Lost among the shuffle last season was the effort that St. Joseph's put together: Coming off a winless season in 2011, Taylor Wray -- in his first year at the helm of the Hawks -- breathed new life into a program that had gone only 34-119 over the last eight seasons, finishing 2012 with a 6-9 and ending the season ranked fourth in the country in terms of overall adjusted efficiency margin improvement. I don't think anyone that hadn't experienced hallucinations due to mortal head trauma saw that kind of season coming from the Hawks, even if St. Joseph's six wins were limited to the under-elite -- VMI, Wagner, Quinnipiac, Mercer, Marist, and Towson (!!!). Scheduling relatively light is a great way to search for and notch some wins -- and, let's be clear here: The Hawks didn't exactly play the most difficult schedule in the country last year, ranking only 53rd in the metric -- and it appears as if Wray, ever the explorer for Gatorade baths, is trying to replicate last season's magic again in 2013 with a similar blueprint.
February 16: v. High Point; February 23: VMI; March 2: Wagner; March 6: Mercer; March 16: Marquette; April 20: @ Michigan
There's no shame in putting peer-competitors on your schedule; there's no need to fight lions while wrapped in only a loin cloth while wielding a handful of thumbtacks as your weapon of choice. St. Joseph's understands that, I think, and with six schools on their schedule that are at or below the Hawks' ability -- including Division I's two newest members (Marquette and High Point) and two programs (Michigan and Mercer) that are still in the neophyte hazing stage -- St. Joseph's has a decent chance to replicate their six-win campaign from a season ago (the program's best effort since a 6-9 outing in 2009). Outside of a Marist game that could break either way, the rest of the Hawks' non-conference schedule is full of bad news -- Lehigh, Pennsylvania, and Brown are all above where St. Joseph's is at this point, and it's going to take some sorcery for St. Joseph's to pull out wins in those contests. In the overall, though, this sets up nicely for a program that still needs to bash its face against the wall in the THUNDERDOME! season.
Speaking of THUNDERDOME!. . . .
March 23: @ Penn State; March 27: @ Drexel; March 30: Massachusetts; April 6: v. Hofstra; April 13: Delaware; April 27: @ Towson
Theory: Someone at St. Joseph's walked into the THUNDERDOME! league offices, opened fire with a nail gun while explosions were fired off in the background, all with an Anthrax record blaring as the soundtrack to this end-of-existence violence.
I can't prove this theory totally, but the Hawks' conference schedule is indicative of THUNDERDOME! trying to get a little revenge on the program: St. Joseph's will face, over a two week period, the best four teams in the THUNDERDOME! in consecutive games. Not only will the Hawks need to face the league's best four teams consecutively to start its conference slate, these four teams are all expected to be programs finding residence in the national polls in some form or fashion both in the preseason and throughout the year. This is a murderous start for the Hawks to have to deal with, and the Hawks' hopes for trying to spoil the THUNDERDOME! Tournament could be over before everyone begins their April push toward May. That's a tough situation to be in, and Taylor Wray is going to have work to do if he hopes to come out of this early league stretch with his team's totality of limbs still attached.