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The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Thursday, March 14, 6:30 p.m. (et).
FACTS & STATS: Site: Barclays Center (17,732) -- Brooklyn, New York. Television: NBCSN. Home Record: SJU 11-3, XU 11-4. Away Record: SJU 5-8, XU 4-7. Neutral Record: SJU 1-1, XU 2-2. Conference Record: SJU 8-8, XU 9-7. Series Record: XU leads, 17-12.
GAME NOTES: The seventh-seeded Xavier Musketeers and No. 10 seed Saint Joseph's Hawks will square off in first-round action of the Atlantic 10 Tournament at the Barclays Center.
Awaiting the winner is No. 2 seed VCU in Friday's quarterfinal round.
Phil Martelli's Hawks (17-12, 8-8) were the preseason favorites to win the A-10 but struggled to an 8-8 league record. Saint Joseph's notched victories over Notre Dame, Harvard, Iona, Xavier and Temple, but also fell to teams it was clearly better than in Fairfield and St. Bonaventure.
The Musketeers (17-13, 9-7) traded wins and losses over their final eight games, the most recent of which was a 67-62 loss at Butler over the weekend. Xavier notched a win over the Bulldogs earlier in the season and also picked up other notable wins over Robert Morris, Purdue, Temple, La Salle, Memphis and Saint Louis.
Saint Joseph's won the regular-season meeting on its home floor back in January, 59-49. That outcome snapped the Musketeers' four-game winning streak in the head-to-head series, which they still lead, 17-12.
After scoring 80-plus points in consecutive games, the Hawks were held to 40 points in a regular season-ending loss at Charlotte. They shot just 29.2 percent from the floor and 13.6 percent from the perimeter in that game, as it marked their lowest point total in a game since a 56-39 loss at Villanova on Feb. 6, 2007. Four players are averaging double figures for SJU this season, led by Carl Jones with 14.1 ppg and Langston Galloway with 13.3 ppg. Those two have accounted for 60 percent of the team's 3-pointers on the year. Ronald Roberts (11.6 ppg, 8.5 rpg) and C.J. Aiken (10.9 ppg, 5.6 rpg) are more active near the rim. Aiken was the 2012 Defensive Player of the Year, but did not make the first-team this season, despite blocking 2.8 shots per tilt.
Semaj Christon paces Xavier in scoring this season with 15.2 ppg, which is tops among A-10 freshmen. He has been named the conference's Rookie of the Year to mark the first time in history a Musketeer has ever won the honor, and he also enters the postseason just five assists away from setting the school record for a freshman. Travis Taylor (11.8 ppg) is the league's top rebounder with 9.0 rpg, and he is averaging 10.3 boards in league play. Taylor was named the 2012-13 A-10 Most Improved Player. As a team, the Musketeers are second in the A-10 in field-goal percentage defense (.405) and they are second in rebounding margin (+5.0), having out-rebounded 18 of their last 20 opponents.
Neither of these squads quite lived up to expectations, but that can certainly change with a deep postseason run. The Hawks will need to rediscover their scoring touch if they hope to make such a run, while the Musketeers must find a way to string together back-to-back wins for the first time in more than a month.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Saint Joseph's 74, Xavier 70
03/14 10:34:28 ET