When your team has lost 20 games in consecutive seasons, you look for an edge. And when two of your Big 5 opponents, teams you have not be able to beat in recent seasons, always play their home games against you on their campus, you decide to change your philosophy.
For the first time since the Big 5 was formed, Saint Joseph’s will play its game with Villanova on its campus at Hagan Arena. The game is scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 17. The date has not been set, but St. Joe’s also will play Temple at Hagan this season.
Phil Martelli said that as long he is the coach, the Hawks would always play Big 5 home games at the Palestra. Well, SJU has not been very good the past 2 seasons. The fan support has waned. The home court edge that used to be so strong is gone. This is a way to get some juice back into a program and the arena.
"This might get people's attention," Martelli said. "There's been a lot of discussion at the highest levels on campus about creating the buzz, getting the fervor and the fire back."
So, the change, a big change, has been made. And it is certainly not unreasonable. SJU really has been taking the worst of it by playing those Big 5 home games at the Palestra. It was a very nice gesture, but gestures don’t help the win-loss column.
This is not necessarily a permanent change. In future seasons, St. Joe’s could decide to play its Temple home game at the Palestra. It could take its every-other-season Villanova home game back to the Palestra as well.
St. Joe’s has been scheduling La Salle at the Palestra. Each school agreed to that a while back. St. Joe’s has been playing its home game with Penn at the Palestra even though it is the Quakers home floor. It is Penn’s home game this season so it will be at the Palestra. In future seasons, St. Joe’s will always have the option of moving that game to Hagan.
SJU will have a total of 15 games at Hagan this season, eight Atlantic 10 games (not yet scheduled) and seven non-conference games.
During one stretch, the Hawks will play seven consecutive games at home, starting Nov. 26 against Penn State, followed by Drexel (Nov. 30), Boston University (Dec. 7), Creighton (Dec. 10), Villanova, Coppin State (Dec. 21) and Morgan State (Dec. 28).
The very young Hawks really started to play well at the end of last season, making it all the way to the A-10 Tournament semifinals before losing at the end to Dayton. During last season, Martelli talked about getting more home games and more manageable schedule for his team. That has been done.