Saint Joseph's applauds top seed, seeks revenge

Nelson and Hawks want redemption for lone loss

College Basketball

March 15, 2004|By KNIGHT RIDDER/TRIBUNE

PHILADELPHIA -- Jameer Nelson showed up for the Selection Sunday festivities at Alumni Memorial Fieldhouse yesterday wearing a black cap and a Saint Joseph's jersey with the No. 15 and the name "West" across the back.

"Why not?" the Hawks' smiling All-American senior said of his backcourt mate, Delonte West. "I like the guy. He made me who I am."

As he's done so frequently during the two seasons he has played alongside Nelson, West took the pass and went with it.

"I've raised Jameer since he was a little boy," he said. "Yeah, I noticed him wearing my jersey. That's just how we get down with each other."

On Hawk Hill yesterday, the gloom from the Hawks' 87-67 beating by Xavier in Thursday's Atlantic 10 Conference quarterfinal was finally lifted, replaced by some levity as the Saint Joseph's received a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament for the first time in school history. St. Joe's is the first Big Five team since Temple in 1988 to get a No. 1 seed.

"At 2:30 today when we finished practice, we put Thursday behind us," coach Phil Martelli said. "Now it's time for a celebration."

The Hawks, who went 27-0 and rose to No. 1 in the polls before Xavier ended their perfect run, will face No. 16 seed Liberty (18-14) on Thursday in the first round of the NCAA East Rutherford Regional in Buffalo, N.Y.

If Saint Joseph's wins, the Hawks will face either No. 8 Texas Tech, coached by Bob Knight, or No. 9 Charlotte, which will join the Atlantic 10 Conference in two years.

If the Hawks get out of Buffalo intact, they will move on to East Rutherford, N.J. And if any of Martelli's players dare to look around, they will see Oklahoma State as the No. 2 seed, Pittsburgh as the No. 3 and Wake Forest as the No. 4.

More than likely, though, Xavier -- and not getting dismissed by Billy Packer on the selection show -- made certain the Hawks will pay attention to the task at hand.

"It really didn't matter to me if we were No. 1, 2, 15 or 16," Nelson said. "We just want to play somebody so we can get this nasty taste out of our mouths. That loss still hurts, and we know that if it happens again, we turn in our uniforms."

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