When Saint Joseph's lost at Massachussetts on Wednesday night, it signaled a couple of things that Penn fans should pay attention to. First, the Hawks are very inconsistent. They've beaten Temple and Kansas, but lost at home to Xavier and in Amherst, Mass., against a mediocre-at-best bunch of Minutemen.
That inconsistency could become something worse between now and Jan. 28, when St. Joe's faces Penn at the Palestra. The Hawks travel to No. 17 George Washington and Saint Louis, with games at Alumni Memorial Fieldhouse against Charlotte and at the Palestra against La Salle in between. Who knows what kind of shape they'l be in at the end of the month?
It's also a sign that coach Phil Martelli is having to work a lot harder this year than he has in quite a while. That shouldn't be surprising, given the talent he's lost over the last two years, but it's still notable. After the win over Temple this past Sunday, Martelli announced that for the rest of the season he is going to have to "direct every possession" for his team.
"It's draining, but we played a 94-point game at Gonzaga and I called every play," he continued. "It was like a football game -- I called every single play."
Against Xavier, Martelli backed off, asking his players "to kind of work through it. There was a pattern I wanted to run, not a play."
But that didn't work.
So starting with this past Monday's practice, Martelli said he would "dictate every play -- every single offensive play and defensive play."
"It flashes me back to like I'm in Norristown, coaching Bishop Kenrick" High School, which he did for seven years before becoming a Hawks assistant, he said.
If you've followed St. Joe's in recent years -- especially when they came within one missed jumper of the Final Four in 2004 -- you know that this is a pretty dramatic sign that things are different now from those halcyon days. One of the defining characteristics of that team was the chemistry it had while on the floor, especially with superstar guards Jameer Nelson and Delonte West. They were so tight that Martelli was able to let them run the offense and call the plays themselves.
That's why Martelli's change of tactics this week symbolizes so much about his team.