Whether you are a fan of the Big 5 or not, the annual "Holy War" against St. Joes is a notable date on the calendar. Not necessarily because the opponent is our toughest (they aren't) or even our strongest rival (they're not), but because of the sheer passion of the fans. For St. Joseph's University, Friday night is as good as the Super Bowl and as much as Villanova fans want to deny that they care, that sort of excitement fires us up as well. It pains us to hear St. Joes fans gloat.
This season, the Hawks are out to a 3-3 start after dropping their home opener in a blowout-loss to the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers and following that game up with a loss at one-man-team Penn State. Their third loss came on Wednesday night against the Drexel Dragons in a game played in the Drexel campus' tiny arena, the DAC.
The Hawks do have three wins as well, but none of them were truly impressive, with only one of them coming against a team that currently has a winning record, but that team is the underwhelming 3-2 Rutgers squad that may be gearing up for a terribly futile BIG EAST season. Rutgers' best win so far has been a shocker against the potentially overrated Miami Hurricanes.
As Phil Martelli told reporters, their problems over the last few years were because they, "needed to become better at basketball."
That said, even a mediocre St. Joes team can upset the Wildcats in this game if they are given an opportunity to do so. That opportunity may come from beyond the 3-point arc, and from two players connecting on about 40% of their shots from that range, guard Langston Galloway and swingman Daryus Quarles.
The Hawks are lead by sophomore guard Carl Jones, averaging 15.4 points, 2.2 assists and 1 steal per game. Also averaging double-digits are Langston Galloway with 13.4 points, 6 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game, as well as Idris Hilliard, who has provided 11 points and 5.4 rebounds per game.
The Hawks average 13 assists and 15 turnovers per game, and have been out-rebounded by opponents, 37.7 to 41 per game. They have allowed opponents to shoot (on average) 44.4% from the field.
Ken Pomeroy gives the 'Cats a 97% chance of winning this game, and predicts a final score of 83-62.
If Villanova can control the Hawks' shooters and continue to protect the ball on offense, then Pomeroy's projections would seem about right. Shot selection has been an issue for the 'Cats early on this season, and in addition to sloppy defense, it was a primary reason for the loss to Tennessee. Rather than taking contested shots, Fisher and Wayns should look to find some open shot for Stokes or Cheek and be more patient with ball movement to break down the Hawk defense.
The game will tip-off from the Pavilion at 8:45pm and will be carried on ESPNU.
If you haven't already, get your predictions in for Ed's Closest to the Pin contest!
Thanks to the Naughty Volvo S60, I will be heading down to the Main Line to attend this game. Please check out MyBigEastVolvo.com for more information and to VOTE for me in their fan-poll. The winning blogger's school will receive a donation from Volvo during the Big East Tournament.
Also, if you want updates on my trip to the Pavilion and chances to get some free Volvo "schwag," follow me on twitter: @BrianIsAwesome.