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Courtside Players Club (11/29/23)


(1 Pick)

6:30PM EST: St. Joseph's +12.5 (4 Units)

All about how these two match-up. But first this Hawks team nearly beat Kentucky in Kentucky. Christ Essandoko had the chance to put them up by one when he went to the line for 2 FT attempts in a 76-77 game with 14 seconds remaining. He made the first and missed the second. The game would go to Overtime at 77-77, where they would end up losing 88-96.

They're able to compete with the best for a few reasons. Experience and continuity is a major factor. Head Coach Billy Lange is in his 5th year at the program. He got off to a slow start but that's not abnormal for mid major programs. You often lose most of the talent that was there and are forced to start from scratch. The Hawks lost all 4 of their leading scorers the year he took over. His roster started to round into shape late year and they had their best year under Lange. They went 16-17 and 8-10 in conference play but they were a younger team.

Now there's a whole lot of game time under their belts now. Guard Cameron Brown is a true 5th year starter with 118 career appearances and 106 starts. Guard Erik Reynolds in year #3 with 69 appearances and 68 starts. Junior Forward Kacper Klaczek in his 3rd year with the program with 42 appearances for the Hawks. Rasher Fleming, Lynn Greer, and Christian Winborne are all in their 2nd years at Saint Joseph's with 37, 39, and 34 appearances for the Hawks. Those are 6 of their 8 players in minutes per game.

The other 2 are impact first year guys and that extra influx of talent is another reason the Hawks are legit. Guard Xzayvier Brown is a 2023 commit and the 3rd highest rated prospect that Saint Joseph's ever recruited. He's averaging 11.3 points per game and, 53.1% from the field and 42.9% from 3. Then there's 2022 commit Christ Essandoko. He was forced to sit out last year due to eligibility issues, but he was with the team. He's a monster of a man at 7'0 285. He was committed to Providence but decommitted when Ed Cooley decided to leave for Georgetown. Both guys had multiple offers from top division 1 basketball programs.

The final and most important reason is shooting. Saint Joseph's loves to shoot the 3 ball and their top scorers make it an elite rate. Erik Reynolds is shooting 41.5% from deep, Cameron Brown 38.1%, and Xzayvier Brown 42.9%. They rank 2nd in Division 1 averaging 32.5 3PT shots per game. The "live and die by the 3 saying" is true. The week prior to nearly upsetting Kentucky they lost to Texas A&M-Commerce 57-54 because they went 6/30 from deep. Against Kentucky they shot 15/37. Last week against Sacred Heat 11/33.

Nova has just struggled to defend the 3-point line this year. They did a decent job last time out against a quality shooting Team in Memphis but context matters. That was their 3rd straight game in as many days, and they just struggled across the board in the first half. They managed just 16 first half points before going on to score 47 in the 2nd. They went 1/12 from 3 in the first half but 6/13 in the 2nd. From deep North Carolina went 9/24 (37.5%) against Nova, Texas Tech 14/36 (38.9%), Maryland went 5/26 but they flat out stink, their 23.8% 3-pt shooting ranks 356th this year. They were upset by Pennsylvania because they allowed them to shoot 41.2% from 3. Even American shot 30% and Le Moyne 36%.

They've consistently played poor perimeter defense and Saint Joseph's is going to attack that all game long. And unlike other mid majors, Saint Joseph's has the size to compete. Center Christ Essandoko is bigger than anyone Villanova has. Rasheer Fleming is 6'9 230 and Kacper Klaczek is 6'8 230. Their regular rotation is bigger than the Wildcats. They actually out rebounded the other Wildcats 39-32 in that game. Kentucky also has an incredibly long lineup. They start 1 player that's 6'9, two that are 6'8, another who's 6'6, and their smallest is 6'4.

It's never easy to go into Villanova but Saint Joseph's has all the pieces to do it. Live and die by the 3-ball. Saint Joseph's is going to have to hit those perimeter shots if they want this game to remain competitive. It's also a great crowd silencer. Nothing more deafening to a home crowd than the opposing team knocking down 3 balls.


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