St. Joseph’s downed No. 15 Dayton, 79-70, on Wednesday to improve to 22-4 (11-2) on the season, while the Flyers fell to 21-4 (11-2).
That’s odd. Two teams from the same conference with virtually identical records. Yet one is ranked and one isn’t.
Why is that?
“I think that Dayton has played a magnificent schedule,” St. Joseph’s head coach Phil Martelli told Paul Nanos, who was filling in as host of CBS Sports Radio’s Ferrall on the Bench. “They’re a name that carried over. They have five NCAA wins the last two years. It’s hard to come from nowhere to somewhere. Basically, we had 13 wins last year and we were nowhere. The rankings – and I don’t mean this as coach speak – but it doesn’t mean anything. Our players have to (be) satisfied with what they are accomplishing. We don’t need some outside marker to say you guys are really good. We know we’re good and and we’ve been good since August.”
St. Joe’s limited Dayton to 41.1 percent from the floor and 8-of-31 (25.8 percent) from three-point range. Still, Martelli was mighty impressed with the Flyers, who entered the night having won 14 of 15, including nine straight.
“Dayton can play a long way in the NCAA Tournament,” he said. “Whoever gets called to play them is in for a long, long night. We have to acknowledge the fact that they played without Kendall Pollard, who is a magnificent low-post player for them. They played on the road. They’e coming off emotional games with Duquesne – down 12 with three minutes left and they win – and at Rhode Island, down one with 40 seconds left and they win. So we caught them at the right time. In terms of (the) national (picture), let’s see how this plays out. But in other opportunities to be national – Villanova, Florida – we didn’t answer the bell. Tonight we answered the bell.”
DeAndre Bembry led St. Joe’s with 16 points, 13 rebounds and three assists and didn’t sit out for a second.
“People asked why he played 40 minutes,” Martelli said. “I said, ‘Because the game was only 40 minutes. If it was 45, he would have played 45.’”
St. Joe’s, Dayton and VCU are now in a three-way tie for first place in the A-10 standings. Martelli was asked if the conference is getting the national attention it deserves.
“No, but look, the Power 5 is running everything,” Martelli said. “Because the Power 5 has football, they run everything. Basketball people know what the Atlantic-10 is. Basketball people know. But nationally, you can only know what you watch and what you hear – and what you hear is Power 5, Power 5, Power 5. It is the way it is. The Atlantic-10 has come a long way because we used to fight it. We don’t have to. We just have to be the best basketball-centric league in America, which we certainly are.”
Martelli now has 397 wins in his career – just three shy of 400.
“I didn’t know that,” said Martelli, who has been on staff St. Joe’s since 1985 and became head coach in 1995. “I knew that I started the year (close to that milestone) and if we had a big year, I was in range. I didn’t know it was three. Just like I don’t look at March and what people say about what could happen in March, I only have the energy for 24 hours a day to give my players every chance to win. That’s all I can do. I appreciate you mentioning it. It’s not going to change how I go about my business tomorrow or over the next two weeks. It would be nice to get. I’ll be honest with you: I’ll be disappointed if I don’t get it because that would mean we couldn’t go 3-2 in the last five games.”
St. Joe’s plays three of its final five games on the road, starting at Davidson (15-9, 7-6) this Saturday at 2 p.m. ET.