Are we still doing this? You are goddamn right we are. I always make the “going down with the sinking skip” analogy (usually at this time of the year too) and it looks like I’m once again saying my last prayers as the water slowly creeps to eye level.
Let’s dive right in, the season is on the brink and St. Joe’s comes calling tomorrow night. Anything can happen, and hopefully it does.
Martelli had this to say about UD earlier this week:
[quote_box_center]“I’m really intrigued by Dayton,” Martelli said Monday in the weekly Atlantic 10 Teleconference. “Their record is misleading – VCU and Saint Louis are going to beat a lot of teams. We’re anticipating and understand that they want to go faster than fast, and a lot of that will depend on outside shooting. I know Khari Price and Jordan Sibert make a lot of shots. They’re first and third in the league in three-point shooting.”[/quote_box_center]
The same curiosity that inhibits Martelli’s opinion of Dayton could also be applied to SJU. Although the Hawks do not have a defining victory on their schedule, they don’t have a harrowing loss on their record either (i.e. Illinois State). St. Joe’s battled admirably against LSU, Creighton, Villanova, UMass, Temple and on the road last Saturday against Richmond. Those are their loses this season, nothing to be ashamed of. However, none of their victories, their best win RPI-wise was against Boston U, inspire much confidence either. Dayton had a tournament-worthy resume just a few short weeks ago, now it is scrambling just to hit its annual 8-8/7-9 Mendoza Line in conference play. Which team is less of a dumpster fire? You’ll have to watch at least the last few seconds of the game to find out.
I can’t imagine what it would be like to be a St. Joseph’s fan 10 years removed from their Elite Eight appearance. Dayton fans relished their one tournament victory in the past twenty years and the school proudly displays the program’s NIT title from 2009 on the center-court scoreboard. The Hawks were a play away from the Final Four. Yet, it’s now 2014 and both programs are spinning their wheels in the same deep ditch. Certainly SJU fans didn’t expect to be riding with UD in the slow lane at this point of Martelli’s career.
There are some interesting tidbits from Philadelphia Magazine this week regarding Martelli’s current status in Philly:
[pull_quote_center]A decade after that historic run, though, things on Hawk Hill have changed. The Hawks’ last NCAA tournament appearance came in 2008, and they haven’t won a tourney game in 10 years. SJU won just 11 games in 2009-’10 and again in 2010-’11. Last year’s team, picked first in the A-10, slid to eighth and watched La Salle and Temple enjoy NCAA tourney success. The glory-days crowd is grumbling, and the folks on Hawk Hill know it.[/pull_quote_center]
A decade ago Martelli was the toast of the college basketball world and the SJU program looked as relevant as it ever had been. He offered great soundbites, had two players drafted in the first round of the NBA, and the school even decided to pour money into the program, renovating ancient Alumni Memorial Fieldhouse to try and keep pace with the rest of the college basketball world.
Fast forward to present-day Hawk Hill:
[pull_quote_center]St. Joe’s finds itself in a limbo of sorts, struggling to lure as many marquee recruits as it did in those old days, and not attractive enough to jump to a larger conference as the recent football-driven realignment frenzy in college sports winds down. The Hawks’ Atlantic 10 home was pillaged by rival conferences that poached four members last year, and it remains vulnerable to future losses of other schools. As a result, St. Joe’s confronts the challenge of staying relevant as bigger brand names attract more cash and national attention.[/pull_quote_center]
[pull_quote_center]It doesn’t help that archrival Villanova has joined its Catholic brethren in an exciting new basketball conference that’s bolstered by Fox TV cash. Some Hawks fans are tired of waiting for their school to get it together. They complain about the lack of NCAA appearances and the disappointments of the past several seasons. ”[/pull_quote_center]
Substitute Xavier for Villanova, too on the nose?
St. Joe’s finds itself in a very unenviable position — one that all mid-majors have to face at some point of their existence. Martelli got his program to nearly the top of the college basketball world with scant resources and unheralded recruits. With that being considered, how long do you give a guy who pulled off the almost impossible? Five years? Ten years? Is there a point in time where the program has regressed to such a point that it is almost back to where it started and you’re essentially stuck with the guy that got you there? Is it possible to inject excitement and energy in to a mid-level program by firing a legend, someone who has been at the school for nearly thirty years, and bring in a virtually unknown coach to lead the program forward?
These questions keep me up at night, they should cause you great consternation as well.
Meet and Greet
Halil Kanacevic is easily one of my favorite players to ever play in the Atlantic Ten. He seems to do everything in slow motion but just makes plays. The senior forward is coming off a 21 point, 19 rebound effort against Richmond. Kanacevic is the Slavic Marshall Henderson, the type of player that the opposing crowd loves to hate. He’s like a wily old guy at the Y — he knows when and where to push the limit defensively and how far to go before getting punched in the temple. In all seriousness, watch Kanacevic tomorrow night, the guy has a great feel for the game.
Langston Galloway (17.5 ppg/4.6 rpg) is still knocking around and is one of the best perimeter shooters in the conference (46.2% 3FG). The Hawks’ senior has bounced back from a mediocre season and will play as much as his body will allow him. Chris Wilson (9.6 ppg/3.2 apg) has the starting nod at the point guard slot with Carl Jones’ graduatio and has become a steady decision-maker with the ball in his hands.
Ronald Roberts (14.1 ppg/7.1 rpg) and DeAndre’ Bembry (11.1 ppg/4.7 rpg) are the other SJU starters. Roberts is an athletic freak, who I believe dunked on Matt Kavanaugh two seasons ago.
Oh, wait, here we go:
Papa “Remember Papa Roach, they were awful” Ndao (2.8 ppg/1.8 rpg), Isaiah Miles (3.8 ppg/1.8 rpg) and Daryus Quarles (3.0 ppg/1.4 rpg) are the Hawks’ main contributors off the bench.
8,000. That’s my over/under on Wednesday night’s attendance. I’m taking the over, but just barely.
Tom Blackburn is a proud U. o' D. alum. He loses faith in humanity one day at a time, but not in you, you seem like you are all kinds of alright. Charter member of the T-Man fanclub.