#2 Villanova Wildcats (7-0) vs. St. Joseph’s Hawks (3-3)
When: Saturday, December 3, 2016, at 1 p.m.
Where: The Pavilion
Coverage: CBS Sports Network
KenPom Prediction: 78-58, Villanova (96%)
St. Joseph’s Previous Season Record: 28-8, won Atlantic 10 Conference Championship, lost in second round of NCAA Tournament to Oregon
Key Players for St. Joe’s: #1 Shavar Newkirk (6-0, 170) Jr., G; #0 Lamarr Kimble (6-0, 197) So., G; #2 Charlie Brown (6-6, 185) Fr., F
Scouting Report: St. Joe’s is coming off of their best season in a decade, winning the Atlantic 10 conference title and pushing No. 1-seeded Oregon in a close Round of 32 game in the NCAA Tournament. However, the Hawks have lost of their two star players from last year, DeAndre Bembry–who became a first round pick in the 2016 NBA Draft by the Atlanta Hawks–and top scorer Isaiah Miles, who graduated after averaging 18.1 points per game. Because of this, St. Joe’s is officially in full-on rebuilding mode, as none of the Hawks’ returning players from last season scored over 8.1 points per game. While head coach Phil Martelli and his Hawks try to find an identity, they might have found the answer with junior guard Shavar Newkirk. Newkirk, a Bronx native with a knack for scoring from anywhere on the floor, is averaging 21.8 points per game this year. He has been given the keys to the offense in the wake of Bembry and Miles, and has shined, averaging career bests in almost every statistical category thus far. Newkirk has gotten comparisons to fellow Bronx native Kemba Walker, shooting 47.8 percent from beyond the arc and 52.4 percent from the field. Starting alongside him in the St. Joe’s backcourt is Lamarr Kimble, a crafty combo guard who uses a quick first step and his ball handling skills to get to the rim. Kimble is averaging the second-most points per game so far, behind Newkirk with 14.3. However, while talented, the backcourt duo for the Hawks is deeply flawed. Newkirk is incredibly undersized to be guarding opposing two-guards, standing at a diminutive six feet tall, and Kimble is shooting below 60% from the free throw line, an atrocious number for a stereotypical big man, let alone an undersized guard. Even when he’s not getting to the free throw line, he’s not an efficient scorer. He takes the most shots out of anyone on this team, but is only making 35.6 percent of his takes. From the 3-point line, he’s even worse, only knocking down 31.4 percent from long range. The team has also been hurt by the absence of forward James Demery, who suffered a stress fracture in his foot during the season opener. Starting in his place has been freshman Nick Robinson, a lanky wing known for his raw athleticism. However, the Chicago native isn’t producing nearly what Demery could do, averaging fewer than six points a game. At the power forward position is freshman stretch four Charlie Brown, a Philadelphia native who is the team’s top rebounder. He’s averaging double digits in scoring, but strangely, he struggles from inside the arc but is thriving from long range. Rounding out the starting lineup for the Hawks is Markell Lodge, who makes more of an impact on the defensive side of the court than offensively. The team enters Saturday with a three-game losing streak and is hungry to break it against its longtime Main Line rival.
Outlook: St. Joe’s is a young team that has shown some promise. However, for as many strengths the Hawks are able to boast, they have just as many weaknesses–if not, more–when it comes to the finer aspects of the game. The team as a whole shoots less than 65 percent from the free throw line, good for 284th in the nation, and is extremely undersized, with no players on the team standing taller than 6-foot-8. Look for Mikal Bridges and Josh Hart to use their superior size and length to their advantage when being guarded by Newkirk or Kimble, or to smother them on the other end of the court. The key player defensively for Villanova is point guard Jalen Brunson, who will likely be tasked with guarding Newkirk for the majority of the game. If Newkirk and Kimble can have efficient offensive performances for the Hawks, expect the game to be somewhat close, but otherwise, Villanova will be able to roll to 8-0 and their second straight Big Five victory. However, the Wildcats don’t make many mistakes. This is a team ranked second in offensive efficiency and 11th in defensive efficiency, according to KenPom. The Hawks would need to play perfectly–and then some–to win, which isn’t likely to happen.