St. John’s Red Storm (#5), 20-11 (10-8)
D’Angelo Harrison (17.6 Points, 4.7 Rebounds, First Team All-Big East)
St. John’s Season:
The Johnnies entered the conference schedule with a record of 9-3, including a 1-3 record against the KenPom top 100. The most impressive non-conference win was an 81-57 home win against San Francisco, while they dropped games to Wisconsin and Penn State on neutral floors and Syracuse at the Garden. Steve Lavin’s boys lost their first five games in Big East play, but they finished 10-3. From January 18 through February 18, the Red Storm went 9-1 with a win (and a loss) versus Creighton before dropping two straight at Villanova and home vs. Xavier. They regrouped, however, and won their last two games vs. DePaul and at Marquette in double OT.
St. John’s Road: Thursday 2:30 PM vs. #4 Providence
A rubber match with Providence awaits St. John’s at MSG on Thursday afternoon. The Friars won the first matchup this season in double OT at Carnesecca Arena on January 16 (St. John’s 5th straight loss at the time), but the Red Storm rebounded with a win at Providence on February 4. This time around, both teams are desperate for a win to strengthen their tournament resumes. In front of the home crowd at the Garden, I expect the Johnnies’ defense to give Bryce Cotton and the Friars some trouble. Providence’s effective Field Goal % is an abysmal 48% as a team – with an even worse 46.1% team 2P%. Chris Obekpa, Orlando Sanchez, and JaKarr Sampson won’t make it easy, and St. John’s will advance.
St. John’s Prospects:
Anything is possible for this group. As CBS Sports’ Jon Rothstein has said all season, St. John’s has the most talent in the Big East – but they have had trouble making the sum equal the parts. If I were another Big East team, I would want to avoid the Johnnies this week. The Red Storm is playing at home needing three wins to ensure a tournament berth. This is a dangerous team, and I would not be surprised to see Steve Lavin and D’Angelo Harrison hoisting the Big East Championship trophy on Saturday. That being said, in order for them to have a chance:
D’Angelo Harrison will need to be effective and (more importantly) efficient,
Phil Greene will need to handle the ball well and be a deep threat,
JaKarr Sampson will need to cut down on turnovers and continue to hit his midrange jumper,
Rysheed Jordan will need to play poised by taking smart shots and being careful with the ball,
Orlando Sanchez and Chris Obekpa will need to continue blocking and altering shots while converting easy opportunities on the offensive end.
It seems like St. John’s will have to make a run to at least the Big East Championship game in order to have a shot at receiving an at-large bid on Sunday evening. I expect St. John’s to move by Providence, but the big matchup will be Friday night likely against No. 1 seed Villanova. If the Johnnies can take down the Wildcats, they give themselves a chance at an at-large invitation – and, obviously, a chance to take the conference’s automatic bid on Saturday night.
St. John’s will play Villanova on Friday night – and the game will come down to the final possessions. Steve Lavin’s squad doesn’t have to play a perfect game, but it will have to be nearly perfect to join the exclusive club of teams to take down Villanova this season. I think Villanova gets by St. John’s – and the Johnnies will have to settle for an NIT selection come Sunday night.