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Atlantic 10 Championship numbers and a few thoughts

by - Published March 18, 2014 in Columns
author_floriani

A year ago big things were expected of Saint Joseph’s and they did not deliver. This year, the expectations were tempered a bit and the Hawks responded in a memorable manner.

Saint Joseph’s defeated VCU 65-61 to capture the Atlantic 10 Title at the Barclays Center on Sunday. For the second straight year, VCU is the tournament runner-up. Last March the Rams were defeated by Saint Louis in the conference championship.

… Continue Reading

Saint Joseph’s 67, St. Bonaventure 48: Box score analysis

by - Published March 15, 2014 in Columns
author_floriani

BROOKLYN, N.Y. – Saint Joseph’s coach Phil Martelli spoke of being here for “rings and nets.” His Hawks are a game closer to the goal after defeating St. Bonaventure 67-48 in the first semifinal at the Barclays Center on Saturday.

The numbers:

Possessions: St. Bonaventure 67, Saint Joseph’s 66
Offensive Efficiency: St. Bonaventure 72, Saint Joseph’s 102

… Continue Reading

Barclays to MSG: A long (and enjoyable) day’s journey

by - Published March 15, 2013 in Columns
author_floriani

Two main venues, two great tournaments, just miles apart. A day filled with some very good basketball and interesting stories. Why not ? It is March Madness….

11:30 AM – Riding the subway to Brooklyn. The  preceding train ride from New Jersey to Penn Station was spent talking with a Cincinnati fan. The train has fans wearing gear from Pitt, Syracuse (most prominent) and of course, Cincinnati. The Bearcats, our new found basketball friend admits, have a tough assignment facing Georgetown at noon. Overall he is satisfied with the way things are going with Cincinatti but would like to see a little more inside play on offense. For now the Big East can wait. It’s onto the Barclays Center in Brooklyn for the Atlantic 10. It is difficult typing on a moving train.

… Continue Reading

Veteran Hawks needed to give more late against Florida State

by - Published November 18, 2012 in Columns, Your Phil of Hoops
stjosephs

BROOKLYN, N.Y. – Phil Martelli didn’t want to play around. He opened by saying that one option was for him to “give you the nonsense” with predictable cliches about the game, but that wasn’t his preferred route. There was a simple thing he and his team wanted on Saturday night, and there was no getting around the fact that they didn’t get it: a win over Florida State in the championship game of the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic.

Martelli has never been one to look for moral victories, and he wasn’t about to start doing it Saturday night. When asked about Ronald Roberts’ performance, mainly his seven offensive boards, he made even clearer how he felt about the result.

… Continue Reading

There’s reason for concern and optimism with Saint Joseph’s

by - Published February 16, 2012 in Columns
stjosephs

SOUTH KINGSTON, R.I. – Saint Joseph’s appears to be playing more like they did during a lot of non-conference play, which is a positive since they played well often. After Wednesday night’s 80-69 win at Rhode Island, the Hawks have won four out of five after losing four out of five. It’s a stretch that has been driven in part by their best player, and it has head coach Phil Martelli knowing they have work to do but in a better place with this team.

Wednesday’s game had enough concerns, with Martelli starting off the post-game press conference by saying that if they game went 20 more minutes, it would probably be more of the Hawks getting a lead followed by the Rams rallying. The Hawks had an eight-point lead in the first half, only to see the Rams grab a 38-36 lead at the break. They scored 14 unanswered points early in the second half to break a 43-43 tie, and Rhode Island went on a 14-3 run and later got within two. At that point, the Hawks ran off 12 unanswered points to seal the game.

… Continue Reading

Saint Joseph’s shows promise but can be better

by - Published January 1, 2012 in Columns
stjosephs

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – Saint Joseph’s has largely completed non-conference play, with only a Big 5 game against Penn remaining in less than three weeks. The Hawks are 10-4, with a few good wins, so considering where this team was the past two years it looks good. But in some sense, Saturday’s tough 74-69 loss at Harvard is indicative of the team: good, but still needing a good deal of work.

 

“We’re not good enough. Plain and simple,” said head coach Phil Martelli. “What we did wasn’t good enough. 9-16 from the foul line, two guys in double figures, it’s not good enough. I’ve been honest with this team, we’re inching up on being good, but we’re not there yet, and this is another indication that we’re not there yet.”

… Continue Reading

CBS’ Doyel has the guts to step back from the controversy trap

by - Published December 20, 2011 in Full Court Sprints

Good journalism isn’t easy.

That’s especially true when a juicy story comes along that’s sure to rile up the masses, generating lots of readers and charged opinions. Those stories force editors and reporters to make critical decisions about the validity of sources and effort required to seek comment from an opposing side.

In the emerging brouhaha about the transfer of Todd O’Brien from Saint Joseph’s to UAB, we have an awful lot of information spewing from the O’Brien side and almost nothing from the Hawks’ side.

If you missed the background, Sports Illustrated’s website ran a lengthy column by O’Brien, who outlined his journey through college basketball, which has landed him at UAB as a graduated senior with one remaining year of eligibility. However, before O’Brien can play for the Blazers, Saint Joseph’s must grant him a full release from his scholarship. And supposedly coach Phil Martelli refuses to do so. Without that release, O’Brien won’t play college hoops again.

Frankly, it’s hard to imagine a legitimate reason for not letting a guy play, especially for a team in a different conference and not on the Hawks’ schedule. But that’s not the point.

As the media outcry has sided with O’Brien — who is seeking legal recourse to force his way onto the court — only a handful of commentators have taken a measured approach to this story. So I tip my hat to CBS Sports’ Gregg Doyel, a man with plenty of strong opinions, for leaping into the fray waiving a gigantic caution flag.

While everyone is crying foul, Doyel cried, “Wait!” He rightfully observed that Saint Joseph’s is remaining mum because they are respecting student-athletes’ privacy. The bottom line is we don’t know the Saint Joseph’s side of the story, and we might not for some time. So it’s presumptuous at best and flat-out wrong at worst to side with the supposed victim in this story.

Of course, it’s far less engaging to remain on the fence when others are going all in and calling for Martelli’s ouster. That bloodlust is unhealthy and not reflective of this country’s innocent-until-PROVEN-guilty judicial system. If mob rule dictated justice, we’d have a lot of major mistakes to apologize for whenever we learned the truth — if we ever learned the truth.

A good journalist’s duty is to present clear, accurate and precise information. Commentators who espouse opinions based on incomplete information aren’t doing anyone any good. As unsexy as it may be, we all need to follow Doyel’s lead and wait and see. Let the established rules play out in the NCAA, and if the courts get involved, let the state and local laws as interpreted by the courts decide the matter.

But there’s no need to call for Martelli’s head on a platter until there’s substantiated evidence that he acted like a callous, vindictive control freak.

We go coast to coast with news from around the college basketball nation.

Kentucky had no problems getting past Samford, 82-50, even without Terrence Jones, who missed the game to recuperate from a dislocated pinky, writes the Associated Press’ Colin Fly.

California will be without one its big men this week as sophomore Richard Solomon recovers from a left foot injury, writes Diamond Leung for ESPN.com’s “College Basketball Nation” blog. The sophomore forward is one of the team’s best rebounders, averaging 6.9 rpg, and he’ll miss at least the team’s games against UNLV Dec. 23.

Miami will get back DeQuan Jones, who figured to play a bigger role for the Hurricanes this season — if for no other reason than he’s one of the bigger players on the teams. Jones missed the first month and a half of the season because the school suspended him for the season while the NCAA investigated his possible involvement in the recruiting scandal that has rocked the university. However, according to an Associated Press report, the Hurricanes have reversed that decision, and Jones could be back in the lineup as early as this week.

Some tech-savvy pranksters punked Oregon’s website Sunday night and Monday morning, writes the Washington Post’s Steve Yanda, and the hackers posted some disparaging comments about Virginia that were attributed to Oregon coach Dana Altman. The Ducks lost to the Cavaliers 67-54, and the hacker made up comments ranging from Mike Scott’s hair to the Ducks’ pregame meal. Oregon apologized to the Cavaliers for the malfeasance.

New Mexico State is bringing suspended guard Christian Kabongo back into the fold after the sophomore had been suspended for two games for making obscene gestures in a game against UTEP, writes ESPN.com’s Diamond Leung for the “College Basketball Nation” blog.

NCAA Division I programs couldn’t get enough support to overturn a rule that bans universities from hosting high school prep tournaments, according to an Associated Press report.

Houston boosters might have lost as much as 40 percent of their investments in the David Salinas Ponzi scheme affair, according to the Associated Press. Salinas committed suicide last year, a few weeks before the Securities and Exchange Commission filed a lawsuit that detailed the deceptive investments and behavior that swindled a bunch of Division I programs and coaches.

Another Youth Movement For Saint Joseph’s

by - Published December 29, 2010 in Columns

WORCESTER, Mass. – There’s a full-fledged youth movement at Saint Joseph’s for the second year in a row. If last season is any indication, as well as some of what the Hawks have gone through this season, one could be forgiven if they think it’s been a little taxing on the soul for the coaching staff. But despite the Hawks’ 4-8 record and a recent six-game losing streak that they ended on Tuesday night, that hasn’t quite been the case.

What was difficult for them was going a month without a win, as the Hawks last won on November 26 against Rutgers at the Palestra. At that time, the Hawks were 3-2 and had a three-game winning streak. Then a 12-point loss at Drexel started the six-game slide. While only one loss was at home and all six came against teams with postseason potential, that’s little consolation. … Continue Reading

2010 Atlantic 10 Post-Mortem

by - Published May 27, 2010 in Conference Notes

The 2009-10 season came after an off-season of transition for the Atlantic 10, as the conference moved its offices from the long-time home of Philadelphia to Newport News, Virginia. That was forgotten once the action got going on the hardwood, and not just because that’s what fans cared about. It was a big year for the conference, as it topped the previous record for non-conference wins with 135 and placed three teams in the NCAA Tournament. For good measure, two teams made a run to the NIT Final Four, with Dayton taking home the title, and three teams made the CBI, with Saint Louis making it to the final before losing to VCU (which also took out George Washington in the opening round).

For a lot of conference play, there was much buzz about how many teams might make the NCAA Tournament. At one point, many felt the conference could get as many as six teams, especially with the weak Pac-10, disappointing Big Ten and down years in conferences like the ACC and Conference USA. Six teams were certainly in play for a while, but much like two years ago, some of the teams in the bottom half of the conference started playing spoiler late in the season.

The post-season has been a good one thus far for the conference in the coaching ranks. Chris Mooney and Brian Gregory passed on overtures from other schools who had head coaching vacancies to stay with Richmond and Dayton, respectively. Fordham hired Tom Pecora to take over its program, while Charlotte hired Alan Major, regarded by many as an under-the-radar assistant, to take over for Bobby Lutz. Overall, there is some stability, which bodes well for the future.

Final Standings

Overall Atlantic 10
Temple 29-6 14-2
Xavier 26-9 14-2
Richmond 26-9 13-3
Saint Louis 23-13 11-5
Charlotte 19-12 9-7
Rhode Island 26-10 9-7
Dayton 24-12 8-8
Duquesne 16-16 7-9
St. Bonaventure 15-16 7-9
George Washington 16-15 6-10
Massachusetts 12-20 5-11
Saint Joseph’s 11-20 5-11
La Salle 12-18 4-12
Fordham 2-26 0-16

Conference Tournament

The first round took place at campus sites, with the home team winning three of the four games by double digits. The only game that did not fit that description was UMass’ 59-56 win at Charlotte in a defensive struggle. The seeds held in the quarterfinals save for Rhode Island’s 63-47 win over Saint Louis, although Xavier had to hold off Dayton and Richmond had to do the same with UMass to move on. Temple shut down Rhode Island for a 57-44 win in one semifinal, while Richmond needed overtime to knock off Xavier in a great game in the other semifinal. The Spiders got a game-tying layup from Kevin Anderson (27 points) to send it to overtime, where David Gonzalvez (26 points) hit a three-pointer to start them on the road to victory in the extra session.

In the championship game, Temple appeared to pull away early in the second half as they were up four at the half and led by 12 with just over 12 minutes left. But Richmond rallied, holding the Owls to just 33 percent from the field in the second half, and made it a ballgame late, where the Owls had to make free throws to seal the 56-52 win.

Postseason Awards

Player of the Year: Kevin Anderson, Richmond

Rookie of the Year: Chris Gaston, Fordham

Most Improved Player: Chris Johnson, Dayton

Defensive Player of the Year: Damian Saunders, Duquesne

Coach of the Year: Fran Dunphy, Temple

All-Conference Team

Kevin Anderson, Jr. G, Richmond

Lavoy Allen, Jr. F, Temple

Jordan Crawford, So. G, Xavier

Damian Saunders, Jr. F, Duquesne

Chris Wright, Jr. F, Dayton

Season Highlights

  • Of the 135 non-conference wins, 19 came against BCS conferences. That ranked fourth this season behind the Big 12 (28 wins), SEC (25) and ACC (25).
  • Fran Dunphy continues to be a master on the bench. Temple lost a lot from last season’s team, including Dionte Christmas, but all the Owls did was win 29 games and their third straight conference title.
  • The All-Atlantic 10 first team didn’t have a single senior, although one member of it (Jordan Crawford) will not be back next season.
  • Rhode Island didn’t finish the regular season well after winning a lot of close games early, but Jim Baron became the first Ram coach to lead the team to three straight 20-win seasons.
  • Although they faded in conference play, George Washington had a nice non-conference run that included five road wins. Only two teams in the conference won more road games than the seven the Colonials posted in total on the season.

What we expected, and it happened: Xavier had a new coach and no clear go-to guy, but the Musketeers continued to win. They didn’t miss a beat with Chris Mack taking over for the departed Sean Miller, and Jordan Crawford became the star of the team. Mack posted the most wins of any first-year coach in Division I, and the Musketeers reached the Sweet 16 for the third straight season.

What we expected, and it didn’t happen: La Salle was far from the contender many expected them to be, finishing 4-12 in the conference and not making the conference tournament. The Explorers were a senior-laden team, but an early injury to Ruben Guillandeaux set them back and a foot injury to Kimmani Barrett around the start of conference play was a back-breaker. The Explorers didn’t win a game in the month of February after they looked like they might come to life early in Atlantic 10 play. They weren’t deep in the backcourt before the injury to Guillandeaux, who started the season strong, and it showed as no team turned the ball over more than the Explorers did. They didn’t make up for it at the other end as only one team forced fewer turnovers.

What we didn’t expect, and it happened: Saint Louis finished in fourth place and made a deep postseason run, reaching the championship of the CBI. The Billikens looked to be at least a year away with a roster that featured 11 freshmen and sophomores and no seniors. But they racked up a good record in a manageable non-conference slate, then started February with six straight wins.

Team(s) on the rise: Saint Louis. The Billikens had no seniors on the roster, and after getting to the final of the CBI expectations will certainly be higher next season.

Team(s) on the decline: Saint Joseph’s. The Hawks were expected to be in rebuilding mode this year, but they looked worse than a rebuilding team. The upshot is that they finished with a winning record at home in their first year in the new arena, but there wasn’t much else to write home about this year and next year isn’t certain to be much, if any, better. Three players have transferred, Darren Govens and Garrett Williamson graduate and only two seniors will be on next year’s roster.

2010-11 Atlantic 10 Outlook

As good as this year was, next year could be even better for the conference. Ten all-conference players return next year, including four of five from the first team, as well as a strong crop of players that comprised the All-Rookie team. Stability is ever-present with many teams, especially from a coaching standpoint. Teams that lose key players won’t drop all the way back; Xavier and Temple will be fine, as will Dayton despite graduating several starters. Richmond shouldn’t be a one-year wonder, and Jim Baron appears to have Rhode Island in a good place although they’ve fallen agonizingly short of the NCAA Tournament a couple of times recently. Saint Louis, St. Bonaventure and George Washington appear to be on the way up, although a few teams don’t look to be on the rise right now. The immediate future for some middling programs like Charlotte, Duquesne and UMass is a little tough to figure right now.

A year ago, the conference’s move to Newport News, Virginia seemed like an odd destination given the conference’s geographic footprint. It had to make one wonder what the future of the conference would look like. Right now, the future looks quite positive based on the season just completed and what the season ahead could look like.

Hawks’ Offense Makes This Rebuilding Season Different

by - Published February 15, 2010 in Columns

AMHERST, Mass. – Phil Martelli has seen rebuilding years in his time.  After two good years to start his tenure at the school, the Hawks had losing records three years in a row.  But this one is a little different from those of the past, and there’s one thing that clearly makes this one a little different as Saint Joseph’s struggles at 3-8 in the Atlantic 10 after a 70-62 loss at UMass.

There’s more to this than just what the bottom line shows.  That the Hawks are 9-16 overall and 3-8 in the Atlantic 10 – which puts them in danger of a sub-.500 season in the conference for the first time in 10 years – is just the beginning.  The record is a reflection of the team, one with some youth and also with players who haven’t quite adapted to new roles after being role players when the Hawks had Tasheed Carr and Atlantic 10 Player of the Year Ahmad Nivins, the latter of whom left as the program’s third all-time leading scorer.

There’s no question this team misses Nivins, and most figured that would be the case.  They didn’t have a similar but less talented player on the roster last season, so they were going to be a little different.  And different, they are: they have out-rebounded an opponent just twice all season and have by far the worst rebounding margin in the Atlantic 10.  Bucknell transfer Todd O’Brien, who replaces him in the starting lineup, is a far cry from what Nivins was at both ends of the floor.

As important as Nivins was, they miss Carr more than many might realize.  Carr led the offense from the point guard spot and also shot nearly 41 percent from long range.  Senior Garrett Williamson has done a fine job of distributing the ball, but he did that well last year, too.  Neither Darrin Govens nor Justin Crosgile is close to what Carr was.

Without Nivins and Carr, the Hawks aren’t the most youthful team in the world, but there isn’t a lot of experience on this roster, either.  After Govens and Williamson, the most experienced player is junior Idris Hilliard, and the other two starters are freshman Crosgile and O’Brien, who sat out last year as a transfer.  The bench is a little thin on prior experience as well, as even the veterans were going to play appreciably more this season than in the past.

As bad as the rebounding has been, a bigger problem is the offense.  The Hawks have had trouble at that end of the floor, shooting just over 41 percent on the season and with more turnovers than assists.  There isn’t a sniper from long range, so teams can just zone them to shut off any inside scoring.  On Sunday, the Hawks didn’t score for the final 10:49 of the first half, and that helped negate a defensive effort that Martelli was content with.

“I’m leaving here not disappointed at all defensively.  I think we accomplished what we set out to do,” Martelli said after the game.  “I do leave hurting for my players because we went 11 and a half minutes in the first half without scoring, and that’s hard to do.  That’s on me.  We need more skill time, we need more creative offensive thinking.  We just seemed to go jumper, jumper – it wasn’t even turnovers, it was jumper, jumper.  We have to get some thrust to the basket here.”

During the offensive struggles, at one point the Hawks had several possessions where they brought the shot clock down, only to get shots like a three-pointer from Bryant Irwin, whose career percentage from deep is barely above 20 percent.  In the first half, 16 of their 27 field goal attempts came from behind the arc, even though their guards are more than capable of driving to create scoring chances.

In the second half, they held the Minutemen to 39 percent shooting, giving themselves a chance to come back.  But the offense was never able to get going.  They were able to get within five a couple of times and back within six a couple of times late, but could never break through.  The Hawks made a few mini-runs, but never kept the momentum going.

“There were times in the second half where I thought, one more play, and we didn’t get the one more play,” Martelli said.  “Maybe we stepped to the line and went 0-2, or we rushed a play to the basket, which I thought we did in the second half.”

After the Hawks started the season with three straight wins, it looked like they might be all right.  But six straight losses followed, and after breaking that streak they lost five of six.  With Sunday’s loss, they have again lost five of six.  While the record will catch people’s attention, that’s not what concerns Martelli.  Instead, it’s that he’s having a hard time digging below the numbers to find a silver lining.

“That’s the hurt that I have, because we’ve built this on daily improvement, individually and collectively,” said Martelli.  “When I stay awake at night, I say, who’s improving?  Who’s taking advantage of extra gym time or coaching time or film study.  That’s the angst that I have.”

Martelli isn’t blaming his players.  He’s spoken before about the importance of daily improvement, noting that this season it had to be across the board given who they lost from last season.  Given that it’s February, and that improvement is hard to find, he’s not looking far for an explanation.

“Where I really hurt – where I failed them – is I would like to be able to say, in this area we’re stepping forward,” he said.

The Hawks aren’t lacking talent, and they are gaining experience.  It’s not the best kind, with the team sporting a 9-16 mark, but newcomers are getting acclimated to the college game and O’Brien is understand the Atlantic 10.  Players like Chris Prescott, Irwin and Charoy Bentley are now learning to adjust to playing more minutes and having an expanded role.  This is who they have to go with, and since there isn’t a lack of talent, they aren’t doomed.

Still, the remaining schedule is far from easy.  The Hawks have to go to Xavier, host Temple, then go to Charlotte and George Washington before finishing the regular season against Big Five rival La Salle.  Their record might not look good after that stretch, but Martelli is hopeful that he can dig deeper and find a silver lining by then whether they make the Atlantic 10 Tournament or not.

College Basketball Tonight

COLLEGE BASKETBALL TONIGHT is a comprehensive look at the NCAA Tournament hosted by veteran college basketball broadcaster Ted Sarandis, who will be joined by former Manhattan and Seton Hall head coach Bobby Gonzalez and many great guests, including Hoopville's own Phil Kasiecki.

The show will air on AM 970 The Answer in New York City from 7-9 p.m. on every Sunday from Selection Sunday to the Final Four. You can listen to the show here.

Your Phil of Hoops

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Cornell’s future can only be better

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Cornell has had a rough season, as could be expected given some personnel losses. It’s almost in the books, and the future at least looks brighter.

2013 Prep School Tour

Missed a recap of an open gym workout? We have them all right here for you.

Sept. 9: St. Andrew's
Sept 10: Tilton
Sept. 11: South Kent School and Northfield Mount Hermon
Sept. 12: Putnam Science Academy
Sept. 16: St. Thomas More and Marianapolis Prep
Sept. 17: Brewster Academy and Phillips Exeter
Sept. 23: New Hampton School
Sept. 24: Brimmer and May
Sept. 25: Proctor Academy
Sept. 26: Notre Dame Prep and Cushing Academy
Sept. 29: Worcester Academy and Vermont Academy
Oct. 6: Charlestown High School and Milton Academy
Oct. 13: Tabor Academy
Oct. 15: Brooks School

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Coaching Changes and NBA Draft Early Entrants

The coaching carousel is already moving. Keep track of the latest coaching changes right here on Hoopville.

Also, keep track of players who have declared early for the NBA Draft.

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