NEW YORK – Even before St. Joseph’s was selected as the preseason Atlantic-10 favorite in a poll of coaches and media, there was plenty of excitement on campus about this year’s team.
Coming off a 20-14 season in which the Hawks earned an NIT bid, St. Joseph’s has every major contributor returning.
The expectations are high, but so is the talent level.
“I think we have a fan base that is really excited,” coach Phil Martelli said during Atlantic-10 media day at the Brooklyn-based Barclays Center, home of this year’s tournament. “We had our student season tickets sell out in six day and an additional allotment was put on and sold out in three minutes online.”
And this happened before the preseason poll was announced.
“There is a lot of buzz and excitement and this (the preseason poll) will create buzz and excitement,” Martelli said.
Of course, he then added caution.
“I am not trying to dampen anybody’s enthusiasm but six teams got (first place) votes,” he said. “Any number of teams could have gotten votes.”
That is correct. The Atlantic-10, known for its depth last year when four teams made the NCAA Tournament and another four were in the NIT, should be even deeper this year, especially with the addition of Butler and VCU.
St. Joseph’s guards Carl Jones and Langston Galloway were named preseason second-team all-A-10 choices. Center C.J. Aiken and forward Halil Kanacevic were third-team choices.
And that doesn’t even include reigning Atlantic-10 Sixth Man of the Year, Ronald Roberts Jr.
Martelli says the preseason ranking won’t affect how the Hawks operate. He said he’d discuss it with his team once and not dwell on the matter.
For Martelli, it’s about showing improvement.
This is a season of high expectations and it is not surprising to see the Hawks held in such high regard.
The only surprise would be if St. Joseph’s isn’t able to justify the high expectations this season.