St. John’s Meets Virginia in 2nd Round of NIT


St. John’s has been desperate for a feel good win for over a month now and they finally got it Wednesday night in Philadelphia. After a long and hard fought game which saw the Red Storm come back from a double digit deficit, Sir’Dominic Pointer took an inbounds pass the length of the floor and deposited a jumper over a St. Joe’s defender to knock off the Hawks and advance to the second round of the NIT.

The win was the first for the team since a victory over South Florida in front of a sold out crowd at Carnesecca Arena on February 20th. The Red Storm will now travel further south to take on the #1 seeded Virginia Cavaliers.

The history between St. John’s and Virginia is not a vast one and is mostly one sided, St. John’s is 7-0 against these Cavs and the last time they played was 10 years ago in 2003 when the Johnnies defeated the Cavs 73-63 at Carnesecca Arena. Marcus Hatten scored 30 points to lead the Johnnies to victory and eventually to win the NIT crown that year, although it would be technically vacated in 2006 due to NCAA violations.

Game Information
Date: Sunday, March 24th, 2013
Location: John Paul Jones Arena- Charlottesville, VA
Time: 11:00 AM EST
TV: ESPN
Radio: WBBR 1130 AM (John Minko, Vin Parise)

Virginia Cavaliers (22-11, 11-7)
Head Coach: Tony Bennett

The Cavaliers are one of the best teams that St. John’s could have gotten lined up with in this NIT. The Cavs who were on the bubble to make the NCAA tournament had some great wins this year including home victories over Duke, Maryland, NC State and North Carolina. The JPJ is not an easy place to play and the Cavs will look to have a home court boost when they take on the Johnnies early Sunday morning.

Joe Harris is the best player the Cavs have to offer, the 6’6 guard is averaging 16.7 points per game on 47% shooting from the field. Harris had a decent game against Norfolk State in the first round of the NIT as he scored 12 points, grabbed six rebounds and dished out two assists in helping the Cavs to victory over an upset minded Spartans team.

Big man Akil Mitchell will be a handful inside for the Johnnies. Mitchell is averaging 13.3 points and nine rebounds per game for the Cavs and had a great first round game against Norfolk State. Mitchell had 15 points and 11 boards for himself against Norfolk State but he did turn the ball over five times.

Projected Starting Lineup:
F Akil Mitchell
F Justin Anderson
G Paul Jesperson
G Joe Harris
G Jontel Evans

St. John’s Red Storm (17-15, 8-10)
Head Coach: Steve Lavin

With that allusive win behind them the Johnnies will start to look and do some real damage in this NIT as they can now see that they are good enough to win without D’Angelo Harrison. The person who has really stepped up to the plate in Harrison’s absence has been Sir’Dominic Pointer. Pointer not only had the game winning shot against St. Joe’s but he stuffed the stat sheet again. 15 points, seven rebounds, five assists, three blocks and a steal was the final line for Pointer on the night. Pointer went 6-7 from the field and hit three of three from behind the arc to set a career high in three pointers made.

It was a huge charge call that Pointer drew to turn the momentum around for the Johnnies in round one. You could see Pointer wanted it and he showed it and you then could see it in his teammates.

Being benched from the starting lineups in the first round was Phil Greene and Chris Obekpa for a minor infraction of team rules. It didn’t stop Greene or Obekpa from having solid games off the bench. Greene had a decent shooting game as he collected 10 points and three assists on 5-10 shooting. Obekpa had six points, eight rebounds and three blocks to pace himself with a solid outing.

Projected Starting Lineup:
F JaKarr Sampson
F Sir’Dominic Pointer
F Chris Obekpa
G Phil Greene
G Jamal Branch

Keys to Victory

•   Three Point Defense- In the first half against St. Joe’s the Johnnies were not playing good defense on shots behind the arc. After tightening up their defense in the second half allowed them to win, it would be wise to not wait until the second half to do the same against the Cavs. The Cavs have some lethal shooters, like Mike Tobey who is shooting 60% from three on the year.

•   Surprise- It is usually the teams who want to win and play at the Garden in the NIT Final Four that usually end up winning the whole thing. Virginia was a bubble NCAA team and the Johnnies need to look to exploit the fact that they might be disappointed in playing in the NIT instead of the NCAA. Show up and out hustle, rebound and shoot high percentage shots and become one step closer to the Garden.

•   Air France– It’s been a weird season for Marc-Antoine Bourgault. From barely playing to a surprise garbage time performance catapulting into actual minutes back to only playing about five minutes a game can be frustrating. It seems Bourgaults shot is off as well. But if Bourgault can get some shots to fall in big spots it would be incredibly important for the Red Storm. He is the x factor.

•    Growing Branch- Jamal Branch may have only played 19 minutes in round one but he looked a lot better then he has since he went down with his MCL injury a month and a half ago. Branch finished round one with nine points and five assists and hit some clutch free throws down the stretch. If Branch can play extended minutes and play as well as he did on Wednesday the Johnnies can be in line for an upset bid.

Final Prediction: Virginia Wins, 66-57

St. John’s Travels to Philly to Play St. Joe’s in NIT Opener


The St. John’s Red Storm season has been extended and will head down to Philadelphia to take on St. Joseph’s in a first round NIT game. The Red Storm have lost seven of their last eight games including their only game in the Big East tournament. The Red Storm tripped to the finish line after losing their leading scorer D’Angelo Harrison to a team leveled suspension.

This will be the 28th all-time appearance in the NIT for St. John’s. The last time the Red Storm appeared was in 2010 when Memphis won at home 73-71 on a buzzer beater in the final game Norm Roberts would coach at St. John’s.

St. Joe’s and St. John’s have played 55 times in the past with the Red Storm holding a 43-12 edge in the season series. The game will mark the fourth meeting between the schools at St. Joe’s and the first since the 1927-28 season. The last time these two teams met up was a 72-55 win for the Johnnies on January 14th 1980 at Carnesecca Arena.

Game Information
Date: Wednesday, March 19th, 2013
Location: Hagan Arena- Philadelphia, PA
Time: 7:00 PM EST
TV: ESPNU
Radio: WBBR 1130 AM (John Minko, Brandon Tierney)

St. Joseph’s Hawks (18-13, 8-8)
Head Coach: Phil Martelli

As a #4 seed the Hawks and Phil Martelli will be looking to play their type of ball and oust the Johnnies. The Hawks were a formidable team in the Atlantic 10 this year and had some good players that will be hard to keep up with. Their starting backcourt of Carl Jones and Chris Wilson are good scorers. Jones is averaging 14 points per game on 39% shooting from the field. Jones scored 29 points on 8-16 shooting against VCU in an Atlantic 10 tournament loss. Wilson shoots it at 38% from the field and is averaging 6.9 points per game.

The real test for the Johnnies will be containing former commit Ron Roberts. Roberts who was committed to Norm Roberts and the Johnnies was let go of his commitment when Steve Lavin was hired. The junior forward Roberts is averaging a career high 11.4 points and 8.5 rebounds per game for the Hawks. Big man CJ Aiken is also someone to look out for in the front court averaging 10.8 points and and 5.4 rebounds.

Projected Starting Lineup:
F Ron Roberts
F Halil Kanacevic
G Langston Galloway
G Chris Wilson
G Carl Jones

St. John’s (16-15, 8-10)
Head Coach: Steve Lavin

The Johnnies have had some close calls against some good teams during this losing stretch. Taking Marquette to overtime and losing on a buzzer beater and playing tough in the Big East tournament against Villanova. But this team will look to gain focus and try and make a postseason run before the final curtain for the 2012-13 season hits.

Someone who has stepped up the past two games for the Red Storm is Phil Greene. Greene scored 16 points on 7-19 shooting against Villanova and 20 points on 9-15 shooting against Marquette. Greene is averaging 9.8 points per game on the season on 36% shooting. The sophomore guard is shooting 36% from the field but is shooting a ghastly 23% from behind the arc.

The most important player for the Red Storm will be freshman and Big East Rookie of the Year JaKarr Sampson. Sampson had a poor game against Villanova shooting 5-18 from the field and netting 13 points and grabbing nine rebounds. The freshman has been thrust into the role of the best player on the team and will need to be if the Johnnies want any chance at advancing in the NIT.

Projected Starting Lineup:
F JaKarr Sampson
F Sir’Dominic Pointer
F Chris Obekpa
G Phil Greene
G Jamal Branch

Keys to Victory

•   Clamp on Jones- The Johnnies will not be able to afford a 29+ point performance from Carl Jones in round one and the guards must be up to the challenge of defending. Branch, Greene and co. must be able to get in front of Jones and take away the driving lanes and get in his face on jumpshots. It will be key to see this team come out with fire and intent on winning the tournament.

•    Want it- There is no shame in playing in or winning the NIT. Everybody wants to go to the NCAA Tournament but those 32 teams selected to the NIT are all good teams. The NIT adds experience and helps team gel together. If this Johnnies team wants to win and comes out hungry it could make a deep run.

•   Bench Play– Steve Lavin has been playing with some interesting combinations off the bench including playing some walk ons early in games. This has lead to less than great results but Lavin will continue to give out bench minutes and whoever gets them will need to contribute. That includes Marc-Antoine Bourgault who could be a lethal shooter off the bench when he’s on and Christian Jones, the freshman forward who had a breakout game against Marquette. And of course Amir Garrett who is a glue guy and can stuff the stat sheet on his best days.

•    A Healthy Olive Branch- Sophomore guard Jamal Branch hasn’t been 100% healthy since retiring on February 24th against Pittsburgh. Branch sprained his MCL againsT Georgetown on February 2nd and missed four games. A healthy Branch could be a difference maker as his ability to pass and score if he can become explosive are what this team has been missing. Branch practiced without his knee brace for the first time yesterday.

Final Prediction: St. John’s Wins, 60-54

St. John’s Opens with Villanova for Big East Tournament


The regular season is over for the St. John’s Red Storm as a heartbreaking buzzer beater loss against Marquette at the Garden closed the doors on an up an down ride. The Red Storm end the seasons with 16 wins and are two games above the .500 mark. The Johnnies are going to look to make a run in the conference tournament and win four games in four days to get an automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament.

The Johnnies first game in the tournament will be against pesky Villanova and their giant killing team. The Wildcats have won three games against top five ranked teams this season, all at home though. The Wildcats knocked off Syracuse, Louisville and Georgetown and are almost a lock to be invited to the tournament with an at large berth.

Earlier in the year these two teams kicked off the Big East schedule against each other in an overtime shootout in Philadelphia. Villanova won 98-86 as the Johnnies struggled in the extra period. This game was almost a coming out party for freshman Ryan Arcidiacono who scored 32 points and shot 7-13 from downtown while making 11-13 free throws.

Game Information
Date: Wednesday, March 13th, 2013
Location: Madison Square Garden- New York, NY
Time: 7:00 PM EST
TV: ESPN2
Radio: WBBR 1130 AM (John Minko, Brandon Tierney)

Villanova Wildcats (19-12, 10-8)
Head Coach: Jay Wright

The Wildcats and Jay Wright have had quite the season. From an early season losses to Columbia and La Salle the Wildcats were able to bounce back and be a team to be reckoned with. Villanova will look to put a cap on their season and try to add to their resume before Selection Sunday.

Sophomore forward JayVaughn Pinkston was named to the All Big East third team for the season. Pinkston has really grown since his freshman year and averaged 12.9 points per game to lead the team. Pinkston shot a good 46% from the field and grabbed 4.8 rebounds per game.

Freshman guard Ryan Archidiacono was named to the Big East All Rookie team and will be the main opposition for Johnnies freshman JaKarr Sampson as winner of Rookie of the Year. Archidiacono averaged 12.2 points and shot 34% from downtown.

Projected Starting Lineup:
F Mouptaou Yarou
F JayVaughn Pinkston
G Darrun Hillard
G Ryan Arcidiacono
G James Bell

St. John’s (16-14, 8-10)
Head Coach: Steve Lavin

The Johnnies will look to extend their season and try to make the Big Dance or at worse the NIT as they take on Villanova on Wednesday. They started off the week with some solid news as JaKarr Sampson was named to the Big East All Rookie team and the All Big East honorable mention.

Sampson leads all freshmen in scoring as he is averaging 14.9 per game and rebounding at 6.6 per game. Sampson also records 1.9 blocks per game and has grown up from the start of the season. Sampson scored 17 points and grabbed seven rebounds in the season finale against #15 Marquette at the Garden.

Also named to the Big East All Rookie team was game changer Chris Obekpa. Obekpa was denied Big East Defensive Player of the Year even though he recorded 124 rejections this season and averaged 6.5 rebounds per game. Obekpa finished the season with a four point, seven rebound, seven block performance against Marquette.

Projected Starting Lineup:
F JaKarr Sampson
F Sir’Dominic Pointer
F Chris Obekpa
G Phil Greene
G Jamal Branch

Keys to Victory

•   Best Player on the Court- JaKarr Sampson will arguably be one of the best all around players on the court on Wednesday night and the Johnnies need him to be just that. Sampson has played great down the stretch and a big game on offense and defense will be needed for St. John’s to advance.

•   Three point shooting/defense- After a horrid 2-16 showing from three point land against Marquette the Johnnies need to be taking better shots from behind the arc. Marco Bourgault has a great shot but it has been off for a couple games and he will look to get it back. As for defensively the Johnnies need to stick a man on Archidacono at all times, the lethal shooter can shoot the Johnnies right out of the tournament.

•   PG The Fourth– Arguably his best game as a Johnnie, sophomore guard Phil Greene played his heart out against Marquette. Greene’s 20 point performance on 9-15 shooting was much needed since D’Angelo Harrison’s suspension. Look for Greene to try and heat up the hoops again.

•   The Bad Man is Back- Sophomore forward Sir’Dominic Pointer served his one game suspension and will be back for the first game of the Big East Tournament. Pointer is important part of this team on offense and defense as he has played well and developed over the season to the kind of player Steve Lavin thought he was getting when he recruited him. Pointer was the missing x-factor that could have swayed the Marquette game towards St. John’s favor and look for him to try and make an impact on the big stage.

Final Prediction: St. John’s Wins, 66-64

St. John’s Looks to Down Marquette Golden Eagles in Final Regular Season Game

Steve Lavin
When it has rained it has poured for the St. John’s Red Storm. After leading at halftime on Tuesday night in South Bend against the Irish the Johnnies fell apart in the second half and lost by 26 points, their most embarrassing of the season. Before the final buzzer Sir’Dominic Pointer and Cameron Biedschied of the Irish got into an altercation and punches were thrown. Both players were suspended for one game.

So the Red Storm will face the #15 ranked Golden Eagles on the final day of the regular season without leading scorer D’Angelo Harrison and without the stat sheet stuffer Pointer. The Eagles are coming off a come from behind win at Rutgers and are having a very special season even without former stars Darius Johnson-Odom and Jae

Crowder who were both picked in the 2012 NBA Draft.

Last season the Johnnies were downed by the Eagles, 83-64 on the road.

Game Information
Date: Saturday, March 9th, 2013
Location: Madison Square Garden- New York, NY
Time: 2:00 PM EST
TV: ESPN
Radio: WBBR 1130 AM (John Minko, Brandon Tierney)

Marquette Golden Eagles (22-7, 10-4)
Head Coach: Buzz Williams

Marquette and coach Buzz Williams are lead this season by junior guard Vander Blue. Blue is averaging 14.3 points per game and 3.3 rebounds on 46% shooting from the field this year. Blue has started every game this year for the Eagles and lead the comeback against Rutgers and helped hunt for the #1 seed in the Big East Tournament. Blue had 22 points on 8-16 shooting.

Off the bench for the Eagles might be the Big East Sixth Man of the Year. 6’8 junior forward Davante Gardner is averaging 11.6 points per game off the bench and leads the team averaging 4.7 rebounds. Gardner was ineffective against Rutgers scoring only four points and three rebounds in 18 minutes.

Projected Starting Lineup:
F Juan Anderson
C Chris Otule
G Junior Cadougan
G Vander Blue
G Trent Lockett

St. John’s (16-13, 8-9)
Head Coach: Steve Lavin

It will be a challenge but a challenge that the Red Storm will have to face. Down two of their best players the Johnnies will try and upset the Golden Eagles of Marquette and go into the Big East Tournament looking for a miracle. From on the bubble two weeks ago to sweating out a possible NIT berth the Johnnies will have to be lead by their seasoned sophomores.

Phil Greene, Jamal Branch and Amir Garrett will have to step up in the absence of Pointer and Harrison and make it hard for the Eagles. Branch who has not looked 100% since he came back from a MCL sprain will be important. Against the Irish Branch shot 1-7 from the field while dishing out two assists.

Greene was not much better has he shot 5-14 from the field scoring 10 points an missing all three field goals from deep. Felix Balamou looks to keep getting extended minutes while Marco Bourgault is seeing his time on the court as well as his magic touch from three fading.

Projected Starting Lineup:
F JaKarr Sampson
F Amir Garrett
F Chris Obekpa
G Phil Greene
G Jamal Branch

Keys to Victory

•    Sampson Take Over- JaKarr Sampson has become the number one option for this team and while only making five of 15 shots against the Irish he still lead all Johnnies with 12 points and five rebounds. The Johnnies will need a monster game from the freshman to have a chance.

•    Backups time to shine- Amir Garrett and Felix Balamou look to be the two players who will see their minutes increase against Marquette. Garrett has had an okay season and Balamou has seen his minutes and production go up and down. Solid production from these two and the Johnnies will have a chance.

•   Planting Gardner– Vander Blue is relentless and a great scorer but the Johnnies will have an edge in the front court. They can not allow Gardner to go off and if they can minimize his importance like Rutgers did that can be huge.

•    Frustration- Against the Irish you could see the Johnnies start to lose their cool. This will be a good test heading into the postseason to see if they can keep frustration from mounting. Nothing has really gone their way since the calendar has turned to March and it will be important for them to be calm, cool and collected.
Final Prediction: Marquette Wins, 68-55

Will St. John’s Re-Joyce Against Notre Dame?


There have been better and worse days at St. John’s this year but the Red Storm are struggling at one of the most important times of the season, the end. The Red Storm has two games left this season including tonights contest with the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.

The Johnnies are hoping to find the luck of the Irish again tonight as they have won three straight against this Notre Dame team who will be celebrating their Senior Night. On January 15th, the Johnnies defeated the Irish 67-63 behind 17 points from freshman JaKarr Sampson.

Game Information
Date: Tuesday, March 5th, 2013
Location: Purcell Pavilion- South Bend, IN
Time: 7:00 PM EST
TV: ESPN2
Radio: WBBR 1130 AM (John Minko, Brandon Tierney)

Notre Dame Fighting Irish (22-7, 10-6)
Head Coach: Mike Brey

The Irish have been a top 25 team all season long and have had some epic games including the five overtime game against Louisville that will go down as one of the best games played this year. Their last time out they had snapped their winning streak with a loss to first place Marquette, 72-64 on the road.

Jack Cooley only played 15 minutes and did not score while Jerian Grant and Eric Atkins lead the way with 21 and 16 points respectively. The Irish will be headed to Louisville after the game with the Johnnies for a big Saturday rematch before the Big East Tournament begins next Tuesday, March 12th at Madison Square Garden.

Projected Starting Lineup:
F Tom Knight
F Jack Cooley
G Eric Atkins
G Pat Connaughton
G Jerian Grant

St. John’s (16-12, 8-8)
Head Coach: Steve Lavin

For the seventh time this season JaKarr Sampson was named the Big East Rookie of the Week. It is all but written that Sampson will be named the Big East Rookie of the Year next week at the Big East Tournament. Coming off a 22 point, six rebound performance in a heartbreaking loss to Providence on Saturday, Sampson has become the first option for the Johnnies since the D’Angelo Harrison suspension last week.

This will be the second game Harrison will miss. The Johnnies have one more game in the regular season before opening the Big East Tournament on Wednesday March 13th. Harrison would not be able to participate in any Big East Tournament or possible postseason tournament play either.

Projected Starting Lineup:
F JaKarr Sampson
F Sir’Dominic Pointer
F Chris Obekpa
G Phil Greene
G Jamal Branch

Keys to Victory

•    Cooley Off- Last time these two teams met it was important for the Johnnies to slow down Jack Cooley. Cooley only had 10 points and five rebounds in 18 minutes and his lack of play was a big reason for the Johnnies pulling off the upset.

•    Bench play- Without their number one scorer at their disposal the bench play has become more important for the Johnnies as Amir Garrett and Felix Balamou got a lot of burn vs. Providence and Marco Bourgault was moved to the bench. If they want any chance to beat the Irish they will have to hit their shots and be a pain on the glass.

•   Guard the guards– Jerian Grant and Eric Atkins are high major scoring guards for the Irish. For the Johnnies to succeed they will need a conscious effort to guard the dual threat backcourt for the Irish.

•    Block party- The Red Storm lead the nation in blocked shots per game this year and to be able to beat the Irish they will need their best block party effort to slow down a good shooting, well balanced team like the Irish. They Johnnies won last game with a big block at the end of the game and they will need to make stops to keep their postseason hopes alive.

Final Prediction: Notre Dame Wins, 60-50