Looking at St. Joe’s
The Hawks have finally pulled out of the hole they found themselves in in the years that followed their remarkable run to the Elite Eight in 2004. Phil Martelli’s squad returned to respectability last season, following a pair of 20-loss seasons with a 20-14 campaign that included several impressive victories.
With everyone back from that squad, expectations – as well as excitement on campus and among alumni – are high on Hawk Hill. That feeling was only added to when the league’s preseason poll came out, placing the Hawks on the top rung of a deep and talented conference that now includes Butler and VCU.
Langston Galloway is not just one of the best guards in the A-10, but a player who could start on just about any roster in the country. A lights-out shooter, the 6-foot-4 junior guard from Louisiana was sixth in the country last season by hitting 46.6 percent of his 3-pointers.
In forward Ronald Roberts, the Hawks have one of the most explosive players anywhere and the 6-8 junior from North Jersey comes off the bench to electrify the team – and the crowd. C.J. Aiken is a shot-blocking force in the middle and Halil Kanacevic does just about everything well. And Carl “Tay” Jones and his team-leading 17 points per game are back for one more season.
Yes, Hawks fans have reason to be excited and good reason to be hopeful for a return to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2008, and just the second time since Delonte West and Jameer Nelson came within a whisker of the Final Four in 2004.
What can go wrong?
Anyone who watched last season would have placed high expectations on the Hawks in 2012-13, so it’s no surprise that they have been picked to win the league. But this isn’t a traditional role for St. Joe’s, which with its “Hawk Will Never Die” mentality generally thrives as the underdog.
The A-10 isn’t going to be easy, anyway, and now the Hawks have the targets of top dog on their backs and certainly can expect to get everyone’s best night in and night out. This will be a challenge. Expectations can be a burden on a team that plays as if they’re “supposed to win.” The Hawks will need to overcome this mentality and play loose and free to succeed.
Another potential pitfall is the perimeter defense. As good as the St. Joe’s backcourt is, they struggled on the defensive end last season, finishing 212th in the country in 3-point defense (35 percent) and 318th in the nation in steals (4.8). Those are two areas that will need to improve to become more consistent. If not, St. Joe’s likely will face the ups and downs of a season ago.
Depth also is a bit of a concern, particularly backing up Galloway at the shooting guard position.
What can go right?
Galloway can get even better, Jones can become more of a facilitator while continuing to be a threat to score any time the ball is in his hands, Aiken’s offense will take a step forward and rookie Isaiah Miles will have a positive impact in the frontcourt.
What will happen?
This team is good and will have a really good season, but I don’t like the Hawks being picked to win the A-10. Even being selected second would have given them a chip on their shoulder. Now, they’re a target for everyone.
Will they win the A-10 regular season or tourney titles? Doubtful. But I think the Hawks will do enough to finish among the top six teams in the league, which will earn them an entry to the NCAA tournament.
More St. Joe’s coverage:
-Read the St. Joe’s season preview by staff writers Mike Ferrier and Matt Schultz HERE.
-Follow all of Philahoops’ Hawks coverage on the St. Joe’s page HERE.