BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) - No. 10 seed St. Joseph’s will attempt to continue its postseason surge Thursday when it faces No. 7 seed Connecticut in the East Regional.
St. Joseph’s (23-9) was perceived to be on the NCAA tournament bubble at the end of the regular season, but the Hawks earned an automatic bid by winning the Atlantic 10 tournament. St. Joseph’s (24-9) beat VCU 65-61 in the Atlantic 10 championship game.
Connecticut (26-8) received an at-large invitation after falling 71-61 to Louisville in the American Athletic Conference final.
The winner of this game could face a familiar foe Saturday, assuming No. 2 seed Villanova gets past No. 15 seed Milwaukee on Thursday. Connecticut and Villanova were Big East rivals until this season. St. Joe’s and Villanova are both located in Philadelphia.
UConn is returning to the tournament after being forced to sit out last year because of NCAA academic sanctions. The program won the 2011 national championship, but lost in the first round in 2012.
“There were some dark days there,” UConn coach Kevin Ollie said. “But everybody in life is going to have dark days. I’m just so proud of the guys, how they stayed together, planting seeds.”
Guard Shabazz Napier said he believes the Huskies have the talent to go deep into the tournament.
“It’s definitely a special feeling to get another chance,” he said. “But you’ve got to take the opportunity in your hand and take advantage of it. Hopefully, we do that.”
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