There goes Dayton, now what?

Who ever came up with the idiom “once bitten, twice shy” was never a St. Joe’s basketball fan. Keep that in mind as I jump in my inner tube and float out into the shark tank that is optimism about this program.

Last night’s win over Penn puts the Hawks at 8-11 with 11 games to play. And a crazy little thought popped into my head on the walk from the Palestra to 30th Street Station: what does this team have to do to salvage a .500 season?

The obvious answer, which hit me not unlike a splash of water from the 42 bus heading up Walnut Street, is to go 7-4. But is that something that this team, who looked dead in the water and could have folded after losing eight of nine and were on their way to another loss at halftime at the hands of Fordham at home, is capable of?

Here’s what’s left for the Hawks:

vs. UMass (very winnable)

at Duquesne (on paper yes, but questions still remain if this team has the proverbial stones to win a conference game away from home)

vs. Richmond (probably not, but there this)

vs. St. Bonaventure (should’ve beat them the first time, and now there’s the revenge factor)

vs. St. Louis (should win, but can’t even in a good year as what seems like the 14 meetings will attest)

at UMass (they did last year)

at Xavier (uh, no)

vs. Temple (it is a city game, but the first matchup is less than encouraging)

at Charlotte (in all likelihood, no)

at George Washington (see Duquesne note)

vs. La Salle (yes)

(It’s important to note that all these matchups are contingent on certain qualities from the Hawks. Their defensive intensity needs to continue at the level of the last three games. Darrin Govens’ patented 4-15-shooting, 2-8-from-three, four-turnover performances are not a part of it. Nor are Todd O’Brien’s two-point, four-rebounds, 28-minute jobs. What is involved, however, is Garrett Williamson averaging at least 10 ppg, Govens 14, Idris Hilliard 14 (and not the quiet 14, but the ‘I’m here in this lane and the only way you’re moving me is sending me to the line’ kind of 14), and 20 in some form from Justin Crosgile and Carl Jones. That’s 62 points per game even before you get to Irwin, Prescott, and Bentley. I don’t see that as unreasonable to expect.)

By my calculations, that gives them four games that should be wins, three more that are winnable, and only two three that I would consider as a bigger upset than Dayton.

Say they are able to pull this off and finish the season 15-15. Couple that with two wins in the A-10 Tournament, and you would have to say they garner serious consideration for an NIT bid (guaranteed sell-out, strong contingent of fans to travel to away games, big draw in New York City if they get that far, history with the tournament, etc.). All that come in addition to the fact that the A-10 is looking at three NCAA bids minimum, with more possible (Joe Lunardi’s most recent Bracketology has five teams in, and Charlotte is in the first four out.

This isn’t the first time I’ve bought into this thinking. I had high hopes two years ago when they managed to make the Big Dance by the skin of their teeth, and was almost ready to start checking on hotel rooms for the Tourney last year when they sat atop the A-10 at 4-0.

Maybe it will all turn out to be another pipe dream. Or maybe I’ll end up hoofing in up and down the turnpike four times in 36 hours in mid-April.

-Matthew De George ’10

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