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St. Joe’s Preview

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A battle of Hawks in Florida.

NCAA Basketball: St. Joseph at Rhode Island Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

Kansas and St. Joe’s meet up in the second game of the Fort Myer’s tipoff event this afternoon. This game was already scheduled to happen regardless of yesterday’s events, which saw Gonzaga defeat KU 102-90 and St. Joe’s fall to Auburn, 96-91 (OT). College and Magnolia has a recap complete with highlights here.

Last year, SJU finished 6-26, 2-16 A-10, which was, you guessed it, good for dead last in their conference. They finished last season at #260 in KenPom (out of 353 teams), and this year, they were picked to finish 12th in the 14-team Atlantic-10 preseason media poll. Obviously, not much is expected of this group of Hawks.

Head coach Billy Lange begins his second season with SJU, taking over for the fired Phil Martelli following the 2018-19 season. This is Lange’s second D1 coaching gig (Navy, 2004-11), following stints in Villanova’s program as well as the NBA’s 76ers.

Offensively last season, SJU was, let’s just say less than impressive. They finished sub-300 in EFG and 3P%, although they took nearly half of their shots (49.7%) from behind the arc. This probably lends explanation to why they were also sub-200 in offensive rebound percentage.

Defensively last season, SJU was one of the worst teams in the country in turnover percentage, turning opponents over on just 14.3% of possessions. They were also a sub-200 team in opponents EFG and offensive rebound percentage.

Kansas appears to have the guards to be able to slow down SJU’s perimeter game, as well as do pretty much whatever they want offensively, with a good opportunity for second-chance points for McCormack or Lightfoot. While I’d like to see more of what a 5-guard lineup could do, I’m guessing this will be one of those games where Kansas works around one big man, and at times, we may even see some classic Bill Self two big, Hi-Low offense.

Players to Watch

Taylor Funk, JR Forward

Funk led the Hawks offensively against Auburn, scoring 28 points on 11-16 shooting, which included 4-9 from behind the arc. He also tied for the team lead in rebounds. He is comfortable in the paint or behind the arc, as he is a career 34.5% shooter from deep, meaning Big Dave and Mitch Lightfoot can’t lose this guy. Funk redshirted last year after playing 30+ games as a freshman and sophomore.

Ryan Daly, SR Guard

Daly is in his second season at St. Joe’s after transferring in from Delaware. He is a career 31.6% shooter from deep, but had a rough day against Auburn yesterday, hitting just 1-9 from behind the arc, scoring 18 points on 6-20 FG, while playing 42 minutes. Daly is coming off a season where he averaged 20 points, 7 rebounds, and 4 assists per game. Here’s guessing he’ll draw Marcus Garrett duty today.

Dahmir Bishop, SO Guard

Bishop transferred in to St. Joe’s from Xavier, where he played in 10 games last season. He jumped right into St. Joe’s starting lineup this season, playing 28 minutes yesterday, scoring 14 points while hitting 4-7 three-pointers. He and the afore-mentioned Daly combined for 14 assists against Auburn.

Prediction

I did not watch the SJU-Auburn game yesterday, but the fact that it went to overtime in a higher-than-expected scoring game tells me that they should have KU’s attention. The Jayhawks ran into an offensive monster themselves in Gonzaga, but still hung around for 30 minutes before running out of steam. I don’t want to put too much on one game, but, KU’s defense was awful yesterday; maybe today will help answer if it was more KU or more Gonzaga.

I would expect both teams to try and push tempo and run - unless of course Self puts two bigs on the floor at the same time.

Still, this is the #161 team in KenPom, while the Jayhawks held steady at #6. Even if it’s a close game at halftime, don’t panic - KU should eventually pull away and win by a fairly comfortable 15-20 margin, which fits in with the lines I’m seeing at KU -19.5.

Let’s amend my previous prediction and go with something more along the lines of Kansas 92, St. Joseph’s 75.