C.J. Aiken, Micheal Eric

Top 25 Countdown: No. 24 St. Joseph’s

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Throughout the month of October, CollegeBasketballTalk will be rolling out our previews for the 2012-2013 season. Check back at 9 a.m. and just after lunch every day, Monday-Friday, for a new preview item.

To browse through the preview posts we’ve already published, click here. To look at the rest of the Top 25, click here. For a schedule of our previews for the month, click here.

Last Season: 20-14, 9-7 Atlantic-10 (t-5th); Lost in the First Round of the NIT

Head Coach: Phil Martelli

Key Losses: None

Newcomers: Kyle Bolock, Isaiah Miles, Javon Baumann

Projected Lineup:

G: Carl Jones, Sr.
G: Langston Galloway, Jr.
F: Halil Kanacevic, Jr.
F: Ronald Roberts, Jr.
F: CJ Aiken, Jr.
Bench: Chris Wilson, So.; Daryus Quarles, Jr.; Papa Ndao, So.

Outlook: Back in 2010, when Phil Martelli landed a recruiting class that included CJ Aiken, Langston Galloway and Ronald Roberts, St. Joe’s, quite frankly, wasn’t any good. They were coming off of a season that saw the Hawks win just 11 games and finish 5-11 in the Atlantic 10. And while there was considerable hype for the incoming class, that first season on Hawk Hill didn’t go any better; St. Joe’s again won just 11 games and finished 4-12 in league play.

But St. Joe’s impressed last season, and while they still missed out on the NCAA tournament, it wasn’t because they were overmatched; St. Joe’s was still learning how to win. The Hawks held a second half lead in 11 of their 14 losses. The only games they lost by double-digits came at Xavier, at Temple and at home against St. Louis. With a roster that can now be called experienced — every player from last year’s rotation returns, with six of the eight now registering as upper-classmen — the expectation is that this is the year Martelli’s club turns around their misfortune.

The commonly held belief with this group is that their strength lies in the back court, which is the result if the extent of your research into this group is checking box scores. That’s not necessarily wrong, as Martelli has one of the best returning guard duos in the country. Senior Carl Jones has led the team in scoring for the past two seasons. A 5-foot-11, 160 pound spark-plug, Jones is capable of putting up big numbers in a hurry. His average of 17.0 points last season would have been even higher if he hadn’t been dealing with a bum ankle throughout late January.

Jones’ running mate is junior Langston Galloway, who is the Hawk’s resident sharpshooter. Galloway is an excellent complement to Jones. Where Jones was somewhat of a chucker, Galloway was by far the most efficient player in the Hawk lineup a year ago. He took more threes than he did twos, knocking them down at a 46.6% clip, while keeping the floor spread and avoiding turning the ball over. Junior Daryus Quarles and sophomore Chris Wilson round out the back court for the Hawks.

But where the difference gets made for this team is with their burgeoning trio of junior forwards.

The guy that will likely make the headlines is 6-foot-9 CJ Aiken. Aiken’s strength is his athleticism and wingspan. He’s already one of the best shotblockers in the country — he averaged 3.5 bpg during his first two years in college — and takes quite a bit of pressure off of his teammates with his ability to finish around the rim. Aiken is a string bean, however, which means that most of his damage on the offensive end of the floor comes from pick-and-pops (he has three-point range) and cuts to the rim. The bully on the block for the Hawk’s is 6-foot-7 Ronald Roberts, who is a ferocious athlete in his own right. There isn’t much about Roberts’ game that would be considered pretty or smooth, but he’s your prototypical, undersized A-10 forward: strong, aggressive and athletic.

The x-factor for this team is Hofstra transfer Halil Kanacevic, a 6-foot-8 forward who will remind some people of a poor man’s Draymond Green. Kanacevic was the team’s leading rebounder a season ago as well as their best passer, averaging 3.7 assists. He’s not all that efficient — he turns the ball over quite a bit and didn’t shoot the ball all that well last year — but his ability to pass out of the high post is important with the amount of talent on the floor with him.

Predictions?: The Atlantic 10 is just loaded this year. With Rick Majerus getting sick, there may not be a top 15 team in the league. But there are six teams that got serious consideration for the preseason top 25, which should be an indication of just how difficult and balanced the top of the conference is, and, in turn, just how easy it will be to finish in fifth or sixth place. This team is good enough not only to make the NCAA tournament, but to make a run to the second weekend once they get there given the  size, athleticism and back court production they have. Another trip to the NIT and anything outside of a top four finish in the conference would be a major disappointment.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.

Brunson scores 18 points, No. 8 Villanova beats Stanford

Jalen Brunson
Associated Press
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NEW YORK (AP) Villanova struggled to score and rebound on Thursday night.

The Wildcats’ defense was good enough to still get a win.

No. 8 Villanova compensated for offensive and rebounding struggles by forcing 23 turnovers in a 59-45 victory over Stanford in the semifinals of the NIT Season Tipoff.

“We played pretty good defense but couldn’t rebound with them,” Villanova coach Jay Wright said. “It was one of those nights we couldn’t make shots but hung in there defensively. Their rebounding was almost a difference maker but thank God it wasn’t.”

The Wildcats (5-0) advanced to face Georgia Tech in the championship game Friday.

Villanova won despite shooting 30.6 percent and getting outrebounded by a 55-35 margin against an opponent starting three players 6-foot-8 or taller. The Wildcats started one player taller than 6-6 but compensated for the size differential by holding Stanford to 26 percent from the floor.

“I didn’t think it would be this ugly on the boards but if we could have made a couple of shots it might not have been as ugly,” Wright said. “But I was proud the guys really grinded defensively.”

Freshman Jalen Brunson was one of few Wildcats not to struggle offensively and scored a career-high 18 points. Josh Hart added 10 points but was 4-for-13 shooting and combined with Ryan Arcidiacono to shoot 6 of 24, including 1 of 15 from 3-point range.

“I was doing what I always do,” Brunson said. “I try to play aggressive all the time. I saw they were backing off me a little bit so there is time for me to shoot and time for me to make other plays.”

Leading scorer Marcus Allen had 12 points but was 3 for 12 for Stanford (2-3). Dorian Pickens added 11 points and 10 rebounds.

Stanford lost its third straight by double digits and will face Arkansas in the consolation game. The Cardinal missed their first 15 shots of the game and their first eight attempts of the second half while falling behind by 16.

Stanford was within seven on a basket by Reid Travis with 6:34 remaining, but Villanova scored the next six points and finished the game with a 13-6 run.

“They’re a very good defensive team, they’re active and they made a lot of plays,” Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins said. “The thing we did most was we turned the ball over 23 times, so that was disappointing.”


Villanova: Seven of Villanova’s school-record 33 wins came in New York last season. The Wildcats won twice in the Legends Classic at Barclays Center, beat St. John’s and Illinois during the regular season at Madison Square Garden and won three games there for the Big East Tournament championship. … Guards Arcidiacono and Hart combined to miss their first 11 3-point attempts. Arcidiacono came into the game shooting 44 percent from 3-point range while Hart entered at 45 percent. … Darryl Reynolds tied a career high with 19 minutes, getting most of those in the second half after Daniel Ochefu picked up his fourth foul.

Stanford: Thursday was Stanford’s 13th game in New York since 2011-12. Last year, the Cardinal appeared in the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic, beating UNLV and losing to eventual national champion Duke. … Stanford faced Villanova for the second time. The other meeting was a 96-70 Cardinal loss on Dec. 23, 1970. … Stanford missed 12 layups and tip-ins during the first half. … Allen hit his head on the court trying to deflect the ball on a layup by Hart. Dawkins said Allen was a little dizzy but didn’t think the junior would miss any time.


Villanova: Georgia Tech in the championship game on Friday.

Stanford: Arkansas in the consolation game on Friday.

Justin Robinson, Monmouth knock off No. 17 Notre Dame

King Rice
Associated Press
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Less than two weeks after they opened their season with an upset win at UCLA, Monmouth picked up its first-ever win over a team ranked in the AP Top 25.

Two Justin Robinson free throws with 3.6 seconds remaining proved to be the difference as King Rice’s Hawks upset No. 17 Notre Dame at the Advocare Invitational in Orlando, and the diminutive point guard was a problem for the Fighting Irish all night.

Robinson scored 22 points, with 14 of them coming from the foul line as Notre Dame’s guards struggled to keep the quick guard contained off the dribble. He was one of three Hawks to score in double figures, and their combination of depth and athleticism proved problematic for Mike Brey’s team. All five Notre Dame starters scored in double figures, with Demetrius Jackson’s 20 leading the way, but the lack of depth proved problematic as the game wore on.

Notre Dame didn’t get a single point from its bench, with Matt Farrell and Matt Ryan combining to play 28 minutes. That lack of depth not only cost Notre Dame Thursday night, but it’s something they’ll have to figure out if they’re to be a contender in the ACC. Jackson and Steve Vasturia ran into foul trouble against Monmouth, and the lack of a bench option capable of picking up the slack led to Monmouth building up a ten-point lead in the second half.

Notre Dame tried to account for that by slowing down the tempo, but in doing so they struggled to find quality looks against the Monmouth defense. And given the players at Rice’s disposal, it’s tough to slow the game down against a team that can get after you on both ends of the floor.

Monmouth entered this season with expectations of contending for a MAAC title alongside the likes of perennial favorites Iona and Manhattan, and their start to the season backs up that belief. With two players in Robinson and Deon Jones who have earned all-conference honors during their careers and a host of contributors that includes guards Je’lon Hornbeak and Micah Seaborn, this is a group to keep an eye on as the season wears on.

Because if they can earn a bid, Monmouth’s non-conference schedule will have them prepared for the NCAA tournament.