and the Atlanta offense was going to come into The Linc and run circles around an Iggles defense that, many had forgotten, had been Super Bowl quality the entire 2004 season.

And here we are, nearly a decade and a half later, and history appears ready to repeat itself.

Sure, the characters have changed, but the theme remains the same; this Eagles defense, which has been number one against the run all season long, which is allowing just 13 PPG at home this year, and which just held the reigning MVP Matt Ryan and football’s best wide receiver Julio Jones to a paltry 10 points (all of which were aided by turnovers on the offensive side, mind you).... That defense is being told they are the underdogs (again), that their season will end on Sunday, and that they have not done enough to earn the respect of the national media.

And hey, this didn’t just start this week. Go back to Los Angeles on December 10th, when Wentz went down. All of a sudden, the Eagles were guaranteed to be a one-and-done come the postseason, even as the D clearly lifted the Birds to victory that Sunday against the ‘high-flying’ Rams offense. Sure, the assumption that the Iggles were done had more to do with Nick Foles than anything else, but it also tied back to the reality that as a whole, nobody outside of Philly saw this defense as Super Bowl quality.

Ask Brian Dawkins how he felt when Terrell Owens went down in 2004 and people started counting the Birds for dead.

But hey, for this defense, disrespect comes with the territory. This is a D built with rejects, cast-offs, and the underappreciated. They are led by a defensive coordinator, Jim Schwartz, who has been told by both the Detroit Lions and the Buffalo Bills that he wasn’t good enough to work for them. Not exactly the most prestigious of franchises to be fired from, like being told you weren’t good enough of an actor to be on “Jersey Shore.”

Then there’s Malcolm Jenkins, Rodney McLeod, Ronald Darby, Tim Jernigan, and Nigel Bradham: all guys spurned by the teams that drafted them, yet all starting and contributing in a major fashion to the success of the best defense in the NFL.

There’s Jalen Mills, the 7th-round pick most people wanted to drive to the airport last season, who inserted himself into Philadelphia Eagles lore by knocking Julio Jones to the ground last Saturday.

There’s Mychal Kendricks, who has spent so much time on the trading block, he’d be better off buying, and who’s snap counts have been less consistent than the President’s twitter feed.

There’s Vinny Curry, who had to fight for playing time for the team he grew up rooting for.

There’s Beau Allen, another 7th-round pick who has already had a tenure longer than Bennie Logan, a guy at the same position drafted four-rounds earlier.

There’s Dannell Ellerbe, an undrafted linebacker turned Super Bowl champion who was out of the league just a few weeks ago, now starting in the middle for the NFC East Champs.

There’s Patrick Robinson; a former first-round bust who the Eagles nearly cut in training camp, and yet reinvented himself as one of the top slot corners in the league and has led this D in interceptions.

There’s Chris Long, the dog-mask-wearer himself, a former second-overall pick who had to be picked off the NFL free agency scrap heap this summer, showing he can still produce at age 32.

Even arguably their best player, Fletcher Cox, had to watch as a nose tackle was valued, and drafted, right before him back in 2012.

And I write ‘arguably’ next to Cox because I, for one, am done underappreciating and devaluing the contributions and play of Brandon Graham. There’s no one in recent Philadelphia sports history that has been more disrespected than he. Drafted by Andy Reid at a spot most experts considered a reach, the guy many Birds fans knew as “Not Earl Thomas” was nearly traded by Chip Kelly. He’s come back from an ACL injury, he’s switched from defensive end to linebacker to defensive end again, and he now leads a team one win away from the Super Bowl in sacks and tackles for a loss. And BTW, he had as many tackles-for-a-loss this season as Aaron Donald, and more than guys like Demarcus Lawrence, Khalil Mack, and Bobby Wagner.

From "overreach" to "first round bust" to “trade bait,” and now arguably the best player on what could potentially be a Super Bowl defense. And yet still not getting the respect he deserves.

Is there anything more Philly than that?