Now granted, the coaches poll has been wrong before. The 2009-2010 pre-season vote had the Explorers finishing 4th. They actually finished 13th and missed the A-10 tournament entirely. The 2011-2012 Hawks and Explorers share at least one thing in common--they are both young. St. Joe's has zero seniors and only two juniors, while La Salle will only have one senior contributing major minutes in Earl Pettis. Both teams also have solid, young backcourts in Carl Jones and Langston Galloway, and Tyreek Duran and Sam Mills respectively.
Too much stock has been put in La Salle's loss of Aaric Murray who transfered to West Virginia after the conclusion of last season. Yes, without a doubt Murray could have been a dominant player. Clearly that was never going to happen at La Salle. Murray proved to be un-coachable and a terrible teammate--summed up in his final game as an Explorer in which, reacting to a turnover he shoved Pettis away who was trying to keep Murray calm. Without him I believe there is a much higher chance that this young unit can gel.
St. Joe's is looking to rebound from a 11-22 campaign, that showed some late promise with a run to the A-10 tournament semi-final. If they are to have success, the Hawks need Jones and Galloway to step up and become big scorers. If that happens, the team could be as good as 10-2 in non-conference play and head into the A-10 season with some momentum.
If these coaches can convince their young teams to believe in their systems these two squads might find surprising success in the A-10 (at least relative to their pre-season predictions); however, if they appear unspiring to the new recruits either one of them could be looking for employment come next March. Look for a full Big 5 preview from Whiz Wit as the season approaches.