A-10 media day has come and gone. With only one day until the first tip-off we have finally entered the college basketball season! What better way to kick off the season than to talk about the school with coolest court design in the A10? That is right, I am going to preview Saint Joseph’s University. A program that is entering a new era after 15 good years with Coach Phil Martelli. The question is, what kind of season will the Hawks have?
The Macro View:
The end of 2018-2019 saw SJU go against its risk averse behavior. Risk aversion is the tendency to avoid uncertainty. SJU had picked stability over uncertainty for the better part of the Martelli era. It is my own personal belief that discomfort was one the main reasons Saint Joseph’s University had avoided a coaching change. The University was more comfortable having a program that had a predictable .500 average record. Some years would be good, others would be bad. But the school would always appear to be stable through it all. Staying within the one standard deviation of .500 was Phil Martelli’s specialty. Ultimately, this led to a basketball program that was reliable to a fault. I do not blame anyone for being contempt with this; Remember, stability is a natural desire for humans.
However, unpredictability is now the theme of this 2019-2020 season. After the busy offseason, and the hiring of Coach Billy Lange, there is no way to predict how this SJU team will perform. A major set back to the program was the departure of great players like Kimble and Brown; who left for better opportunities elsewhere. Now it is up to younger talent to make an impact on the court. The departure of majority of the roster means that there is no historical statistics that can be used project future results. On top of this, the general population has yet to even see what the offensive and defensive schemes will even truly look like. It is simply impossible to know what this team will be, and where it is going, until we can view them on a consistent basis.
From a macro view this program will feel hectic and chaotic at first. But, this chaos is good. The unpredictability is what will draw attention again to the program. No one in the national media or local Philadelphia media was talking about SJU until they departed ways with Coach Martelli. Once a sense of unknown was added to the equation people began to pay attention. Measured chaos is good, and this season might bring enough to put fans in Hagan arena again.
The Micro View:
The exhibition game against Arcadia gave some brief insight into what the SJU men’s team may look like this season. Of course, it must all be taken into context since this scrimmage was against a Division III opponent. While I mean no offense to Arcadia, they are not at the same level of talent that SJU will face on an average night.
From what I had seen in the exhibition, and from what I have been told by sources, it appears that the starting lineup for SJU will be: Myles Douglas, Lorenzo Edwards, Ryan Daly, Anthony Lonpre, and Taylor Funk. This lineup is expected to unleash a barrage of 3 point shots on almost any given night. A trait that is similar to the team under Coach Martelli a year ago. However, this offense should be a little more structured compared to 2018-2019. Under Martelli the offense felt hectic. Brown and Kimble pushed the ball when there was no need to, often unnecessarily shooting after the first pass. In contrast to this, Lange will work to massage opposing defenses before anyone takes a single shot. One glaring issue for the offense is the lack of ball handling talent. The departure of the two prominent ball handlers in Kimble and Bynum will put pressure on Lange to find someone who can command the half court sets.
Another major issue this SJU squad will have to overcome is on the defensive end. While the roster is full of long athletic wings, it lacks size in the front court. Every defensive rebound will be a battle for this team. It will take two players to box out one opponent when securing rebounds. While not every team has a Tacko Fall patrolling the paint, many teams in the A-10 have centers that can overpower Longpré and Funk. Expect opponents to seamlessly grab rebounds regardless of the Hawk’s position within the paint. Protecting the rim and securing rebounds is what will need improvement throughout this season.
From an X’s and O’s perspective it is obvious this team has a lot of learning to do throughout the season. When a team lacks size and experience it will always be a struggle. That doesn’t mean that this season will go to waste. I expect Ryan Daly to really shine and show fans that SJU missed him last year when he had to sit out. I am confident Longpré and Funk will bring the veteran leadership needed for the Hawks to remain competitive. I think the team will build a lot of tacit knowledge with one another throughout the first half of the year. This type of team synergy will be needed as the roster prepares for the A-10 schedule. If they build enough of it SJU will be prepared to beat A-10 teams no expected them to.