Atlantic 10 Tournament: Saint Joseph’s goes from bubble to champion with win over VCU

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It’s been quite the turn of events the past three days for Saint Joseph’s. The Hawks sat on the bubble as they made their way to Brooklyn. For the third time in three days St. Joe’s prevailed, winning the Atlantic 10 Tournament championship with a 65-61 win over No. 23 VCU.

St. Joe’s (24-9, 11-5 A10) is rolling into the NCAA tournament with some serious momentum, made more notable since earlier in March the Hawks had dropped back-to-back games to George Washington and La Salle. Phil Martelli’s team entered the afternoon as a projected 10-seed in Dave Ommen’s latest edition of Bracketology. The Hawks will likely slide up with a win over a ranked opponent and becoming the A10 champs.

The Hawks have been tested this week in Brooklyn. Dayton, another bubble team, could have ended St. Joe’s run on Friday, but Langston Galloway, who scored  20 of his 31 points in the first half, saved his biggest three points for last, lifting St. Joe’s to a 70-67 quarterfinal win. The next night it was Halil Kanacevic turn to carry the Hawks.

He dropped 26 points and grabbed 17 rebounds in a semifinal win over St. Bonaventure, the eight-seed which knocked off top-ranked Saint Louis the previous afternoon. The only way the Bonnies would earn an NCAA bid is if they ran the table inside the Barclays Center.

No question St. Joe’s will be a tough out in next week’s tournament with its ability to get production out of Galloway on the perimeter and Kanacevic in the paint.

VCU, on the other hand, has lost for the first time in seven games. The Rams were without their top outside shooter Melvin Johnson. Without him, they missed 10 of their first 11 3-point attempts, ending the day 5-of-26 from behind the arc.

Both these teams are projected to be two of six bids for the Atlantic 10 Conference.