This entire article should have a giant asterisk next to it, as it’s hard to grade a team that’s suffered two major injuries. Just when the Hawks thought they were off the hook with injuries, Charlie Brown got hurt before the season-opener, and Fresh Kimble was lost for the season in an opening loss to Toledo. So while Saint Joseph’s was expected to do a lot better in non-conference play than it did, keep in mind that this article, and specifically the final grade given to this team, is certainly keeping in mind the Hawks’ roster limitations.
Saint Joseph’s is one of the few Atlantic 10 teams that really didn’t pick up a “good win.” You could cite a win over Bucknell (Kenpom #97) at home as a positive, but that’s certainly not getting this team anywhere in March. After that, SJU’s best win is over Princeton (#111), and the rest of the Hawks’ 3 wins don’t stand out at all.
We should mention that Saint Joseph’s came close to snagging a few big out-of-conference wins; however, coming close is not the same as finishing the deed. Temple slipped away from Saint Joseph’s grasp. That would have been a game-changing win for the Hawks. Saint Joseph’s also held a late lead over St. John’s before the Red Storm scored a 77-73 win right before Christmas. We can’t help but wonder if either of these games would have gone the other way had Lamarr Kimble and Charlie Brown been healthy and active.
Even without Charlie Brown and Lamarr Kimble, Saint Joseph’s suffered some really poor non-conference losses that certainly should have gone the other way. Back-to-back losses to Washington St. and Harvard in the Wooden Legacy pretty much killed this team’s waning at-large chances. If we’re being honest, Saint Joseph’s didn’t look like a tournament team when it opened up at Toledo losing 98-87. The Rockets exposed obvious holes in the Hawks’ defense, and even though Taylor Funk went off, this team isn’t quite “back” yet.
I’ll also throw the loss to Villanova in this category, because quite frankly, it was embarrassing. I’m not saying an injury-ridden SJU team has to come close to beating the Wildcats at home, but a 94-53 loss in your own arena stings, no matter who you’re playing. Again, it’s been tough without key pieces, but certain guys have to step up.
Non-Conference Grade: C
Again, considering all that SJU has been through, I think a C is a fair grade. The Hawks probably should have beaten Washington St., Harvard, and even Toledo. Do all 3 of those games go their way if the Hawks are completely healthy? Maybe, but SJU should still win with the talent it has. Again, without any big wins, it’s difficult to give SJU a better grade; had the Hawks beaten St. John’s or Temple, it’d be a different story. I’m looking forward to the return of Charlie Brown; with the star sophomore in the lineup, SJU should have a legitimate shot at finishing 3rd in the Atlantic 10, though I’m not sure how much that speaks to the Hawks’ ability as much as it does to the lack of star power in the conference this season.