Of all the stupid, unnecessary, things in the world (and I’m including Sasha Baron Cohen movies), tonight’s UD versus St. Joe’s game ranks up near the tippy top. Two programs that are headed nowhere were rescheduled and no one seems to think this was a good idea. Such is life, I guess. You can switch over to La Salle/Duquesne at halftime if you are into really hardcore A10 action.
What we know about the Atlantic Ten with less than a week left in the regular season is this:
- Saint Louis probably wishes it opted out of the season. As Dayton fans can attest, it’s a lot of fun to play the “what if” game and avoid reality altogether. I don’t see them winning the conference tournament.
- Dayton has the talent to win out, they could also lose their next three games and put a nice exclamation point on this season.
- I never understood the love for St. Bonnie. They don’t really have a resume worthy win and they seemingly beat up on the bottom of the league. Pretenders.
- VCU appears to be the class of the league and then goes out and gets beat by Mason — they are still the obvious team to beat in Richmond/Gem City, USA.
- The league didn’t really have an upper tier this year — Richmond, UMass, Davidson? None of these teams were consistent. The Minutemen got all their wins from the bottom four teams in the conference, the same can pretty much be said for Davidson. Richmond would appear to be the best of the group, particularly when they are healthy, but looked like they didn’t belong when they matched up with VCU.
- If there’s any justice in this world, Virginia Commonwealth will win the conference tournament and be the A10’s lone bid to this year’s NCAA Tournament. Forget what you might have heard from commentators on television, this was the worst collection of talent this league has ever fielded.
I’ll be honest, St. Joseph’s is the one team in the conference I haven’t seen play much this season. Billy Lange’s team came into this fucked up year vowing to be irrelevant, unmemorable and embarrassing. SJU has delivered on all fronts. Before we even get into a cursory overview of the Hawks, let’s just quickly list some of the programs St. Joe’s lined up against in their non-conference schedule this year: Auburn, Kansas, Villanova, Temple and Tennessee. That is the equivalent of sticking a plunger on a seat and sitting on it (that’s called the St. Bonnie Squat, by the way). SJU’s scheduling was so bold and audacious that I have to assume a mistake was made in the athletic office. “Anytime, Anywhere, Anybody” is a cliché, Hawk Nation, not an actual proclamation or a death wish. Fucking take it easy, guys.
Hagan Arena looks like the kind of place intramurals are held and the Hawks feature two rec-league All-Stars in Ryan Daly and Taylor “I’d never fake the” Funk. (‘Member those Shaq commercials with the tagline, “Don’t fake the funk on a nasty dunk?” Did anyone know what Reebok was talking about or trying to convey there? As a wee lad, I liked the whole Shaq persona, but that motto forced me to assume that Mr. O’Neal was a fucking retard, because I know, I guarantee, he suggested that phrase to the ad wizards). Daly took a nice long extended break this season — his last game before leading St. Joe’s to victory (their first!) over La Salle this weekend was back on December 21st, a fucking fifty-point slaughter at the hands of Tennessee. It’s quite possible Daly got tired of getting his head kicked in against elite college basketball teams, checked the calendar before the league slate began and told everyone he’d see them again at the home La Salle game. Daly was last season’s leading scorer in the Atlantic Ten and just has a savvy way about him, dude just get buckets.
Taylor Funk came back from last year’s injury on a mission. A mission which apparently entails shooting threes until his arms fall off. Funk is averaging sixteen points a game, chipping in on the boards, and shooting a rather pedestrian 33% from behind the arc. He can get hot, though, as he no doubt has shouted countless times in the team huddle.
There is some young, promising talent on this roster, all jokes aside. True freshman Jordan Hall racked up a triple-double against La Salle this weekend, and is averaging a stellar 11.7 ppg/5.5 reb/6.1 ast on the year. He is a silky smooth 6’8″ and in the few times I saw him play I’m not sure he had a position. He was in, he was out, he was dribblin’, he was shootin’, he was boardin’. He has all the makings of an absolute star for the Hawks. Jack Forrest won’t likely play tonight, he’s been hampered by a leg injury, but the Columbia transfer has a ton of potential. More athletic than you would think (*wink*), Forrest is a nice sized guard with an aristocratic touch from the perimeter (Yeah, you read that correctly, Mr. Wetbrain left COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY for St. Joseph’s (PA). Unless you committed a felony on campus, and need to put some distance between yourself and the authorities, never, ever, leave an Ivy League school that is paying you to play basketball. You would think someone that attends an Ivy school would be smart enough to realize this, but I digress).
Matt, we are so close to the finish line. Please, tell us about this horrible Atlantic Ten basketball program — and by that I think I mean St. Joseph’s?
Leading many to ask, “what are we doing here?,” the Flyers head to Hawk Hill to take on Saint Joseph’s Wednesday night. Wondering what the powers that be are thinking has become one of the main themes of the Saint Joseph’s Men’s basketball program this season. It isn’t as if the Hawks don’t have a discernable identity, as it is plainly apparent the Hawks get shots off early in a possession and shoot from the perimeter. As you’ve probably guessed from their record though, neither tactic has been particularly effective. Saint Joe’s is a great case example of the misconception that analytics in basketball is always recommending teams take shots from three-point range and to push the pace.
St. Joe’s have taken 48.1% of their field goal attempts from beyond the perimeter this season, 10.5% more than the average Division 1 team. That average share of field goals that are threes has increased by 2.1% in the last five seasons and 4.6% in the last ten seasons, so plenty of teams in college basketball are stepping behind the line these days. However, the Hawks have put forth plenty of evidence that they are just not good perimeter shooters. Joe’s has only hit on 30.2% of those attempts this season, with only Duquesne and Fordham hitting less of their three-point attempts in the A10. As we see above, those misses haven’t put St. Joe’s off as they have taken the second most three-point attempts per 100 possessions in the conference, only behind the sharpshooting Davidson Wildcats.
It is not as Saint Joe’s is missing a bunch of open shots either. 56.4% of their jump shots this season have been guarded, with only Fordham and George Washington taking a higher proportion of jump shots while defended. This isn’t something that Billy Lange is just testing out with this St. Joe’s squad, as they took a slightly higher percentage of shots from three and missed more of those attempts last season! Come hell or highwater, Billy Lange wants his team getting shots up from deep. Misses be damned.
The other puzzling constant Lange has seemingly imprinted on his squad is to get shots up as soon as they can. This season the Hawks are averaging 72 possessions a game, 30th among all D1 sides. Their possessions last on average 16.3 seconds, 70th fastest across the country. St. Joe’s are trying to get a shot off no matter what, but it is certainly not as if they are cashing in on lucrative transition points. The Hawks only score 0.891 points per possession on transition, which is equivalent to an average A10 player shooting a mid-range jump shot. Saint Joseph’s transitions opportunities are as efficient as a Fatts Russell jumper. Not exactly high standards.
If a two-win St. Joe’s side has such a puzzling offense, why do we all collectively have a pit in our stomach about this game? Well, outside the Flyers historically struggling at Hawk Hill, this edition of UD already dropping games against the bottom feeders of the A10, and the general fatalism that often surrounds this fan base, the answer could be Ryan Daly. Despite looking like the guy that calls fouls in pick-up games, Daly holds the Hawks together with duct tape, grit, determination and other clichés about white guards. After missing time with an injury, Daly returned last weekend to lead the Hawks to their first A10 win against La Salle. The 6’5” guard made 68% of his field goals and chipped in 30 points against the Explorers, bringing St. Joe’s their lone conference win thus far.
While locked in against La Salle, Daly’s play hasn’t exactly been a lesson in efficiency so far. He’s an average scorer at the rim, only averaging 1.14 PPP on those shots. He has been below average scoring from the perimeter, only making 24.1% of attempts from deep. Where we are all surely guaranteed to be annoyed with Daly Wednesday is his ability to get to the free throw line. The senior has an insane free throw rate of 47.1%, meaning he gets to the line nearly 1 in every 2 field goals he attempts. He’s not great at the line, only converting 64% of those attempts this season. But if the Flyers can avoid sending Daly to the line too much, they can hopefully limit the damage he can do.
Anthony Grant can make history tonight. No Dayton coach has ever lost to the four worst teams in the Atlantic Ten since the Flyers joined the conference in 1995. If anyone can pull this feat off it’s Anthony Aloysius Grant, he is elite in a manner of speaking.
Q: Can St. Joey’s pull off the “upset?”
A: Dayton lost to Fordham and La Salle, I’m not even sure this would be an upset.
In all honesty, SJU has some things working in their favor. Obviously, coming off their first conference win bodes well, right? Ryan Daly is back in uniform and he is capable of dropping thirty if he feels the need for speed. Hagan “Arena” is about as friendly an environment for a team, like the Hawks, that will shoot threes until the air comes out of the basketball. Jordan Hall appears to be in top form. So while I do believe your Flyers will get this dubya, there’s a chance, a puncher’s chance, that the Hawks can pull this one out. Maybe Dayton gets sick on cheesesteaks again, who knows? Flyers 79, Hawks 73. #LOWD