The Saint Joseph's Hawks of the Atlantic 10 Conference were an NCAA Tournament team last year but will have a hard time getting back to the Big Dance after losing their best player to a season-ending injury.
On Friday, the Hawks improved to 7-5 with a 69-63 victory over George Washington, but junior guard Shavar Newkirk, a former top recruit, went down with a knee injury on a breakaway layup attempt in which he wasn't even touched. The school released the feared news: a season-ending torn ACL. It's a crushing loss as Newkirk was averaging 20.3 points, 4.8 rebounds and 3.5 assists as one of the top players in the Atlantic 10. Newkirk, third in the A-10 in scoring, was carrying a team that lost DeAndre Bembry, Isaiah Miles and Aaron Brown from last year's NCAA tournament club.
Saint Joseph's had already lost sophomore forward Pierfrancesco Oliva for the season with a knee condition. The team's best defender, James Demery, had not played since the opener when he suffered a stress fracture in his left foot but he did debut vs. GW. Demery played 25 minutes off the bench and had nine points and four assists. Last year, he was the sixth man for the 2016 A-10 champion team, averaging 8.1 points per game.
The Hawks are at a good Rhode Island team (9-4) on Tuesday night. The Rams are 12-point favorites on NCAA basketball odds. Sophomore Chris Clover is expected to make his first career start for Saint Joe's in place of Newkirk. The Hawks are on a two-game winning streak vs. Rhode Island. The home team is 4-1 ATS on NCAA basketball picks in the past five meetings.