...Saint Joseph’s has been nothing, if not unpredictable. Now that the Hawks have gotten into the familiar ground of the Atlantic 10, they seem to have found their footing. Those difficult early games against Texas and Alabama are starting to pay dividends, as the competition lessens.
After opening up a 20-point lead in the final 90 seconds and easing to the finish line Tuesday night at St. Bonaventure, the Hawks have won three straight. They put themselves behind the postseason eight ball with the come-from-ahead losses to Holy Cross, Villanova and Siena, but they still look like one of the better teams in the A-10.
Emerging sophomore forward Idris Hilliard has been a revelation. Stuck behind senior 1,000-point scorers, Pat Calathes and Rob Ferguson last season, Hilliard scored just 40 points as a freshman. He already has six double-figure games this season and has taken some of the heat off Hawks star Ahmad Nivins who continues to average a double double.
With three straight games at the Palestra, St. Joe’s will be favored to get its win streak to six against Charlotte (Sunday), Duquesne (Wednesday) and Penn (next Saturday).
So, how will the Hawks do in the A-10? I think their starting five is as good as most anyone’s. The depth obviously is an issue. I think Temple and Xavier are the favorites to win the league, with St. Joe’s at the top of the next tier.
Whatever they do in the league, they are probably going to have to win the tournament to get into the NCAA. The non-conference record simply won’t measure up. So, can they? Really, that is a better question for March, but we do know this: The Hawks have been in the A-10 championship game three of the last four years. No, they haven’t won it, but they continue to be a factor.
Which reminds me one of a very odd St. Joe’s historical fact. In the Jameer Nelson years, St. Joe’s never played in the A-10 championship game. And in the four years after Nelson went to the NBA, the Hawks played in three A-10 title games. Strange.