The Empire will be running a series called “Statistically Speaking,” where we touch on different topics with a specific spin towards statistics.
The Saint Joseph's Hawks, after winning their first two games of the season, traveled to the Virgin Islands to take part in the Paradise Jam. After winning the opener, they lost to Ole Miss in the semifinals and proceeded to drop the third place game to NC State. Their record now sits at 3-2.
Last year, the Hawks participated in the Hall of Fame Tip-off preseason tournament. After falling in the semifinals of the tournament to Florida, the Hawks squeaked by Old Dominion for their fourth win of the season. If it weren’t for Shavar Newkirk's last second jump shot, the Hawks and the Monarchs would have gone to overtime. Had the Hawks lost that game, they would have opened their season 3-2, much like this year's team.
But they didn't. They won. So the Hawks began 4-1 before falling to the then eighth-ranked Villanova.
If St. Joe's can defeat Temple this Wednesday, they will have opened both this season and last season with a 4-2 record. According to KenPom.com, the Hawks are scoring about as efficiently so far as they did at the beginning of last season. Their defense has been about as equally efficient as well.
One major difference this year is that St. Joe's is playing at a slower pace. Although they’re averaging just two less possessions per 40 minutes, that’s enough for more than 100 NCAA teams to pass them in the rankings.
Another big difference is Luck Factor. Last year’s 4-2 start statistically outperformed their expected start than this year's 3-2 start by small margin. KenPom’s Pythagorean Rating is the expected winning percentage of a team against a perfectly average Division I team on a neutral court. This number is based off of Bill James’s Pythagorean Win Expectation formula, but adjusted for college basketball. The Luck Factor is simply the deviation of a team’s actual win percentage from the Pythagorean Rating.
Last season, the Hawks won 67% of their first six games, but their statistics apparently claimed that they were playing like a team with a .544 winning percentage at the time. This season, the Hawks have won 60% of their first five games, but based on their statistics, this team is instead playing like a team with a .566 winning percentage.
What can we take from this? Not too much, honestly. But what we can take from this is the idea that last year’s team didn’t look any better through their first six games than this year’s team looks through their first five. In fact, KenPom’s Pythagorean Rating claims that this year's team has actually played slightly better. Statistically speaking, the 2016-17 squad is so far playing like a team that would claim two more wins per 100 games played than last year's team would at this point in the season.
Their strength of schedules to this point rank similarly as well. Although this year’s Hawks have faced lesser defenses than last year’s Hawks, they’ve also faced stronger offenses.
Roster-wise there are some major differences as well. St. Joe's lost DeAndre’ Bembry, 2016 Atlantic 10 Player of the Year, to the NBA draft following last season. They also lost Isaiah Miles, the Atlantic 10’s Most Improved Player last year.
“We knew going into last year that we had a superstar [in DeAndre’ Bembry],” head coach Phil Martelli said before the season. “We watched [Isaiah Miles] develop in front of our eyes. We had older guys. Papa Ndao was a sixth year player. Aaron Brown was a fifth year player.”
The team did return Lamarr Kimble, who made last year's All-Rookie Team. Although he’s not quite yet on the level of stardom that Bembry was, he's a star for sure. We’re also watching a player develop in front of our eyes similarly to the way that Miles did. Shavar Newkirk is averaging 21.8 points, 3.8 assists, and 4.2 rebounds per game thus far. He’s shooting 53.6% from the floor and 41.2% from long range. His contributions have far exceeded expectations and have played a major factor in St. Joe’s success.
This past preseason, the Hawks were picked to finish ninth in the Atlantic 10. Being underestimated and proving naysayers wrong is not something Martelli’s team is unfamiliar with though.
Prior to last season, St. Joe’s was picked to finish seventh in the conference preseason poll. They wound up taking fourth place in the regular season, but made a favorable case that they were the best team in the league by the end, highlighted by an Atlantic 10 championship.
While it's easy to say this year’s Hawks just simply aren’t what they were last year, first take time to recognize that last year didn't start to differently. Even more trivial events like barely escaping a team St. Joe’s should’ve blown out in the season opener seem to be recurring. However, despite this, there's no doubt that Phil Martelli’s Hawks are heading in the right direction.
Data retrieved from KenPom.com on Nov. 25
Graphics by Nick Mandarano
Photo: Sideline Photos, LLC
Saint Joseph's announced today that forward James Demery has suffered a stress fracture in the fourth metatarsal of his left foot and will be out for a few weeks. Demery’s status will be re-evaluated in a few weeks, according to a Saint Joseph’s press release.
The North Carolina native played an integral role in the Hawks’ 77-76 season opening win against Toledo. He tallied 11 points and grabbed a career-high 8 rebounds.
The Hawks take on Columbia tonight at Hagan Arena before traveling to the Paradise Jam in the U.S. Virgin Islands for a 3-day tournament.
Photo: Sideline Photos
Saint Joseph’s was down 37-32 with 2:45 left to go in the first half. The offense was sputtering and having trouble to crack Toledo’s lead. That was until junior James Demery made a game changing play that caused the crowd to reach one of its highest decibel levels of the night.
After freshman Charlie Brown nailed a long three, Demery stole the ball on the following defensive possession and ran past everyone on both teams for a huge dunk. He fell into the first row of the crowd, screaming with pride after such a game changing slam. It was a large momentum builder in the Hawks 77-76 victory over Toledo, as they had finally cut into the Rockets’ lead, bringing the game closer heading into halftime.
It was also a clear turning point for Demery, who began the game struggling offensively. After failing to convert two tough takes to the basket, missing a three pointer, and three turnovers, it was clear Demery was out of sync. It took until the 3:40 mark in the first half for Demery to score his first points, after a good cut and assist from sophomore guard Lamarr Kimble.
“It was the first game,” Demery said after the contest. “Everyone is nervous out there. Then in the second half, I said, ‘it’s time to pick it up.’”
Demery played a big offensive role in the second half, putting away the jitters. He came out attacking, scoring 6 points in the first 3 minutes of the second half, including a drive and dunk, energizing the team and crowd.
“I said ‘drive the ball to the basket,’ ” head coach Phil Martelli exclaimed. “‘You don’t have to show anyone that you’re a jump shooter. Drive the ball to the basket’...if you look at his plays in the second half, he was going to the basket. In the first half, his brain was racing. We just had to slow him down.”
Although he played a large role in their second half offensive performance, it was on the defensive end that Demery made his mark. While Shavar Newkirk kept scoring and Markell Lodge had monster blocks, Demery quietly won them the game. The 6-foot-6, 198-pound forward was asked to stick Toledo’s 6-foot-9, 240-pound big man Steve Taylor, Jr. Taylor, a transfer from Marquette, showed his versatility from the get-go, grabbing a rebound in the first half and dribbling the length of the floor for a transition dunk. It was clear early on that it would not be an easy test for Demery.
“[It was about] playing strong,” Demery noted. “He had me physically, but mentally and heart wise, you just have to go out there and do the best you can do.”
Demery contained Taylor, only allowing the mature big man to score only 5 points in the first half on 2 of 5 shooting from the floor. Although Taylor finished with 14 points (not all of them with Demery on him), Demery noticeably held his own. Although the Toledo big man should have torn apart the smaller forward, he did not.
“I tried not to let Taylor get comfortable with the ball because he’s a big guy,” Demery said. “He knows how to use his feet as well. So I just tried to get him out of his comfort zone, which we did. In the first half of the game, he was kind of struggling. In the second half, he started to pick it up a little.”
Demery not only worked to disturb Taylor’s positioning in the post, but also fought for positioning in the rebounding department. Despite the mismatch, Demery outrebounded Taylor 8 to 7.
But Demery’s defense on the opposing team’s ‘4’ will not be an anomaly for the 2016-17 season.
“That’s what the coaches have been talking about for me, covering the four,” Demery added. “Then on the offensive end, that will make the lanes easier for me to get by a ‘4’ because most ‘4’s’ don’t have [good footwork].”
However, as the game progressed and Toledo went to a smaller lineup, Demery was then asked to play on the perimeter and cover Toledo's star guard Jonathan Williams, who averaged 19 points per game last season.
“Once we’re looking at four perimeter guys,” Martelli said, “we’ll pick the matchup for [Demery].”
It was a game that showed the true colors of Demery. His versatility and fearlessness was a large part of why Saint Joseph’s walked away with their first win of the season.
And although Demery may not look like the star of the night with only 11 points, the forward form North Carolina had a major impact on the outcome of the game. But after years of playing behind DeAndre Bembry and Isaiah Miles, he’s accustomed to the role of the unsung hero, just like he was last night against Toledo.
Photo: Benjamin Simon/The Empire
Saint Joseph’s is on the heels of a magical season. Predicted to finish seventh in the Atlantic 10 in the preseason poll, the Hawks far outperformed their expectations this past year. After finishing the season fourth in the conference standings, the Hawks went on to win the Atlantic 10 championship and advance into the second round of the NCAA tournament.
This year, the Hawks are looking for the same kind of underdog story since it’s been announced that they’ve been voted to finish ninth in the preseason poll. Although without DeAndre’ Bembry, Isaiah Miles, Aaron Brown and Papa Ndao, it’s been a concern as to how the Hawks plan to replace so much production. However they plan to do it, so they’ll have to do it without Pierfrancesco Oliva. It was announced a few weeks ago that Oliva would be sidelined for the entire season with a knee injury. The freshman started 30 games last season and was expected to be a starter again this year, but now the lineup will be shaken up a bit.
St. Joe’s also named tri-captains for this season: Javon Baumann, Brendan Casper and Lamarr Kimble. Like every year, the captains were decided by a player vote and are a strong representation of the team.
Aaron Brown (G, Sr.), Isaiah Miles (F, Sr.), Skylar Scrivano (F, Sr.) DeAndre’ Bembry (F, Jr.), Papa Ndao (F, Gr.)
St. Joe’s lost Miles, Brown, Scrivano and Ndao, who are all out of eligibility, and Bembry, who was drafted by the Atlanta Hawks last summer. Miles, Bembry and Brown were the team’s three leading scorers last season, combining for close to 46 points per game. The four of them also combined for 117.9 minutes per game last year. It’s a hefty load that St. Joe’s is losing this offseason. Bembry, who averaged 17.4 points per game, 7.8 rebounds, and 4.5 assists per game, was the MVP of the A-10, while Miles, who led the Hawks in scoring, won the A-10’s Most Improved Player and made second team All-Conference. Now playing in Iceland, Brown thrived in the Hawks’ starting lineup, averaging 10 points per game and shooting 45% from the field.
Charlie Brown (F, Fr.), Nick Robinson (G, Fr.), Gerald Blount (F, Fr.), Toliver Freeman (G, Fr.), Lorenzo Edwards (F, Fr.)
St. Joe’s will welcome five new freshmen to the team this season, including a walk-on, Toliver Freeman. Brown, the Hawks’ top recruit, is rated three stars on ESPN.com. Originally from Philadelphia, he played a fifth high school season at St. Thomas More in Connecticut in order to better prepare for the college level. The forward is a deadeye shooter with a silky jump shot. Robinson, Blount, and Edwards, all versatile players with athleticism, will round out the squad of newcomers that will inevitably play a significant role on this year’s squad due to a lack of upperclassman depth.
Projected Starting Lineup
G: Lamarr Kimble (Proj. Stats: 12 PPG, 6.5 APG)
Returning as the reigning Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Year, Kimble will be playing the role as a captain in his sophomore campaign. After averaging less than twenty minutes a game last year, he can be confident in the fact he’ll see a drastic increase in playing time. The Philadelphia native should be on the early watch list for the All-Conference team and will almost certainly earn his first career start in the season opener.
G: Shavar Newkirk (Proj. Stats: 9.5 PPG, 5.5 APG)
Newkirk’s improvement from his freshman year to his sophomore year was impressive. He learned to play more under control and more intelligently. In the process, Newkirk evolved into one of the conference’s top point guards. After starting all 36 games for the Hawks last season, it would come as a shock if he wasn’t named a starter for the upcoming season. It’ll be interesting, though, to see how Coach Martelli decides to handle the playing times of Newkirk and Kimble.
F: James Demery (Proj Stats: 15 PPG, 6 RPG)
The number one flaw in Demery’s game has been his shooting ability, but after some work with the assistant coaches last year, fans saw some minor but noticeable improvements. His game progressed in various other areas as well and if the progressions continued as expected through this past offseason, then Demery may be ready to take over as one of the premier players in the conference. His ability to finish at the rim has already shown glimpses of his potential elite status. However, it is not a secret that his defense is what really stands out. When walk-on Toliver Freeman was asked who is the best defender on the team, he didn’t hesitate, calling Demery the team’s toughest defender to get by. His ability on the defensive end will be an unbelievably valuable asset for the Hawks this season. The loss of DeAndre’ Bembry leaves fans wondering who will assume the role of shut-down on-ball defender and Demery is ready to do just that.
F: Charlie Brown (Proj. Stats: 13 PPG, 5 RPG)
Charlie Brown could become just the fourth freshman to start the season opener for Martelli (Galloway, Bembry, Oliva). Standing at 6-foot-6 and weighing in at just 185 pounds, he is a bit of an undersized power forward, so the Hawks will have to make adjustments to their game style. Much of the talent for St. Joe’s is among the guards this year, so it’s not unlikely Martelli decides to run smaller lineups more often than not. Expect the Hawks to run and play an up-tempo style offense, which would fit Brown’s skillset perfectly.
F: Javon Baumann (Proj. Stats: 4.5 PPG, 9 RPG)
There’s not much size on this St. Joe’s squad, but Baumann will provide a presence on the interior and on the boards. The biggest question mark surrounding Baumann is his physical status and whether or not he’ll be in shape enough to keep up with the guard-dominated roster. There won’t be much pressure placed on him to score, but he’ll be assigned to play strong interior defense and rebound at a high rate in order to compensate for the otherwise undersized lineup.
Gerald Blount (F, Fr.), Brandon Casper (F, Sr.), Chris Clover (G, Soph.), Lorenzo Edwards (F, Fr.), Toliver Freeman (G, Fr.), Markell Lodge (F, So.), Nick Robinson (G, Fr.), Jai Williams (F, Jr.),
With a lack of size on the roster, Williams will play a crucial role off the bench, often replacing and perhaps sometimes teaming up with Baumann in the post. His 6-foot-9, 240 pound frame will take up space on the defensive interior and will help him bang down low on the offensive end of the court. He’ll also play a key role in keeping Baumann out of foul trouble.
Outside of those two, there is a real lack of size on the team. If the Hawks do play up-tempo, an athletic freak like Lodge could be useful and fit smoothly into the game plan. He hasn’t played much thus far in his collegiate career. However, on a team without any pre-declared superstars, this year could be an opportunity for Lodge to showcase his abilities.
Both Newkirk and Kimble stand at 6-foot-0, so Robinson could be useful as a 6-foot-6 point guard against bigger opponents. Since the Hawks will be lacking big men in the post, perhaps they could counterbalance that in the backcourt. A taller point guard would, at the very least, help with the rebound battles against opponents.
at Villanova (December 3, 2016)
After Philadelphia has been painted with giant blue and white V’s, there has never been a larger target on the Wildcats’ back for the Hawks. It doesn’t sit well when your city is parading around in your rivals’ colors and championship gear. This year’s Holy War will be intense.
vs. St. Bonaventure (February 22, 2017)
The Bonnies were the only team to beat the Hawks twice last season. St. Joe’s hasn’t beaten St. Bonaventure since they faced off in the 2014 Atlantic 10 semifinals. After losing five consecutive games to this team, St. Joe’s will host St. Bonaventure in late February in the first match of their two-game season series.
at Dayton (February 7, 2017)
St. Joe’s has just one game against Dayton, who is ranked number one in the Atlantic 10 preseason poll, this year. After a thrilling 82-79 win over the Flyers in the semifinals of last season’s A-10 tournament, the Hawks will travel to Dayton to play the conference favorites.
The Hawks have lost a load of production, but seemed to have done a decent job compensating with their incoming freshman class headlined by Charlie Brown. They will play a schedule that is maybe moderately strong, but certainly not too difficult. Their non-conference schedule isn’t much to brag about unless they can pull off an upset victory at Villanova. Otherwise, expect St. Joe’s to get off to a hot start prior to their Atlantic 10 season. Following that, they should be capable of managing to earn a decent enough conference record to finish with twenty wins.
“First of all, [the freshmen] fit. They’re good teammates on a group that that’s a priority with all of these guys - to be a good teammate and develop into a great teammate. We have a lot of opportunities here and so far they’ve measured up. They’ve measured up in the classroom, they’ve measured up socially and they’ve measured up on the court. Now we’ll see. Now, it’s no long about an individual, it’s about us. How do they fit in our plan and our work to make sure that we have a chance to beat Toledo. That’s the whole thing. That’s the only thing that matters here. It’s not about what people thought about them or didn’t think about them. It’s whether or not they can help us beat Toledo. And then at that point, they’re not freshmen. They’re basketball players.”
-Head Coach Phil Martelli
“We knew going into last year that we had a superstar. We watched a guy develop in front of our eyes. We had older guys. Papa Ndao was a sixth year player. Aaron Brown was a fifth year player. We don’t have that, so we have inexperience. We have a lot of competition and we have a lot of opportunity, so my thing to them is seize it. Seize the opportunity. I’m not giving anything to anybody, but they’re going to be able to seize what they all want, which is to play and to win. It’s about winning. Winning beats the alternative.”
-Head Coach Phil Martelli
“The goal is to end up in the same spot and further. It’s like that every year and so far we’re trying to get back and win another A-10 championship. The goal is never to lose or say that it’s a rebuilding year. We’re coming to win.”
"We're obviously disappointed for Checco, but he has the best in terms of medical care and rehab. His teammates and coaches will keep their arms wrapped around him as he goes through the day-to-day grind of not just getting back, but getting better. I anticipate that as we go on we’ll see a much better Checco."
-Phil Martelli via Philly.com
Photo: Sideline Photos, LLC
-Saint Joesph's loses to #25 Rhode Island in the Semifinal of the A-10 tournament