2013-14 Non-Con Preview: Saint Joseph’s

Ronald Roberts Jr. and the Hawks face a number of talented mid-major teams before Atlantic 10 play begins. (Photo: Mark Jordan)

Ronald Roberts Jr. and the Hawks face a number of talented mid-major teams before Atlantic 10 play begins. (Photo: Mark Jordan)

Rich McIntosh (@richiemcintosh)

Saint Joseph’s will attempt to stake its claim as a high-level Atlantic 10 competitor, after a few seasons in a row the hawk faithful appear to have deemed “disappointing”. Despite the loss of key players C.J. Aiken and Carl “Tay” Jones, the Hawks hope to start the season off strong in the face of a tough non-conference schedule, including a stretch of three consecutive games against City 6 teams.

In place of the shot-blocking phenom Aiken and the speedster Jones, the Hawks will likely look to freshman forward DeAndre Bembry and redshirt freshman Kyle Molock–the latter of whom hopes to be healthy for the first time since high school–to pick up the slack. Bembry showed flashes of brilliance this summer during the Hawks’ overseas visit to Italy and there is a rising belief that he will be a difference maker on day one. Molock, who hasn’t played a game of basketball since his senior year, did not see a lot of court time but may be expected to contribute early on a team that lost two of its best players.

Marist box courtesy Ryan Restivo, Big Apple Buckets

Nov. 9 @ Vermont (21-12, 11-5 America East)
Coach: John Becker–3rd year, 45-24 (.652)
Postseason: CBI Opening Round
RPI/KenPom: 118/137
Starters Returning: 4
Key Loss(es): Trey Blue (8.6 ppg)
Name to know: Although senior Luke Apfeld saw the bulk of the team’s possessions and will likely continue to do so, an argument can be made that the team’s most important player is fellow senior Brian Voelkel. The 6-6 forward averaged 6.0 points, nearly nine rebounds and five assists per game as a junior. Voelkel nearly doubled his percentages from both inside and outside the arc while playing about the same number of minutes as his sophomore year. Despite this, Voelkel ranked only fifth on the team last season in terms of percentage of possessions used, so it may be key for the team for him to have the ball in his hands a bit more. 
The Skinny: Becker has a pretty good track record thus far, and four out of five starters returning will help the team continue to improve. The dynamic playmaking ability of Voelkel will put Saint Joseph’s defense to the test. The Catamounts also have an uncanny ability to get to the charity stripe, boasting a top five ranking in terms of free throws as a percentage of total points. Vermont boasts a pretty lengthy squad, nearly cracking the top 50 of all Division I teams in terms of average height, which combined with their strong rebounding percentages, could spell trouble.

Nov. 13 vs. Marist (10-21, 6-12 MAAC)
Coach: Jeff Bower–1st season
Postseason: None
RPI/KenPom: 260/236
Starters Returning: 4
Key Loss(es): Devin Price (13.7 ppg), Dorvell Carter (5.0 ppg), Anell Alexis (3.7 ppg)
Name to know: Adam Kemp. Marist’s top weapon is swingman Chavaughn Lewis, but the most consistent option for the Red Foxes in the final month of the season was Kemp. He averaged over 18.0 points and 10.0 rebounds over their final eight games last season and is a nuisance inside.
The Skinny: Marist has the talent to compete with the top teams in the MAAC, but has not been able to put together consistent victories over the past two seasons. Out is Chuck Martin–who coached the team five years and brought in considerable talent–and in is Bower, former GM of the New Orleans Hornets. They will likely rely on Kemp and Lewis, whose game slashing to the basket should open up more this year. Redshirt freshman Khalid Hart having an impact after sitting out with an injury. The Red Foxes have enough talent to win games against the top of the league but have not consistently shown it yet, this could be the year they break .500 in league play.

Nov. 16 vs. Creighton (28-8, 13-5 Missouri Valley)
Coach: Greg McDermott–4th year, 80-30 (.727)
Postseason: NCAA Tournament 3rd Round
RPI/KenPom: 20/19
Starters Returning: 4
Key Loss(es): Gregory Echenique (9.7 ppg, 6.6 rpg)
Name to know: Doug McDermott. The coach’s son passed up a possible NBA spot to play for a fourth year under his father at Creighton. Though his draft stock has steadily fallen over his time with the Bluejays, he’s still a dominant player at the college level. The bulk of Creighton’s offense runs through McDermott, as he puts up around 35 percent of the Bluejay’s total shots, while still boasting a true shooting percentage of 67.2, good for seventh in the nation.
The Skinny: It seems hard to remember the last time Creighton wasn’t a strong team, and the elder McDermott’s record reflects that. The Hawks don’t really have a single player than can effectively guard McDermott–although not many teams in college do. Team defense will be the key. Defending the Bluejays, however, is easier said than done. The team ranked number one in the entire country in terms of three-point field goal percentage, and landed in the top three when it comes to regular field goal percentage. Creighton will almost certainly be ranked, so a victory here could be a huge boost for the season and the team’s confidence.

Old Spice Classic (Orlando, Fla.)
Nov. 28 vs. LSU (19-12, 9-9 SEC)
Coach: Johnny Jones–2nd year, 19-12 (.631)
Postseason: N/A
RPI/KenPom: 87/95
Starters Returning: 4
Key Loss(es): Charles Carmouche (10.7 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 3.6 apg)Jalen Courtney (2.1 ppg, 2.1 rpg)
Name to know: Andre Stringer. The rising senior shot over 40 percent from three-point range during his junior year. Stringer hit double-digits in scoring fifteen times during the last season, so the Hawks will need to keep an eye on him if they want to prevent a possible 15-20 point outburst.
The Skinny: LSU is a good, tough opponent for the Hawks to play in the first round of the Old Spice Classic. Stringer may give the Hawks a tough time by exploiting their biggest weakness: defending the three-point shot. The Tigers are one of the better teams in the nation when it comes to creating turnovers, cracking the top 15 in terms of Steal percentage. LSU tends to fall in love with the 3-point shot, ranking in the top 100 in both percentage made and in terms of 3-pointers taken per field goal attempt. If their three pointers aren’t falling, they may not have much to fall back on.

Dec. 4 at Temple (24-10, 11-5 American Athletic Conference)
Coach: Fran Dunphy–8th year, 158-75 (.678)
Postseason: NCAA Tournament 3rd Round
RPI/KenPom: 36/62
Starters Returning: 2
Key Loss(es): Khalif Wyatt (19.8 ppg), Scootie Randall (11.8 ppg), Jake O’Brien (9.3 ppg), Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson (8.9 ppg), T.J. DiLeo
Name to know: Anthony Lee. He averaged 9.0 points and nearly 7.0 rebounds as a freshman and has the benefit of NCAA tournament experience at a young age. The Hawks held him to just three points in their last meeting, and one has to assume he won’t let that happen again. Lee ranked eleventh in the nation in defensive rebounding percentage, so at 6-9 his length will give both the Hawks, and other teams, a lot of trouble inside.
The Skinny: Temple is never an easy test for Saint Joseph’s, even less so when the game is played at the Liacouras Center. Despite losing 5 seniors after last season, The Owls will most definitely be the favorite coming in. The Owl’s will be sporting a vastly different starting lineup, with three starters departing, making up a total of 40.5 points per game in production. They’ll likely look to sophomore Quenton DeCosey and junior Will Cummings to pick up some of the slack. Temple doesn’t make a lot of offensive mistakes, ranking in in the top ten in terms of possessions lost due to steals, so capitalizing on the few mistakes they do make is key.

Nov. 8 Villanova Wildcats (20-14, 10-8 Big East)
Coach: Jay Wright–13th year, 257-144 (.641)
Postseason: NCAA Round of 64
RPI/KenPom: 74/43
Starters Returning: 4
Key Loss(es): Mouphtaou Yarou (9.9 ppg, 7.8 rpg), Achraf Yacoubou 
Name to know: Ryan Arcidiacono. The sophomore point guard averaged 11.9 points and 3.1 assists in an impressive first year as a Wildcat, helping to lead the team to its first NCAA tournament berth since the 2010 season. While he’s not necessarily the most efficient scorer or distributor, there’s not much to doubt with regards to his playmaking abilities.
The Skinny: Villanova returns four starters off of an NCAA Round of 64 appearance, so this will probably be a tough match-up against a team that looks much the same as it did in the previous season. Avoiding foul trouble is key against the Wildcats, as they ranked number 1 in the country in terms of free throws attempted relative to field goals attempted. Despite being among the worst teams in terms of defending the three pointer, the Wildcats field a pretty tough defensive squad, ranking 16th when it comes to opponent’s two point field goal percentage. If 3-point shots aren’t falling, the Wildcats are one of the tougher defensive match-ups you’ll come across.

Dec. 18 vs. Drexel (20-14, 10-8 Big East)
Coach: Bruiser Flint–13th season, 212-159 (.571)
Postseason: None
RPI/KenPom: 211/163
Starters Returning: 3
Key Loss(es): Derrick Thomas (9.2 ppg, 2.3 apg), Daryl McCoy (4.4 ppg, 8.6 rpg)
Name to know: Damion Lee. The Baltimore native followed up a CAA Rookie of the Year campaign in 2011-12 (12.0 ppg, 4.4 rpg) with an even better sophomore season, leading the Dragons with 17.1 ppg and earning all-CAA Second Team honors for his efforts. A 6-6 sharpshooter, Lee is becoming a more versatile scorer who’s improving his ability to get to the basket and draw contact; he got to the free-throw line 3.1 times per game as a freshman but stepped that up to 4.3 trips as a sophomore. Already at 895 career points, if he continues on his current path and stays healthy he could end up being one of the top five scorers in DU history.
The Skinny: Drexel struggled last year after a 29-win season in 2011-12, but the pieces are in place for Flint and company to challenge for another CAA title. Senior guards Frantz Massenat (14.7 ppg, 4.2 apg) and Chris Fouch–who was averaging 16.7 ppg in three games before a broken ankle–are both all-CAA candidates. A talented and eager freshman class should inject some new energy into the program as well.

Dec. 21 at Loyola (Md.) (23-12, 12-6 Metro Atlantic)
Coach: G.G. Smith–1st season, 0-0
Postseason: CIT quarterfinals
RPI/KenPom: 86/121
Starters Returning: 2
Key Loss(es): Erik Etherly (15.7 ppg, 6.5 rpg), Robert Olson (12.7 ppg, 4.4 rpg), Julius Brooks (4.5 ppg, 3.4 rpg)
Name to know: Dylon Cormier. The senior guard led the team in scoring, averaging nearly 17 points per contest. Cormier’s efficiency took a drastic downturn last year, however. The departure of coach Jimmy Patsos may offer him some relief in that arena, in that he may not continue to see 35+ minutes per game to the detriment of his efficiency.
The Skinny: Loyola was a strong defensive team both in terms of turnovers and rebounding last season and there’s little reason to think this will change. The Greyhounds do lose their second and third leading scorers in Etherly and Olson, so their team chemistry could be a factor in this matchup. Former coach Jimmy Patsos is now the new head coach at Siena, so it will be interesting to see if Smith can maintain the momentum of 47 wins in the last two seasons as Loyola moves into the Patriot League from the MAAC.

Dec. 29 vs. Boston University (17-13, 11-5 America East)
Coach: Joe Jones–3rd year, 33-29 (.532)
Postseason: CIT first round
RPI/KenPom: 151/148
Starters Returning: 5
Key Loss(es): None
Name to know: Maurice Watson. The sophomore led the team in assists with nearly six per game as a freshman. He was also among their leading scorers, with 11.0 points per game, picking up where he left off as one of the leading scorers in Philadelphia Public League history. The Boys’ Latin grad, who finished his HS career with over 2000 points, scored in double digits in each of the last six games of the season.
The Skinny: Boston is just two seasons removed from their last NCAA Tournament berth and fields one of the strongest teams in the Patriot League. The Terriers had one of the more sharp-shooting offenses in NCAA Division I basketball, ranking in the top 50 in 3-point field goal percentage as well as the top 70 in two-point percentage and free throw percentage. They also didn’t turn the ball over very often, posting average-to-above-average rates both in terms of percentage of shots blocked and percentage of possessions lost due to steals. The key to stopping Boston University lies in their two most potent offensive weapons, Watson and senior D.J. Irving, who combined to take nearly half of all of team’s shots last season.

Dec. 31 vs. Binghamton (3-27, 1-15 America East)
Coach: Tommy Dempsey–2nd year 3-27 (.100)
Postseason: N/A
RPI/KenPom: 345/343
Starters Returning: 2
Key Loss(es): Jimmy Gray (10.5 ppg), Taylor Johnston (6.1 ppg)
Name to know: Jordan Reed. The sophomore, a Wissahickson grad, came on strong during his first year at the college level, leading the team in scoring and rebounds with 16.0 and nearly 10.0 per game respectively, last season. Reed scored in double digits in all but a single game in which he played.
The Skinny: Binghamton will look to bounce back after posting a record 3-27 last season, although the performance of Reed bodes well for the season and the team’s future going forward. The bulk of the offense will likely to continue to go through Reed, as he ranked seventh in the nation in terms of possessions used last season. The Bearcats are among the best teams in the nation in shot blocking, cracking the top five in that category, which will make getting to the basket a tall task. They’re also one of the better teams country-wide when it comes to giving up free throws to opponents, so any points scored against this squad will have to be earned, instead of given at the foul line.

Jan. 4 vs. Denver (22-10, 16-2 Summit)
Coach: Joe Scott–7th year, 102-84 (.548)
Postseason: NIT 2nd Round
RPI/KenPom: 71/44
Starters Returning: 4
Key Loss(es): Chase Hallam (9.6 ppg, 3.7 rpg)
Name to know: Junior Royce O’Neal averaged 11.0 points, 6.0 rebounds and nearly 4.0 assists per game last season, while playing the most minutes of any player on the squad. O’Neal didn’t play terribly well in the NIT last year, so he’s likely to itching to get back onto the court and prove himself this season.
The Skinny: Denver is a solid team and will give Saint Joseph’s trouble on both ends of the floor. Denver is limited in size, ranking among the shortest teams in the nation in terms of effective height (height adjusted for position) so they may have trouble inside with Saint Joseph’s seniors Halil Kanacevic and Ronald Roberts, Jr. planted down low. Denver’s limited size led to a lot of rebounding issues last season; however, they play at one of the slowest paces in college basketball, which makes that less of an issue than it would be otherwise. They also run one of the most efficient offenses in the country, ranking third in effective field goal percentage, meaning there won’t be all that many rebounds for them to give up, at least on the offensive end. The Pioneers field a very strong defensive team, ranking third in steal percentage and 25th in block percentage, so they make the most of their length. Denver will be without Hallam, however, who was among the team and nation’s leaders in steal percentage so they will have to look towards the rest of the team to make up for that lost defensive intensity.

Jan. 18 at Penn (9-22, 6-8 Ivy)
Coach: Jerome Allen–5th year, 48-65 (.425)
Postseason: None
RPI/KenPom: 292/243
Starters Returning: 5
Key Loss(es): None
Name to know: Fran Dougherty. The finally healthy senior will look to continue to lead the team as he did last season. Despite not being 100 percent for part of the year, Dougherty put up 13.0 points and nearly 8.0 rebounds per game before missing the rest of the season due to injury.
The Skinny: Penn struggled at times last season, but they also fielded one of the youngest squads in the entire country, with an average level of experience of just a little over one year. Returning all five starters and with another season under their belts, the Quakers will look to improve the most on the offensive end of the floor, where they ranked poorly across the board. They’ll also likely continue to improve an already solid defense, which was above average both when it came to forcing turnovers and opponent’s effective field goal percentage. Despite their offensive struggles, Penn ranked 33rd in the nation in assists per field goal made; if sophomore guards Tony Hicks and Jamal Lewis can cut down on the turnovers, the Quakers should be a much more dangerous team in terms of scoring the ball.

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2 Responses to 2013-14 Non-Con Preview: Saint Joseph’s

  1. Tom says:

    Loyola Maryland actually lost three of their starters from last year (Erik Etherly, Robert Olson, and Anthony Winbush), in addition to Julius Brooks. Etherly was their second scorer (15.7) and top rebounder (6.5), Olson averaged 12.7 ppg and was their only real 3 point threat, and Winbush was a solid all around player (7.0 ppg and 6.2 rpg). Although they bring back Cormier, R.J. Williams, and Jordan Latham, they will look a bit different as a team. It’ll be hard to fill Etherly’s shoes. Cormier may need to keep playing all those minutes, unless some of the younger guys can step up offensively. I agree that Loyola will continue to be a strong defensive team. Williams and Cormier wreak havoc up top and Latham was their leading shot blocker last year even though he only played 16 minutes a game.

    • jmverlin says:

      Thanks for the correction. There was some confusion as to what years certain players were; it’s been updated.

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