March 6, 2008 4:52 pm ET by Kyle Whelliston
Xavier at Saint Joseph's (Atlantic 10)
Alumni Memorial Fieldhouse - Philadelphia, PA
9:00 PM EST
Xavier (25-4, 13-1) comes into tonight's G!O!T!N! on an 11-game win streak, has an RPI of six, and is the only team in the entire Atlantic 14 that could leave for a 10-day all-expenses-paid vacation to Tahiti and return to find an NCAA Tournament bid in the mail. They're in the national top 30 in every offensive stat, outscore opponents bby an average of 14 points, and feature a defense that gives up only 62 points a game. The worst thing that's happened to the Musketeers in recent weeks is that Stanley Burrell had four straight performances with fewer than 10 points, and now the X has only five double-figure scorers. Boo hoo.
Saint Joe's (17-10, 8-6), on the other hand, has lost five of seven to have its at-large hopes all but evaporate -- they need this game badly to go into Atlantic City with any momentum whatsoever. Only one of those drops was an old-fashioned butt-kicking (that 102-88 defensive meltdown out at Duquesne), and each of the other nine have been wasted opportunities that fell away in the final minutes, including that 76-72 loss at the X last month. It's gotten so bad that local folks are cracking fresh about Phil Martelli petitioning the NCAA to shorten games to 38 minutes. Bad jokes aside, it's a team that's been crafting less satisfying endings than those of Philly native M. Night Shymalan. OK, I'll stop now.
There's one final chapter that SJU won't get wrong, however. It's also a time to say goodbye to one of the great underappreciated arenas in college basketball, Alumni Memorial Fieldhouse, and a special ceremony (featuring Dr. Jack Ramsay and Mike Bantom) will pay tribute to the building at 7:30 pm ET (watch here).
When I lived in Philadelphia, I was three miles away from Hawk Hill. I'd drive up City Avenue to buy a ticket to see the Hawks play, and nearly every time, I'd drive back home grumbling to myself five minutes later. The place was always sold out. Once I was able to, I got in via ticket or credential as often as I could. The Fieldhouse had elements my Palestra couldn't match: shoulder-to-shoulder intimacy, closeness to the court from any seat. And, of course, those white walls and beams, those pendulous dome lights hanging down, and that tiny red scoreboard that looked like a floating first-aid kit above the court. I'm just sorry I didn't get to more games there.
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