St. Joe’s is protecting the basketball, and their NCAA tournament hopes
As of this week, the focus of Atlantic 10 basketball has seemed to center around two teams: Dayton and VCU. With a combined A10 record of 11-1, the buzz is warranted. However, are critics and fans missing out on one of the quiet favorites to run away with the conference title?
Despite being 15-3 (4-1 A10), St. Joseph’s is not getting near enough praise as their more nationally recognized peers. Sure, the Hawks have yet to grab a resume defining win, but as of late they’re playing some of the best basketball in the conference. SJU is currently riding a four-game win streak over which they have been besting opponents by an average of 9.75 PPG.
The theme this season for St. Joe’s has been the turnover margin. The Hawks are ranked 17th in the nation in turnover percentage, losing the ball on just 15.2% of their possessions. They’ve also given up the third least steals in the country with just 6.1 per game. This ability to take care of the basketball has paid dividends for SJU, as the team has an adjusted offensive efficiency of 109.0, which means they are scoring 109 points per 100 possessions. This is nearly six points above the national average.
However, on the other side of the ball, the Hawks have not been as effective. They’re one of the worst in the nation at forcing turnovers, initiating just a 15.8% TO rate per game (good for 314th in the country). While this hasn’t necessarily been detrimental to the SJU defensive front, they will need to get better at forcing tougher possessions, especially against better opponents.
If St. Joe’s grinds out wins against La Salle and UMass over this next week, they will remain in great position to take the A10 by storm. The two games to circle on the calendar are Feb. 10 at George Washington (38% chance of victory) and Feb. 17 at home vs. Dayton (63% chance of victory). With a projected overall finish of 24-7 (13-5 A10), the Hawks should be sitting pretty come Selection Sunday. But the priority right now for this team? Maintain the status quo. So far, they’re doing just that.