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3 questions for Saint Joseph’s heading into the 2017-18 season

1. How quickly can the Hawks get healthy?

Thankfully, it seems as if Shavar Newkirk is almost back to full health, as the Hawks announced his return to practice this past week. After last year’s season-ending injury, the senior’s road to recovery has been long. When he’s back in the lineup, and presumably healthy, Saint Joseph’s is going to be very dangerous.

Unfortunately, Charlie Brown, last season’s standout freshman will have to miss some time. Brown suffered a wrist injury during practice, meaning he’ll be out a few weeks. While Saint Joseph’s will be almost fully replenished with Kimble and Newkirk ready to go, Brown is a crucial piece. Having him back in the mix will be vital for this Hawks team that will face a very challenging non-conference schedule.

2. Can Saint Joseph find production outside of its starting 5?

Don’t get me wrong, Saint Joseph’s has a lot of talent outside its top 4 or 5 guys, but we’re going to need to see those guys make big jumps if the Hawks want a shot at making the Big Dance. Notably, players like Markell Lodge, Chris Clover, and Nick Robinson will be called upon off the bench for some vital minutes.

Having earned plenty of playing time last season, rising sophomores and juniors have gotten crucial experience. Clover played all 40 minutes and went for 19 points in a win against Duquesne late last year. Robinson saw 32 minutes on the court last year in the Hawks’ A-10 Tournament game against Massachusetts. While Saint Joseph’s bench certainly has the experience, it will be interesting to see how productive it can be with guys like Newkirk and Kimble back in the starting lineup.

3. Is this an NCAA Tournament team?

This is the biggest question of them all in regards to Saint Joseph’s. I’d like to believe this is an NCAA Tournament team, especially when you’ve got a coach like Phil Martelli. A lot of SJU’s success will depend on its performance in non-conference play; we know that a top 3 finish in the Atlantic 10 isn’t always enough to secure a spot in the Big Dance. If the Hawks could notch a big win before league play (they get Villanova at home, by the way), then they’ll have a big W to look back on come Selection Sunday. I think the talent and chemistry will be there this season, but the Hawks just have to get it done.

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Grant Labedz is a college basketball superfan who loves the entire sport but definitely has favorites in the A-10 and the Big Ten. He has written for ...