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Basketball Q&A: Saint Joseph’s

Get to know Auburn’s Thanksgiving Day opponent a little better!

NCAA Basketball: St. Joseph at Villanova Derik Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

We are 2 days away from the triumphant return of Auburn Basketball. Auburn heads to Fort Myers, Florida to take on the Saint Joseph’s Hawks on Thursday afternoon and then will face #1 Gonzaga on Friday morning, also in Fort Myers.

I wanted to learn more about Saint Joe’s before Thursday’s game so I reached out to someone who knows Saint Joe’s basketball a lot more than I do. My thanks to Matt Gifford who covers Saint Joseph’s Basketball for the 247 Sports site: HawkHillHardwood for taking the time to answer our questions. You can find them on Twitter at @HHHardwood and Matt’s answers are in bold below.

1.When I think of Saint Joe’s basketball, I think of that 2003-2004 team with Jameer Nelson and Delonte West and the long tenure of Phil Martelli. Now that Phil is gone, what has life been like for Saint Joseph’s basketball?

Phil Martelli was, for many, Saint Joseph’s basketball. Obviously that 2003-2004 season was a very, very special one. And during Phil’s time at St. Joe’s, there were some very good teams, and some very good players. From Jameer Nelson and Delonte West to Langston Galloway to DeAndre Bembry and Charlie Brown. All guys that played, or are playing, in the NBA. Last year was a very tough one from a record standpoint, finishing at just 6-26. It was not easy, but the team actually played really hard and they were competitive in more games than they weren’t.

2.So in football, Auburn-Alabama is a major rivalry but Saint Joe’s is involved in a great rivalry in basketball known as the Big 5 which features the 5 schools in Philadelphia (Saint Joe’s, Temple, Villanova, La Salle, and Penn) For those Auburn fans that might be unfamiliar with Philadelphia Basketball, can you explain the significance of the Big 5?

The Big 5 is special. Villanova, Temple, St. Joe’s, La Salle, and Penn make up the Big 5. It hold great significance to many fans and to the coaches. Is it something that recruits necessarily care about? Not sure about that. But the guys on these teams definitely know each other, may work on in the offseason together, and many grew up playing alongside or near each other.

3.What are your expectations of Year 2 of the Billy Lange era? There looks to be a lot of new faces on this year’s roster?

This year’s team really won’t look anything like last year’s. Cameron Brown, Rahmir Moore, Anthony Longpre, Myles Douglas, and Ryan Daly return. But the Hawks also get Taylor Funk back from injury. They get Xavier transfer Dahmir Bishop and Gonzaga transfer Greg Foster Jr eligible. Freshmen Jadrian Tracey and Jordan Hall will play. Redshirt 6’11 forward Anton Jansson will be in the rotation. Columbia transfer Jack Forrest may be eligible. Nothing official there yet on his waiver. Long story short, this is a totally different team. Last year, there was next to no depth, below average athleticism, and not a lot of shooting. All of that is improved this season. Expectations? Not sure. But I don’t think there are going to be a ton of games this year where the Hawks are completely overmatched. I’d imagine something in the .500 ballpark, possibly a few games above, could be a reasonable expectation.

4.One person who’s not a new face is senior guard Ryan Daly, who I was surprised to see, led the Atlantic 10 in scoring last year at 20.6 PPG and was on the Atlantic 10 3rd team?? Tell us what we can expect from Daly.

Ryan was awesome last year. He’s been awesome since high school. He was underrecruited out of Archbishop Carroll (PA), where he was teammates with current NBA player Derrick Jones. Last year, Ryan had to do everything. He had to score, assist, rebound, defend, and do it all close to 40 minutes a game. This year the supporting cast is just so much better. He will get better looks from three, so I imagine his shooting numbers will improve. He is in incredible shape, having dropped about 20 pounds since the spring. As good as he was last year, I think the expectation is that he will be better this season. And most importantly to him, because he’s as competitive as they come, the team should win many more games.

5.So a little off topic of this Thursday’s game (and you may or may not be aware of this) but there was a time in the late 1980s when Saint Joe’s adopted Auburn football as their team since the Hawks didn’t have a football program. Any thoughts on this?

Honestly I don’t know enough about this one haha.

6.Finally, how do you see this game playing out? Do you having a score prediction?

First game of the season. St. Joe’s has a ton of new faces. It seems like Auburn does too. Obviously Sharife Cooper is a stud, and is going to have a huge year. This is his first college game. I think this particular St. Joe’s team will have the athletes to match up with Auburn. I expect sloppy, but a lot of points. Game in the upper 70s/low 80s. And I know this seems like a cop out, but I see this game as a sort of pick ‘em. I think it’s decided by less than 6 or 7 points. And it’s a one or two possession game in the closing minute. I think it’ll be a really fun one.

Again, I want to thank Matt for his time and willingness to answer these questions.