Time for the Big East tournament, the last chance for St. John’s to get in the NCAAs. More on the teams below. And, can they extend the season with a win against Connecticut, a team they haven’t beaten since 2002?
Tip Off: 2:00 PM, Tuesday, March 9
Location: Madison Square Garden
Radio: Bloomberg 1130/ WSJU
Connecticut (17-14, 7-11)
11 G Jerome Dyson SR 6′3 190: 17.7 ppg* 4.4 apg* 4.5 rpg* 1.4 spg* 6.6 FT Att/ g
21 F Stanley Robinson SR 6′9 220: 14.9 ppg* 7.6 rpg* 1.2 bpg
33 F Gavin Edwards SR 6′10 230: 10.7 ppg* 6.5 rpg* 2.1 bpg
5 F Ater Majok FR 6′11 233: 15.1 mpg* 2.4 ppg* 3.1 rpg* 1.6 bpg
34 F-C Alex Oriakhi FR 6′9 240: 5.0 ppg* 6.8 rpg* 1.7 bpg
4 G-F Jamal Coombs-McDaniel FR 6′7 210: 10.9 mpg* 3.1 ppg* 1.1 rpg
2 G Donnell Beverly JR 6′4 190: 10.1 mpg* 1.6 ppg* 1.3 apg
36 C Charles Okwandu JR 7′0 255: 6.7 mpg* 1.1 ppg* 1.7 rpg
24 G Darius Smith FR 6’1 168: 4.5 mpg* 1.1 ppg
The Huskies’ road game against South Florida was one final chance for the flawed Connecticut Huskies to get a decent win in the Big East and hopefully have a fighting chance to get into the NCAA tournament. Instead, the Bulls took a slight halftime lead and started scoring inside the arc, prompting Coach Jim Calhoun to bench his starters/ seniors for a lack of effort. The bench, as you see above, is likely to start the Big East Tournament game. But expect to see the starters come out with a little bit of fire when they come onto the court.
To see extended previews of the Huskies, read the pregame Johnny Jungle post from January. The team is not wildly different. They’re bad shooters from the three, and a poor scoring attack overall. They defend very well and use their height. The Huskies are a bit more turnover-prone than they were before, and that’s been a problem all year not just for the slashing ballhandlers, Dyson and Walker, but for players whose job is to simply finish in Stanley Robinson and Gavin Edwards.
Edwards has been good at scoring, offensive rebounding, and drawing fouls, but his defense has been so-so. Which is better than Stanley Robinson, who has returned to the role he has had for much of his U Conn career – being a future NBA player on the floor who forgets to impose his will on the game.
The bench, one assumes, has some talent and will defend like guys without advance billing; but they have gotten little burn in high-leverage situations. How will they react?
St. John’s (16-14, 6-12)
3 PG Malik Boothe JR 5’9 188: 4.7 ppg* 2.6 apg
23 G Paris Horne JR 6’3 191: 9 ppg* 3 rpg* 37.4% 3PT
1 G-F DJ Kennedy JR 6’5 215: 15.3 ppg* 6.2 rpg* 3 apg* 36.7% 3PT* 1.2 spg
G-F Anthony Mason Jr. SR 6’7 210: 6.9 ppg* 5.4 rpg* 1.9 apg
5 F Sean Evans JR 6’8 255: 6.3 ppg* 5.7 rpg
12 G Dwight Hardy JR 6′2 187: 22.3 mpg* 10.5 ppg* 38.3% 3PT
24 F Justin Burrell JR 6’8 235: 20.5 mpg* 7.0 ppg* 4.6 rpg* 46.4% FG
32 F Justin Brownlee JR 6′7 232: 18.4 mpg* 6.4 ppg* 4.6 rpg
31 PG Malik Stith FR 5’11 185: 11.4 mpg* 1.7 ppg* 1.2 apg
15 F-C Dele Coker JR 6’10 252: 9.1 mpg* 1.7 ppg* 1.7 rpg* .9 bpg* 64.7% FG
The Red Storm are at a bit of a crossroads. The season has not gone as well as expected, but the team has scrapped out good wins. But the stress of an uncertain future and the weight of losses seems to have affected the concentration of some players at times. It can be seen in the sluggishness to get back, the arguing for a call, the listless defense…
But the conference tournament means everyone has another chance. Even without shooter Dwight Hardy, the team can challenge the Huskies if they run their offense and look to aggressively attack holes in U Conn. DJ Kennedy has to be the leader in this attack; with Anthony Mason Jr. eschewing his outside shot to make plays with his passing, dribble, and tenacity on the offensive boards. A great performance by Burrell would help.
Keys to the Game
Defend Everywhere. In the last game, St. John’s allowed a poor-shooting outside shooting team to bomb on them from beyond the arc. They defended in the paint, but allowed shots form the perimeter. St. John’s has to do a better job of defending inside AND outside of the line.
Turnovers. Don’t get into a footrace with the Huskies. That is a game they will win every time. Don’t turn the ball over, especially not at the top of the key on offense. The game needs to be crisp and whistle free.
Minimize Husky Size. The Red Storm has to keep the length of their opponents far enough away from the glass that they are a non-factor; second chance points will help St. John’s knock off the hated rivals.
Attack and Score. St. John’s has to be aggressive on both ends, and look to get to the basket and draw fouls against the Huskies’ thin front line.
Elevate the Scoring Game. At least one if not two Johnnies have to step their offensive games up to match the Huskies. DJ Kennedy will score a bit, but someone else has to come and replace the production the team would get out of Dwight Hardy.
Prediction: 69-58, Connecticut.
Transplanted New Yorker and now Midwesterner Peter a/k/a Pico writes for the East Coast Bias and the Church of Bracketology and for Johnny Jungle, doing the Calm Before the Storm posts. Pico is also on Twitter, @ECoastBias.