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.
Date: Sunday, March 24th, 2013
Location: John Paul Jones Arena- Charlottesville, VA
Time: 11:00 AM EST
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