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Saint Joseph's Univesity Head Coach Phil Martelli is one of the most colorful characters in college hoops these days, and he and his team will be on full display New Year's Eve 2002. Martelli watched Dan Dickau swish a 24 footer with 3.6 seconds to go in Alumni Memorial Fieldhouse on Hawk Hill last year in Philadelphia. That shot spelled the difference as the Zags won by three.
Now everybody and their uncle knows Martelli and his Hawks are looking for payback in Gonzaga's Kennel exactly one year later.
Gone is deluxe guard Marvin O'Connor. Big man Bill Phillips' versatily is also gone. So this figured to be a rebuilding year, even a down year for the Atlantic-10 school, right?
After a subpar sophomore season, former Freshman of the Year Jameer Nelson has turned his game up a notch and is now much more than just a pass-first point guard. The 6'1" star is scoring 18.8 points per game while dishing 4 assists and grabbing 5 rebounds. He averages 45% from the field, 34% from three. Nelson is jet-quick, penetrates with the best of 'em and finishes strong or kicks it out. He'll be a handful for GU's guards. He also is a sticky defender.
But one player doesn't make a team, and that's where 6'2" Delonte West comes in. West played limited minutes last year but left Zag fans impressed by his spinning, whirling, driving moves to the bucket where he'd bank it high off the glass for a perfect shot. Similar to Nelson, Delonte averages 15 ppg and shoots 45% from the field, 35% from three.
6'5" Pat Carroll could be the difference-maker in this game. He shoots a dangerous 52% from the field and is 45% from beyond the arc. He averages 12 ppg. Don't foul Carroll, he hits 94% from the charity stripe.
Another guard, 6'1" Tyrone Barley, can do damage off the bench.
Although big men 7' Alexandre Sazanov and 6'10" Dave Mallon start, their averages are low single digits. The main threat inside is 6'7" John Bryant who gets 4.3 ppg.
Clearly, the Hawks are a guard-oriented team with a thin, inexperienced frontcourt. The Zags will have to exploit the interior on offense while challenging and limiting St. Joe's guards on defense.