By Ed Benkin
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Phil Martelli doesn’t mind if his players pay attention to NCAA Tournament projections. He just wants them to take care of business on the court.
Martelli’s Hawks are flying high as of late, having won 13 out of 16 games. St. Joseph’s recent winning ways has the team projected by many of the “bracketologists” as an NCAA Tournament selection. Martelli doesn’t hide the tourney talk from his players, but knows the Hawks must continue with the “one game at a time” approach that has helped boost their tournament resume.
“They know that all of that information is out there,” said Martelli. “They read it. They live on the Internet. They live on social media. I get it. I don’t have a problem with it, but they’re not going to hear it from me.”
Martelli has the Hawks focused on their next game Wednesday night at Rhode Island. The Rams are four games under .500 and lost to St. Joe’s earlier in the season, but Forward Halil Kanacevic says he and his teammates aren’t overlooking any Atlantic 10 conference opponent.
“The A-10 is such a tough conference,” Kanacevic said. “You look at the teams from top to bottom and it can switch a number of games. Rhode Island has lost a number of games by five points or less.”
The game at Rhode Island is the first of six regular season contests remaining for the Hawks. St. Joseph’s will also take the court for the Atlantic 10 Tournament in March. Forward Ronald Roberts knows a losing streak over the next few weeks will end any NCAA Tournament talk on Hawk Hill.
“I hear the talk,” said Roberts. “It’s great that we’re being talked about, but we have to stay focused. We still have to finish the season strong to get where we want to go.”
Martelli had high praise for the character of his players both on and off the court. He is thrilled for the success the Hawks have enjoyed in recent weeks, but wants them to continue to play at a high level so they can earn the program’s first NCAA Tournament birth in six years.
“I’m delighted,” Martelli said. “But I also am driven. I want more and I know there is more to be had, and that’s why we will hopefully continue to play our best basketball day in and day out leading to the middle of March.”