Hawks wary of last-place Rams

Want to get Phil Martelli really steamed?

Try telling him that this will be an easy week, against two of the Atlantic-10 lower-tier teams, albeit on the road.

The Hawks (16-10, 6-5) visit Rhode Island (5-21, 2-9) on Wednesday and George Washington (9-16, 4-7) on Saturday.

Actually both Rhode Island and GW have a lot to play for. The A-10 Tournament will consist of  the top 12 teams in this 14-team conference.

Currently, Rhode Island is 14th. (Fordham is 13th with a 2-8 mark).

GW, meanwhile is tied for 11th.

So both teams are competing for their playoff lives.

Actually, so is St. Joseph’s.

It’s really important to get one of the top eight seeds. The top four receive byes and the next four earn home court in the first round of the conference tournament.

“Their (Rhode Island’s) back is against the wall so is our back to the wall,” Martelli said. “There is a game to be had and the only thing acceptable is a win.”

And not surprisingly, both teams feel this way.

So despite the fact that Rhode Island is almost fighting off elimination, Martelli doesn’t buy the fact that the Rams have more to play for than the Hawks. Nor does Rhode Island have any reason to show more intensity than St. Joseph’s.

“I think the most overused term in basketball is they play hard,” Martelli said about any team in general. “If you get a scholarship, you are supposed to play hard and whatever the circumstances are, it doesn’t impact the way we prepare.”

Then Martelli made another point.

 “They are 2-3 in their last five and we are 3-2,” he said. “There is not much separation.”

That is true, but Rhode Island is riding a three-game losing streak, having dropped games to Temple, Xavier and Charlotte.

St. Joseph’s is coming off an impressive 73-62 win over visiting Massachusetts.

Still, the St. Joseph’s coach has another fact that should put his team in its place.

He mentioned that Rhode Island also beat UMASS.

That would be an 81-78 home overtime win.

So whether the Hawks win or lose on Wednesday, it won’t be due to overconfidence.

As for Saturday?

The Hawks and every other team is in that one-game-at-time mode.

Martelli will worry about George Washington beginning Wednesday evening about 10 p.m. and not a moment sooner.