By Matt Leon
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — After a 20-14 season that saw them earn a berth in the NIT, the St. Joe’s Hawks enter the 2012-13 campaign with high expectations and Monday night they tip things off at Hagan Arena against Yale.
The Hawks are the preseason favorite to win the Atlantic 10 Conference and head coach Phil Martelli likes what he has seen through the preseason.
“I actually believe that this team is a little further ahead than I would’ve anticipated,” Martelli tells KYW Newsradio. “I’ve been very impressed by their maturity, by their work ethic.”
Listen To Podcast With Coach Phil Martelli:
The Hawks will be shorthanded to open things up as their leading scorer from last season, senior guard Carl Jones, is suspended for each of their first two regular-season games for a violation of the University’s community standards.
Jones averaged 17 points a game in 2011-12. Martelli talks about dealing with his absence.
“We are approaching this as if it was foul trouble, as if it was an injury. We are practicing in preparation for any kind of these events.”
Yale went 19-10 last season and they have three starters returning, but their two top scorers from a season ago have moved on.
“The thing I’m most impressed with is how hard they play defensively,” Martelli says. “You can screen, but they are going to get through that screen and that means that’s been drilled in their practice sessions.”
Martelli talks about the keys to starting 1-0.
“We have to be able to run offense, not get caught up in the excitement of opening night. Make sure that we take advantage of our advantages, which is going to be size and strength in and around the basket.”
St. Joe’s and Yale tip-off at 7:00 p.m. on Monday night.
You can follow Matt on Twitter @mattleonkyw.