Expectations are extremely high on Hawk Hill.
They should be.
Saint Joseph’s returned every key player from last season’s 20-win NIT team and were even ranked first in the Atlantic 10 preseason poll for the first time since 2004-05 when Jameer Nelson and Delonte West were running teams off the court.
While the Hawks fell to Villanova 65-61 in The Holy War Tuesday night, there is still plenty of upside for this ultra-talented team. They’ll enter final exams with a 5-3 record and won’t play again until hosting Fairfield on Dec. 22.
“It’s the final exam of the fall semester and we give ourselves a failure,” coach Phil Martelli said. “We take the real tests starting [now].”
Coaches are usually tough, especially after a difficult loss.
The Hawks have defeated Notre Dame and lost by 29 at Creighton. They don’t truly have an identity yet. But the talent is there for this group to come together by March.
Langston Galloway shot 46.6-percent from beyond the arc last season, good for sixth in the nation. Galloway had 22 points in the loss to Villanova, but was 6-for-10 from 3-point land. He’ll certainly knock down his share of treys the rest of the way.
With Carl Jones joining him in the backcourt and C.J. Aiken, Ronald Roberts and Halil Kanacevic up front, this is going to be a potent team, potentially the best in the city by season’s end.
“Our offense is hit or miss right now,” Martelli said.
Barring an unforeseen collapse, the Hawks are likely to be playing in the postseason.
Will it be the NIT or the NCAAs? That’s the big question.
If St. Joe’s can get some offensive punch from its bench (it got just three points against Villanova) and improve defensively (it was 212th in the nation in 3-point defense last year), then the NCAAs are well within reach.