AFTER BEATING Lafayette, 92-63, Thursday night at Hagan Arena, it's all Atlantic 10, with the exception of a Jan. 21 game against Penn, from here to March for Saint Joseph's. The conference begins in a week against George Washington.
The Hawks have won two of the last three league championships, but this is a different group, with aspirations tempered by reality. When your starting guards are scoring nearly 50 percent of your points, as Shavar Newkirk and Lamarr Kimble have through 11 games, you have certain vulnerabilities.
Is that a formula that will work in the A-10?
"I don't think so," St. Joe's coach Phil Martelli said. "No, I know so . . . Now, the scouting gets much more intense."
Newkirk especially has been a scoring machine from the start of the season. He had his team's first 10 points against the Leopards (4-7) on his way to 24, 17 in the first half when the game was decided. Kimble had 22, so their 46 was exactly half the team's total.
"He is able, without me saying anything to him or the coaches saying anything to him, to grasp the moment," Martelli said of Newkirk. "Tonight, he got us going."
The A-10 looks balanced and difficult - George Mason, Dayton, St. Bonaventure and Massachusetts are a combined 34-12 in non-conference.
The Hawks lost starter Chekko Oliva over the summer for the season with a chronic knee issue. James Demery, the team's best defender and a scorer around the rim, something this team really needs, has not played since suffering a stress fracture in his left foot during the season opener. He is now out of a walking boot and was a limited practice participant Tuesday.
"It will mean everything (when Demery returns)," Kimble said. "Best defender, vocal leader out there, older guy who's been in the fire and knows what to do in the type of moment. He's definitely a guy we've been missing. When he comes back, I feel like our growth that we have made with him not being here, add him, it could be a scary night for teams to play us."
St. Joe's (6-5) came into the game shooting just 45.4 percent on two-pointers, 277th in the country. The Hawks were 29-for-48 from two against Lafayette, but the undermanned and very young Leopards do not have the kind of athletes SJU will see in the A-10.
Lafayette coach Fran O'Hanlon needs a win for 300 in his career. He lost much of the team that won the Patriot League in 2015, but still has Nick Lindner (Germantown Academy) and his 1.250 career points as well as leading-scoring Matt Klinewski (Eastern Regional, Vorhees). They will help in the Patriot, but were not nearly enough against the Hawks.
The Leopards, however, did point out an ongoing vulnerability that could become a huge problem. In addition to the issue with twos, the Hawks have been outscored by 120 points from the arc, including 21 against Lafayette.
Did not matter against the Leopards, a team SJU outscored by 22 in the lane and beat on the glass by 16 while forcing 20 turnovers. Those are not numbers the Hawks are going to get much in the league.
The coach knows that better than anybody.
"When we've played up, league-level teams, we're 0-fer," Martelli said. "If you look at the numbers, one or the other (Newkirk or Kimble) was off in those particular games, whether it be Ole Miss or N.C. State or Villanova.
"When we come back on the 27th, the night practice on the 27th is going to be all offense. We have to come up with quicker, we have to come up with wrinkles, we have to come with wrinkles for Charlie Brown."
As to the schedule, Martelli knows his team starts with GW next Friday and then plays at Rhode Island. He does not know the order of the games after that, but he knows what's coming.
"Your path is through the league," Martelli said. "So we have 18 and Penn, I consider that a league game, 19 league games left to see what we can make of this year."