Entering the conference tournaments, the Big 5 was in danger of being shut out of the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1977. One week later, it sent three schools for the first time since 1999.
The Big 5 ensured its 30-year streak would continue when Temple beat Saint Joseph's for the Atlantic 10 title, and a day later the Hawks and Villanova took two of the final at-large spots in the tournament.
No. 12 Temple will face No. 5 Michigan State on Thursday at 12:30 p.m., No. 12 Villanova heads to Tampa to play No. 5 Clemson Friday night at 9:50 and No. 11 St. Joe's plays No. 6 Oklahoma Friday evening at 7:10.
"When Georgia upset Arkansas in the last game, I was worried for either St. Joe's or Villanova," Temple coach Fran Dunphy said. "I'm very happy that those two programs got in. . I left a message on Phil [Martelli's] machine, and I texted Jay [Wright]. If Phil texted, I would have texted him, but he doesn't."
After a collapse in the championship ended their A-10 tournament run, the Hawks had no idea what was going to happen on Selection Sunday.
The team gathered at Martelli's house, though the coach couldn't bear to watch with his players.
"That was nerve-wracking," Martelli said. "There was no conversation, it reminded me of the locker room last night before the game. Everybody was wound awfully tight. Pat Calathes came in and said, 'Coach, what do you think?' I said 'Pat, I think it's 50-50.'"
"It was crazy - coach's TV was earlier, [so] he's screaming. And we're like, 'What's going on?'" forward Rob Ferguson said. "Then we started screaming."
Martelli said he had never been on the bubble before and was used to hosting a tournament party. Still, he could relate.
"This sounds a little crazy, but in some ways it's like the birth of a child," he said. "You know that there's a child coming, and then all of a sudden it's there."
The Hawks' renaissance could only be eclipsed by Villanova reaching the Tournament.
The Wildcats started the season 10-1, but then lost six of their next eight. They have, however, played well ever since the Holy War, when they got lit up by St. Joe's, losing 77-55.
With junior Dwayne Anderson starting and freshmen such as Corey Stokes playing better, the Wildcats finished the year 7-4, beating West Virginia (a No. 7-seed in the Tournament) and Connecticut (a No. 4) while losing only to teams going dancing.
Temple, on the other hand, didn't need to do any sweating on Sunday.
The Owls' selection party, at the Draught Horse on campus, had a more jovial atmosphere.
And when their name was called, the team leaped from their seats, with senior Mark Tyndale screaming, "Get that film ready!"
"I know a lot of guys who played for Temple throughout the years before I got here, so I'm just so happy that we're here," Tyndale said. "I'm enjoying the moment right now, and if we beat Michigan State, it'll feel a lot better."
Despite beating the Hawks the last two times they played, Temple received a seed lower than St. Joe's.
But that wasn't a concern. After all, Temple hasn't even reached the NCAA Tournament since 2001.
"I wouldn't have cared if they gave us a 13- or 14-seed," A-10 leading scorer Dionte Christmas said. "I think we can match up against anybody in the tournament this year, and I think we are going to do well against Michigan State."Comments powered by Disqus
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