Men's basketball is the most popular sport at Saint Joseph's University. The Hawks have competed in nineteen NCAA Tournaments (1959, 1960, 1961, 1962, 1963, 1965, 1966, 1969, 1971, 1973, 1974, 1981, 1982, 1986, 1997, 2001, 2003, 2004, 2008) and sixteen NIT Tournaments (1956, 1958,1964, 1974, 1979, 1980, 1984, 1985, 1993, 1995, 1996, 2002, 2005, 2006, 2012, 2013). They have made one Final Four (though their 3rd place finish was later revoked by the NCAA, two Elite Eights, and seven Sweet Sixteens. The team is currently led by coach Phil Martelli. Throughout the school's history, 29 different players have been drafted into the NBA. The Hawks have been ranked 67 times in their history, 41 of which have been in the top 10. In 1981, SJU upset No. 1 DePaul to reach the Sweet 16 and eventually the Elite 8.
During the 2003–2004 season, the Saint Joseph's Hawks went undefeated (27–0) during the regular season, The Hawks were led by a backcourt of Jameer Nelson and Delonte West, both of whom were drafted in the 1st round of the 2004 NBA draft. The Hawks ended the regular season with a No. 1 ranking nationally and a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. After beating Liberty, Texas Tech and #17 Wake Forest, St. Joe's made it to the East Regional Final in the NCAA tournament. They would lose to #4 Oklahoma State in the last seven seconds of the game. Nelson was named National Player of the Year while coach Phil Martelli was named Coach of the Year. In 2009, the 2004 Hawks were named the best single-season team of the decade by Sports Illustrated.
The Hawks most recently made it to the NCAA Tournament in 2008. During the 2008–2009 season, St. Joe's played its home games at the Palestra while its new home arena was renovated. Saint Joseph's defeated Rider University in its first game at the Wachovia Center.
The main rival has been the Villanova University Wildcats which is locally referred to as the Holy War. Saint Joseph's also has a heated rivalry with the Temple University Owls and LaSalle Explorers. Because games against Drexel University are in-city, the two teams are sometimes considered rivals but Saint Joseph's leads the all-time series 43 to 6. The all-time series between La Salle and the Hawks is 63 to 49 in SJU's favor. They are losing the all-time series against Temple 63 to 75, Villanova 24 to 42, and winning the series with Penn 45 to 32. Overall, the Hawks are 112–83 in the Big 5 which is the best among Big 5 schools. Current coach Phil Martelli has a losing record in the Holy War between nOVA and the Hawks.
Fans of the Hawks often chant "The Hawk Will Never Die!". In a September 2003 issue, Sports Illustrated listed that cheer among The 100 Things You Gotta Do Before You Graduate (Whatever the Cost), calling it "the most defiant cheer in college sports".
Midnight Madness The first men's varsity basketball practice, Midnight Madness is an event which allows students and fans to attend. Players entertain the crowd by putting on events such as slam dunk contests.
The Drum It is believed the Drum played a significant role in many an important win. The Drum leads the student section during fight songs and chants. Today this tradition lives on with a new generation of drummers.
Rollouts During Big 5 match-ups, each student section prepares written messages on large rollouts that are passed down the crowd.
The Double Dip Anytime the Saint Joseph's Hawks win the same day or night the Villanova Wildcats lose. The ultimate double dip occurs when the Hawks beat the Wildcats.
Fight Songs 'When the Hawks Go Flying In' is sung before every game and 'Mine Eyes' is sung immediately after every game regardless of the outcome.
Cheers Cheers include "Let's go St. Joe's!" and of course "The Hawk Will Never Die!" which is reserved for the end of games.
54th Airborne The student section at SJU basketball games is known for being deafening. At the Hagan Arena there are about 1,200 seats for students (over 1/4 of the total seating). The section, along with the pep band, leads the cheers for the rest of the crowd. The core members of the 54th Airborne make up the Student Booster Club. These students work to come up with the rollouts for Big 5 games.