St. John’s is coming off a big home victory over rival Connecticut and will travel through the blistery snow all the way to Syracuse in upstate New York to take on another old rival. The Syracuse Orange are currently tied for first place in the Big East and a win by the Red Storm would be huge.
After winning six of their last seven the Red Storm are surging at the right time. The Red Storm have entered ESPN’s Joe Lunardi’s projected bracket as a #12 seed but still has work to do with seven games remaining in the regular season. There is a long way to go but head coach Steve Lavin talked about the NCAA Tournament projections.
“The goal of any college basketball player or coach is to be able to participate in one of the world’s greatest sporting events: the NCAA Tournament. Having the opportunity to do something special in March is what we all dream of,” said Lavin. “When I came to St. John’s and recruited these players, the objective was to go dancing in March…They are a young team, and I don’t want to change the fact that they are who they are. We recruited a very special group. We know we’re young and have a long way to go. I really enjoy working with this group. I want players that aspire to do special things.”
With Syracuse leaving the Big East for the ACC this was going to probably be the last game for the Johnnies in Syracuse. But these two teams will play a home and home series in 2013-14 and 2014-15 seasons. Syracuse leads the all time series against the Johnnies 49-37, a series which dates back to 1912. The Orange won last years meeting at Madison Square Garden 95-70. Syracuse has won seven straight and 13 of 14 against the Johnnies.
Date: Sunday, February 10th, 2013
Location: Carrier Dome- Syracuse. New York
Time: 3:00 PM EST
TV: ESPN (Dave Pasch, Dan Dakich)
Radio: WBBR 1130 AM (John Minko, Brandon Tierney)
Syracuse is having a very good season up to this point as they have taken care of business and are ranked ninth in the country. Syracuse is lead by senior guard Brandon Triche who is averaging 14.5 points and 3.5 assists a game on 43% shooting from the field. Triche had an off game last time out against Notre Dame when he still scored seven points and six assists in a 63-47 win.
Syracuse boasts a big backcourt of CJ Fair, Rakeem Christmas and Jerami Grant. All listed as 6’8 the basket will be protected by maybe one of the biggest trios St. John’s has or seen all year. Fair is averaging 13.9 points and 7.1 rebounds. Christmas is averaging 3.5 blocks and 5.4 rebounds while Grant 5.5 points and 3.1 rebounds.
James Southerland, another 6’8 forward has missed the past six games after an academic suspension. Southerland had a hearing on Friday and the result is expected to be ruled before game time Sunday so it is possible he could play. Southerland is averaging 13.6 points and 5.2 rebounds off the bench for the Orange.
At this point of the season St. John’s has a chance to make a run at the postseason. A chance they never got last year, and leading the charge is freshman forward JaKarr Sampson. Sampson racked up 18 points and six rebounds and one huge block against Connecticut. Sampson was more physical and set the tone like never before for this young Red Storm team. Sampson leads Big East freshman in scoring at 14.5 a game and leads the team in rebounds at 6.6 per game.
The emergence of junior guard Marc-Antoine Bourgault has been important for the Red Storm. In the past two games Bourgault is averaging 11.5 points while shooting 47% from the field and 55% from three. Bourgault will possibly be a zone buster against the Orange with his sweet stroke.
Sophomore guard Jamal Branch who sprained his MCL against Georgetown is unlikely to play in his second consecutive game.
Projected Starting Lineup:
F JaKarr Sampson
F Sir’Dominic Pointer
G Marc-Antoine Bourgault
G Phil Greene
G D’Angelo Harrison
Keys to Victory
• Free Throws!- For as many games that free throws have cost St. John’s, free throws sealed the game against UConn. As a team they were 24-31 and closed out the game. In one of the better attempting games for the Storm, D’Angelo Harrison, Phil Greene and Bourgault hit all their free throws. Even 31% free throw shooter Chris Obekpa went 2-3 from the charity stripe. If they get to the line they have to take the free points against a team like Syracuse.
• D’Angelo’s Slump- D’Angelo Harrison is in a slump, but could his clutch performance down the stretch against UConn be the start of him coming out of it. The sophomore guard who is 30 points away from the 1,000 career point club will need to have a big game if the Red Storm want to have a chance against the #9 Orange.
• The Bad Man– With Sir’Dominic Pointer he claims that he always feels like he’s the baddest man on the court. Mr. Do It All will have to be that against a tough Syracuse team that will be physically imposing. Pointer had five points, five rebounds, four assists, two blocks and a steal against UConn.
• Foul Trouble- Against UConn, Obekpa and Sampson both got into foul trouble. Obekpa only played 13 minutes because of it but Sampson was able to not foul out until there was 4 seconds left on the game clock and the win in hand. It will be a very physical game and the Red Storm’s big men will have to be smart with their fouling, especially if the Johnnies are in the game and can’t afford to lose either.
Final Prediction: Syracuse Wins, 70-60