Of course, teams want to win as many games as possible, but at this stage, the “overall record” for St. Joseph’s is only a concern because the remaining four games are against Atlantic Ten opponents.
If for nothing else but pride, the Hawks would like to have a winning record and despite a recent five-game losing streak that is now within their reach.
Still, even though it would coincide, a bit more important than finishing one or two games over .500, is the climb that St. Joe’s could make in the A-10 standings.
The Hawks’ only chance at the NCAA tournament is the automatic bid that comes with winning the conference tournament at the beginning of March.
If everybody is going to participate, a 14-team league requires some creative scheduling to make a tournament work. Because of that, a higher seed in the A-10 tournament offers some nice advantages.
With their 82-75 victory over Duquesne on Saturday at Hagan Arena, the Hawks made a significant step toward claiming one of those advantages.
Senior guard Shavar Newkirk had 26 points and 10 assists as the Hawks (12-14, 7-7 Atlantic Ten) produced their first three-game winning streak of the season.
By evening their record in the conference, however, fifth place is where the Hawks moved — into a tie with Duquesne (15-12, 7-7), Virginia Commonwealth and Richmond — a game behind fourth-place St. Louis (15-12, 8-6).
That means something.
By finishing in the top 10, the Hawks would avoid an opening-round game when the A-10 Tournament starts on March 7 at Capital One Arena in Washington, D.C.
The Hawks have games with George Mason, at Richmond and conference-leading Rhode Island before finishing the regular season against La Salle in a Big Five game at Hagan.
“To be honest, we end every scouting report with the standings,” Hawks coach Phil Martelli said. “We’ll explain to them what’s going on with our game. I say this is what this game means to us, not now we’re in fifth place or something like that.”
Should St. Joe’s find a way to finish fourth in the standings, it would get a double-bye into the tournament quarterfinals.
That math is not hard to figure out. The odds would be greater that the Hawks could win three games to take the A-10 title than if they have to win four or possibly even five games.
On a night of milestones on Hawk Hill, Taylor Funk set a freshman record for three-pointers with his 72nd. Sophomore guard Nick Robinson had his first career double-double with a career-high 16 points and a career-high 11 rebounds.
With about 4 ½ minutes left, it was a six-point game, but Duquesne coach Keith Dambrot got called for a technical foul.
Funk made both free throws and Pierfrancesco Oliva connected on a three-pointer. After a change of possession, Funk hit his record-breaking trey and St. Joe’s was up by 13 in less than the span of a minute.