I’ve heard quite a few people talking about addition by subtraction when rationalizing the loss of Carl Jones and CJ Aiken on behalf of St Joe’s. That’s a lot of talent out the door and generally when you add by subtracting, you have remaining serviceable pieces minus the red flags. I don’t think Phil Martelli and company have that.
On top of that, the Hawks team massively disappointed last year. I picked them to finish second in the league and the coaches picked them to win it. They tanked, but more went wrong than just a couple of their leaders having off seasons. They lacked depth and only went six deep at times last season. Only Jones and Langston Galloway were threats to score outside and in. I see less top end talent and none of the holes filled. If you think this less talented version of a team that already underachieved once deserves higher expectations than their middle of the pack finish last year, you’re using some funky math.
Here’s why I think the Dukes could be better:
They Lack Depth in the Post
Without CJ Aiken, Ronald Roberts and Halil Kanacevic will play down low for St Joe’s. This isn’t a problem but there is a huge question mark beyond those two. Papa Ndao ate some minutes last year but hasn’t proven that he is capable of adding much value when he comes into games. Sophomore Isaiah Miles played sparingly but did enough to at least look interesting moving forward even if only in a very small sample size. Highly regarded freshman Jai Williams might need to step up and while his 2013 classmate Deandre Bembry could play a little inside, a hole would open at the three. Guess what! There isn’t much depth at small forward either. Roberts and Kanacevic will need to play 35 minutes each or the Hawks are looking at 15-20 minutes with a guy or guys who probably don’t belong right now.
While the Dukes don’t have a starting combo as strong as Roberts and Kanacevic, it’s possible that their front court top to bottom will be better than St Joe’s. The Dukes will also have better depth options at the three than senior to be Darius Quarles.
They Lack Depth at Guard
Without Jones, Galloway and Chris Wilson will play guard but again, who will play after them? Wilson probably slots more into the point guard role while Galloway should be one of the top scorers in the league. After that, I truly am puzzled. Aaron Brown is on his way from WVU, but I haven’t heard about him getting a waiver. Nobody else on the squad has played more than 100 minutes. When I compare the Dukes back court to the Hawks, Galloway is clearly the best of the group, but the two top Dukes, Derrick Colter and Tra’vaughn White, should be much more productive than Wilson. They also have Desmond Ridenour and possibly Micah Mason on the bench. If Galloway pulls a Jones and struggles as a senior, the Dukes have the better back court.
One Injury Away From Disaster
This piggybacks on the last two categories, but if Galloway, Kanacevic, Bembry or Roberts gets hurt, St Joe’s will struggle. In my opinion, the Dukes could absorb an injury to just about anyone other than Ovie Soko.
Hot Seat Tension
There are some who would ask if the credit Phil Martelli earned with his elite eight trip and number 1 ranking is maxed out. Should St Joe’s struggle early, the pressure on his job could mount and the team could begin to feel it themselves too. Professionals don’t always respond well when they find themselves in a situation where the coach is on the hot seat. It’s even worse for less mature college students in my opinion. Thankfully, the Dukes won’t have that potential drama to deal with.
Shooting guard through center, St Joe’s might be as good as anyone in the league. Sixth through eighth man they have huge question marks. There is legit talent on this St Joe’s team and the core is strong enough that with the right supporting cast, they’d be an NCAA bubble team. Of course, they lack any real supporting cast. While the Dukes might not have the top end talent of the Hawks, the sum of their parts might just be greater.