EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Saint Joseph's coach Phil Martelli and CBS analyst Billy Packer shook hands Wednesday. Is their feud much ado about nothing? Have the fences really been mended ... or was the handshake just for show?
Or is the subplot going into the Hawks' Sweet 16 game against Packer's alma mater, Wake Forest, a creative bit of marketing genius?
"I think it was just Martelli's master plot to get more media attention," Hawks guard Tyrone Barley said of the feud. "Little
schools don't get enough credit. The bigger schools, they're going to get the media attention and everything."
There's certainly plenty of attention going into Thursday's game at the East Rutherford regional, since Saint Joe's and Packer will be in the same building.
When the tournament field was announced, Packer went on national television and quickly rattled off several teams that he felt were more deserving of a No. 1 seed than the Hawks.
Martelli shot back, calling the announcer a "jackass."
"Is Billy Packer playing for a team?" Martelli added.
Packer countered by saying he helped Wake Forest beat Saint Joseph's in the 1962 tournament, and said Martelli "needs to learn a little history about the school where he coaches."
On Wednesday, the coach jokingly feigned ignorance when asked
about Packer broadcasting his team's game.
"Is that right? I didn't even know that," Martelli said. "I'm
a really big pizza fan, so I figured he might bring us a couple
Papa John's and we could sit around the hotel and discuss things."
Packer, who appears in commercials for Papa John's pizza, finds
the hoopla surrounding he and Saint Joseph's both comical and
"There are a lot of people that had the same opinion I did, so
I don't feel like I'm out on an island," said Packer, who still
believes the Hawks deserved a No. 2 seed. "This game and this
tournament has nothing to do with Billy Packer. I did not interject
myself into this tournament and never have. I prepare to do the
games and say what I see."
The Hawks thought they had done enough to justify their No. 1 seed -- a 29-1 record, a top seed in the NCAA tournament and two decisive wins on their way to the round of 16.
"People are going to say what they're going to say," All-America guard Jameer Nelson said Wednesday. "They've been saying things about us all year. We don't take it as motivation. We
just play through it. I think we do a great job of blocking things out."
Any questions about the Hawks' strength of schedule could be answered in East Rutherford, the only regional where the top four seeds advanced. Second-seeded Oklahoma State (29-3) plays No. 3 seed Pittsburgh (31-4) in the first game Thursday night, before Saint Joe's takes on Wake Forest (21-9).
"We kind of just fit in," Martelli said. "We're not as fast as Wake. We're pretty good defensively. We're not as good defensively as Pitt and Oklahoma State. I think people have a tough time really touching and feeling us."
It will be the third meeting between the two teams in the
tournament, and the first since 1962, when Packer was a star guard
for the Demon Deacons.
Wake Forest, in the round of 16 for the first time since 1996,
has no scholarship seniors on its roster and is led by freshman
guard Chris Paul.
"I think the easy thing would have been to think, next year is
our year. We'll be good down the road," coach Skip Prosser said.
"We've been good at times and less so at other times. Fortunately,
we've played well here in the tournament."
Saint Joseph's continues to believe it has something to prove.
"It's been fun, but I don't think the pressure is off," Hawks
forward John Bryant said. "We're a No. 1 seed so we're supposed to
get this far. I don't think the pressure will be off until we're
holding up a trophy."
And getting interviewed by Packer.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.