The Huskies may have their own hard-luck story -- NCAA sanctions kept them out of the postseason last year, now they're back -- but St. Joseph's, their opponent Thursday in the opening round of the Big Dance, has also overcome a lot to get to this point. And it starts with seniors Langston Galloway, Daryus Quarles, Halil Kanacevic, Colin Kelly and Ronald Roberts Jr.
"These guys have been driven since last May to leave a mark," St. Joseph's coach Phil Martelli said on a conference call (via the Hartford Courant. "They've been kicked around, whether it was a decision I made about a transfer a couple of years ago, they were collateral damage. They were picked to win the A-10 title and they finished seventh, 'what's wrong with this player? … what's wrong with the coach?' They know it, they heard it, they lived it. They just joined forces and said, 'we're not going to go out that way.'"
The Hawks finished the regular season 24-9 and winners of the Atlantic 10 tournament. And now they're in the NCAAs for the first time since 2008.
"They are so full of joy," Martelli continued. "It's interesting because they have done that all year. They win a game and you walk into the locker room and the first thing you see isn't everybody on their phone, texting, checking their Facebook or Twitter, they just enjoy spending time together. I have thanked them on a number of occasions for their joy."
And on Thursday at 6:55 p.m. ET in Buffalo, St. Joseph's, a tenth seed, will take on No. 7 UConn.
"Normally, we like to get to about 72 points and see where we are defensively," Martelli said. "You look at UConn, a team that's giving up 38 percent on field goals, I have grave concerns about our ability to score. … A team that practices in an arena where they hang national championship banners, hunger, motivation, even nervousness [won't be a factor]. They spent three months playing Cincinnati, Louisville, Memphis, Harvard – they're prepared for this moment."