St. Joe's lost the game but won March Madness in so many ways

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St. Joe's lost the game but won March Madness in so many ways

The problem with the NCAA Tournament, sometimes, is we too often remember only the final moments. The incredible buzzer-beaters. The crazy meltdowns. The celebrations and the tears. (And also stuff that doesn’t involve Northern Iowa over the last four days).

So when Saint Joseph’s ride came to a gut-wrenching end Sunday in Spokane, it will be the late turnovers that sealed Oregon’s 69-64 win over the upset-minded Hawks that many people will likely remember for years to come.

And that’s a shame because, despite the tough loss, this very likable St. Joe’s team won March Madness in so many ways. Let’s count them:

1. A star is born noticed

Every hoops fan in Philly may know about DeAndre’ Bembry and his ‘fro but it quickly became apparent that not everyone in the country does, especially when analyst Doug Gottlieb referred to him as the “best player you’ve never heard of.” It was nice to see, then, that the junior swingman was able to shine on the national stage, scoring 23 in the Hawks’ first-round win over Cincinnati and going for 16 points and 12 rebounds vs. Oregon -- this after his 30-point monster game in the Hawks’ Atlantic 10 title-game triumph. He even showed what kind of leader he is for taking the blame for the loss to the top-seeded Ducks because of a late turnover before expressing gratitude and appreciation for the ride. He will be missed on Hawk Hill if he decides to turn pro.

2. A perfect game-winning shot

The Hawks couldn’t have drawn this one up any better. Trailing by one to Cincy in the opening-round 8-9 game, head coach Phil Martelli called a brilliant play out of a timeout to get Isaiah Miles open for a three-pointer that the senior drained. Miles said afterwards that it was the first game-winner he ever hit at any level even though he had been dreaming about it all his life. And it was fitting end to a remarkable senior season in which Miles turned into a bona fide star following three mostly pedestrian seasons.

3. Martelli’s got jokes

When he wasn’t thinking up great plays, Martelli was thinking up interesting responses to reporter’s questions (or their posture). After comparing Cincinnati’s defenders to bouncers at a club, the Hawks’ coach had a little fun with a writer that was, um, too relaxed at the postgame press conference following the win. “You need like a cushion or anything” is definitely going to be the name of my NCAA Tournament bracket next year.

4. “Fresh Kimble” shows the future is bright

His real name is Lamarr but everyone calls him “Fresh.” He certainly helped the Hawks look fresh Sunday night with some clutch shots and great drives in the second half while some of the veterans battled foul trouble. The point guard finished with 11 points off the bench against the Ducks but my favorite moment came when he -- a freshman -- was doing his best to console Bembry coming off the court. That shouldn’t come as much a surprise as he clearly loves the guy. And if Bembry leaves, perhaps he’ll take his mantle as the next St. Joe’s star.

5. Aaron Brown’s last hurrah

Other players came through with some big March moments for the Hawks but it’s hard not to specifically highlight Aaron Brown, who scored in double figures in both NCAA Tournament games. The senior has been through a lot and actually played in the Big Dance back in 2012 while at West Virginia. But that must seem like a lifetime ago. So it was cool to see him bookend his college career with another trip to the NCAA Tournament -- and an impressive one at that.

6. The walk-ons got moves

Do not try these dance moves at home:

7. The return of little Phil

He’s no longer wearing a custom suit, holding a clipboard and mimicking the coach like he did two years ago but Martelli’s cute grandson was stealing camera time again this March -- this time decked out in a full uniform.

8. The alums were all in

Even the ones that are now in the NBA.

9. The Hawk loses his head

Props, as always, to the Hawk. It’s alway fun hearing people marvel (or mock) how it flaps its wings the entire game, especially this time of year. Turns out, there’s a real person inside there too.

 

10. Underdog spirit

It may get overlooked since Oregon isn’t a traditional power but it’s important to keep in mind that a St. Joe’s team that had little to no expectations before the season began not only won the A-10 Tournament and a game in the Big Dance (its 28th of the season) but also went toe-to-toe with a No. 1 seed. And they did so after flying across the entire damn country. And with no true big man. And with their own city probably focusing more on Villanova and Temple than them. This is a team that needs to be remembered for a very long time -- and not just for how the season ended. 

Look at Ben Simmons on the back of this dude's head (allegedly)

Look at Ben Simmons on the back of this dude's head (allegedly)

Maybe this dude lost a bet about whether Ben Simmons would play or not this season? 

It's not clear exactly why this gentleman got what looks like a hybrid of Ben Simmons and Jahlil Okafor shaved into his head, but he did in fact get a face shaved into the back of his head.

We know this because Ben Simmons himself shared the image on his Instagram account with a couple of barber shop emojis.

💈💈

A post shared by Ben Simmons (@bensimmons) on

Apparently it has to do with the Sixers' ticket sales staff.

Eagles draft targets at No. 14: Clemson WR Mike Williams

Eagles draft targets at No. 14: Clemson WR Mike Williams

Mike Williams, WR, Clemson

Height: 6-foot-4
Weight: 218 lbs.

Bench press: 15 reps
Vertical jump: 32.5 inches
Broad jump: 121.0 inches

2016: 98 REC, 1,361 YDS, 13.9 AVG, 11 TD
2015: 2 REC, 20 YDS, 10.0 AVG, 1 TD
2014: 57 REC, 1,030 YDS, 18.1 AVG, 6 TD
2013: 20 REC, 316 YDS, 15.8 AVG, 3 TD

It’s impossible to avoid drawing parallels between Mike Williams and newly acquired Eagles wide receiver Alshon Jeffery. In many ways, they are the same, from nearly identical size/speed measurables, to their style of play.

Williams is a physical receiver who’s at his best when the football is up for grabs. He’ll win jump-ball situations, adjust to underthrown or back-shoulder passes, use his big frame to box out defenders, run into traffic without hesitation and break a tackle to pick up yards after the catch. Williams is dangerous at every level of the field, but especially deep and inside the red zone.

This is the type of receiver who – if he lives up to his potential – can excel in any type of offense.

In the Eagles’ case, the comparison to Jeffery could prove especially tempting. Not only would Williams be paired with his ideal NFL mentor (as far as on-field traits are concerned), but also the coach who helped Jeffery become a star.

Eagles wide receivers coach Mike Groh has begun to build a reputation for his work with big, dynamic receivers. He held the same position for three seasons with the Chicago Bears, during which time Jeffery went to a Pro Bowl and averaged 5.6 receptions, 82.0 yards and 0.5 touchdowns per game. Those numbers projected over a 16-game season work out to 89 receptions, 1,312 yards and 8 touchdowns.

Groh spent 2016 with the Los Angeles Rams, where he arguably did his best work yet – coaxing a career year out of Kenny Britt in his eighth NFL season. Another big, physical wideout, Britt shattered his previous personal bests of 48 receptions in 2014 and 775 yards in 2010 with 68 receptions for 1,002 yards, tacking on 5 touchdowns.

It’s not an especially lengthy body of work, but Groh has proven success molding a specific type of player. From that standpoint, the Eagles wouldn’t have to worry about the development of Williams, who is said to have a good head on his shoulders as well.

One would think he would be a nice fit in Doug Pederson’s west coast offense, too. Again, Williams has no issue with going over the middle and making contested catches on quick slant routes. And while no track star, his deceptive quickness and ability to slip a tackle are a threat to burn defenses on a simple wide receiver screen.

Williams may never be as explosive as Terrell Owens was for the Eagles during the Andy Reid days, but almost nobody is. Even if Williams only catches five slants and screens per game for 10 yards apiece, every sixth reception could be a fade in the end zone or a highlight-reel grab down the field.

The Eagles did have Williams at the NovaCare Complex for an official pre-draft visit, no doubt in part for a health screening. The 22-year-old missed almost all of the 2015 season with a fractured bone in his neck, and while he returned for a monster senior year and went on to win a national championship at Clemson, it’s worth checking into.

If there is any concern for the Eagles, it’s the possibility that Williams and Jeffery in the same offense would be a redundancy. Of course, Jeffery is a free agent again in 2018, so that probably shouldn’t define the front office’s thinking.

Regardless, it’s impossible to have too many do-it-all, No. 1 receivers on the roster. That’s what Jeffery is right now, and that’s what Williams has the potential to become.

The coaching staff and scheme are a fit. The only question left it seems is whether Williams is as talented as his peers.

Other Eagles draft targets at No. 14:
Florida State RB Dalvin Cook
LSU RB Leonard Fournette
Stanford RB Christian McCaffrey