Saint Joseph's coach Phil Martelli doesn't believe he's a superstitious fellow.
So what if listens to the same five songs on a Bruce Springsteen CD during his 24-minute commute from home to his office? So what if he runs the same free-throw shooting drill to wrap up practice before each game? Is it really a big deal that he lays out his clothes and gets ready for 7 p.m. games at precisely 4:45?
"I believe it's routine," he said.
Okay, coach. Whatever. But rest assured, he would find it comforting to see his team stick to its current routine. The Hawks have opened the season with 17 straight wins, breaking the school record set during the 1964-65 season and rising to No. 3 in the Associated Press poll. An increasing number of pundits and rival coaches think that maybe, just maybe, the Hawks can become the first team since UNLV in 1990-91 to enter the NCAA Tournament unbeaten.
"It is very, very difficult to think about that in this day and time, but I honestly believe they have a chance," said Temple coach John Chaney, whose Owls play host to Saint Joseph's today.
The Hawks feature perhaps the nation's best backcourts in senior point guard Jameer Nelson and junior Delonte West, who score _ a lot _ and ignite the team's stifling defense. The Hawks also seemingly possess a singularity of purpose and focus, ignoring the omnipresent talk of an undefeated season.
"I'm sure they hear it; they would have to live in a spider hole with Saddam Hussein not to hear (it)," Martelli said. "But they're very mature knowing that, "You know what? Temple's the next roadblock,' and if we're good enough (today), then Villanova's the next roadblock. (They're) not projecting down the line."
Not that they're superstitious or anything.
It's just a matter of routine.
"I thought I would be a very old man when I reached (this win). Tonight, you make me feel like a very young man."
_ JOHN CHANEY
Temple coach, 72, to the home crowd after his Owls beat St. Bonaventure Wednesday night to give him his milestone 700th career win.
Josh Bodden, got a minute?
Bodden, a former standout at Dunedin High, is a senior center at red-hot Central Florida. He recently took a few minutes to talk to Times college basketball writer Brian Landman about the season, his passion for the Bucs, his passion for his car and his hidden talent.
BL: You're the only four-year member of the Knights, so you were there in the tough times. That's got to be a night and day feeling with the team 16-2 and undefeated (11-0) in the Atlantic Sun?
JB: It's a big turnaround. We won eight games my freshman year and then a lot of guys transferred. It's great, but we're trying not to get too excited.
BL: So, you and the guys aren't thinking about NCAA Tournament seedings?
JB: We haven't talked about that. Now that we beat Florida Atlantic (on Wednesday), we're concentrating on Troy State (today's opponent).
BL: Are you playing your best basketball (11.2 ppg, 6.4 rpg) right now?
JB: I feel I'm playing pretty well, but we have a lot of good players on the team and it's not like I have to score 20 points. I just do whatever the coach and the team needs me to do in a (given) game.
BL: I understand you're a big Bucs fan.
JB: That's my team. I don't like to watch the NBA much, but I'm a big football fan. My grandmother used to live right by the "Big Sombrero," and I'd park cars on her lot.
BL: This was pre-Tony Dungy, then?
JB: Yeah, it was way back in the day.
BL: The Bucs were losing then, so what would a choice parking spot fetch?
JB: $5 or $10. You weren't going to get much money back then.
BL: From your bio, it says your car is your most prized possession.
JB: I didn't know what to say. My family is my most prized possession if you can call a family a possession.
BL: Okay, good answer. But what kind of ride do you have?
JB: It's a '99 Ford Expedition.
BL: Fully loaded, I imagine.
JB: There's leather seats, but I don't get into the (fancy) rims and stereo systems. It's big. I like it.
BL: I have to ask about your hidden talent. Singing?
JB: I guess I would call it a talent. My girlfriend wouldn't call it a talent. But I like to sing.
3 P.M. TODAY, ESPN: Marquette at No. 4 Louisville.
Not only is this a huge C-USA game, but UL coach Rick Pitino, who missed Wednesday's game while being treated for an illness, is expected back.
Off the rim
Most college coaches don't observe the Sabbath. They're busy watching tape of their last opponent to see what went right and what went wrong and then tape of their next opponent.
Indiana's Mike Davis is different. He gives his staff that day off and, in the fall and early winter, he spends his Sundays at home watching the NFL on TV. So it's not hard to figure out what he'll be doing this Sunday. But what about after that? Well, it will be much like last week, the open date between the AFC and NFC Championship games and the Super Bowl.
"I had to watch college basketball," he said.
_ Compiled by Brian Landman.
Saint Joseph's coach Phil Martelli plans on sticking to what works.
On Sundays, Indiana coach Mike Davis is ready for some football.