Saint Joseph's currently NCAA Tournament-worthy

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St. Joe's James Demery (right) tries to block a shot by UMass' Trey Davis.

MY TOP four NCAA Tournament seeds if the selections were today.

East: North Carolina

South: Oklahoma

Midwest: Iowa

West: Villanova

Each tournament selection committee is different, but if there is one common denominator among members through the years, it would be the value of road wins. After all, teams do not play NCAA Tournament games on regular home courts.

If the selections were today, Saint Joseph's almost certainly would be in the field because, after winning Saturday at Rhode Island, 64-55, the Hawks (18-3, 7-1 Atlantic 10) are 6-0 on the road. And this one was not as close as the final score. SJU led the last 36 minutes, 30-19 at the break and 48-28 with 13 minutes left.

St. Joe's was successful early this season because of its dramatically increased offensive production. Lately, this team has been winning with the best SJU defense in a decade and, by the numbers, one of the nation's elite defenses.

After holding URI (12-9, 4-4) to just 6-for-32 (18.8 percent) shooting in the first half and 20-for-63 (31.7 percent) for the game, the Hawks are now 23rd nationally in defensive efficiency. The Rams got just 0.76 points per possession.

You really should not be able to cruise in games where you shoot 1-for-15 from the arc, but the Hawks' defense and the usual production from DeAndré Bembry (15 points, 10 rebounds) and Zeke Miles (17 points, eight rebounds) got them on the bus with a still perfect road record.

At some point, the Hawks, just 9-for-51 from three in their last three games, had best start making some shots, but for now the defense, two of the best players in the league and the continuing disparity in free throws makes is enough. SJU made 23 free throws to just 11 for URI. On the season, the Hawks are outscoring teams from the foul line by 129 points.

Offensive show at Brown

Penn's Steve Donahue and Brown's Mike Martin, the former Penn assistant, know how to design offense. Their teams showed it in Providence.

They combined to shoot 24-for-47 from three in an 89-83 Brown win. Penn (6-11, 0-3 Ivy) got an astounding 1.28 points per possession, but Brown was even better with 1.37.

The teams were incredibly efficient (17 combined turnovers vs. 32 assists). Brown (6-12, 1-3) won because it got to the foul line more often and hit a higher percentage (20 of 27 vs. 10 of 18).

Quakers freshman Max Rothschild, a 6-8 forward from Chicago, had scored 33 points in 16 games. With senior big man Darien Nelson-Henry, who severely sprained an ankle in practice last Monday, only able to play 3 minutes at Yale on Friday and unable to play against Brown, Rothschild got major run off the bench and scored 18 points.

Yes, Steven Spieth, who scored 19 points for Brown, is the younger brother of golf star Jordan Spieth.

Tavon Allen scores 33, but Drexel loses

If one 10-second sequence can sum up a season, it came with 30 seconds left in Drexel's game with Hofstra at the DAC. The Dragons had been in front most of the way and led 47-34 with 13 1/2 minutes left. The lead had disappeared and they trailed, 68-64, but were still alive.

The Dragons took a shot, missed, got the rebound, missed a tip, got the rebound, missed a three, got the rebound and missed a shot, four misses on one possession in a game when Tavon Allen was brilliant with 33 points, but the Dragons missed 50 shots.

And yes, Drexel (3-18, 1-9 CAA) lost again, 70-64. Hofstra (16-6, 8-2) got great finishing runs from its Philly guys, Juan'ya Green and Ameen Tanksley. Drexel got a career game from Allen, had 16 assists, just five turnovers and another loss in an endless season.

La Salle hits wall late at Dayton

La Salle led most of the first half at Dayton and trailed just 46-42 with 8 1/2 minutes left, so how did they lose 59-44? That will happen when you miss 10 straight shots and do not score for 8 minutes down the stretch.

Jordan Price had 17 points, seven rebounds and five assists for La Salle (5-14, 1-7 A-10) but shot just 6-for-19 for a team whose season can't end soon enough. Dayton (18-3, 8-1) crushed La Salle on the glass, 40-23.

There were just 55 possessions in the game. That was about 15 too many for the Explorers, who would be working on a 14-game losing streak if they had not been the only league team to beat the Flyers back on Jan. 9.


jerardd@phillynews.com

On Twitter: @DickJerardi

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