St. John’s Tips Off Season with Detroit on ESPN 24 Hour Marathon

Photo by: Jim O’Connor-US PRESSWIRE

For the second straight year, St. John’s will tip off its season on ESPN’s 24 Hours of College Basketball. This game will mark the return of head coach Steve Lavin after his battle with prostate cancer.

The Red Storm has heightened expectations this season, returning a majority of their minutes played from last season and adding seven new scholarship players. They will be looking to avenge their loss from last season against the Horizon League’s defending champions, the Detroit Titans. The Titans won 22 games last season and represented the Horizon League in the NCAA tournament, losing to Kansas in first round, 65-50.

St. John’s played in the ESPN 24 Hours of College Basketball two seasons ago and coincidentally made a run to the NCAA tournament. St. John’s fans hope history will repeat itself.

Game Information

Date: Tuesday, November 13, 2012
Location: Carnesecca Arena- Queens, New York
Time: 2:00 PM EST
TV: ESPN (John Saunders, Fran Fraschilla & Chris Mullin)
Radio: WBBR 1130 AM (John Minko, Tim O’Toole)
Online: WSJURadio.org

Detroit Titans (1-0, 0-0)
Head Coach: Ray McCallum

The Detroit Titans return leading scorer Ray McCallum, who is one of the more prolific scoring guards in the country. They run a very balanced attack and have 5-6 guys capable of scoring in double digits. While the Titans play mostly man-to-man, expect them to play some zone against St. John’s just as they did last year. The Titans have already played their first regular season game, but they’ve spent extra time in the film room studying up on the new look St. John’s team. The Detroit coaching staff was very pleased to access to film of both St. John’s exhibition games, due to the fact they were televised nationally on ESPN 3.

While Ray McCallum and Doug Anderson will shoulder a bulk of the scoring, Juwan Howard Jr. and P.J. Boutte are two complementary scorers. Calliste is a gunner from the outside who isn’t shy about putting up shots. A forgotten player on the Titans is Nick Minnerath, who was arguably their best post player a season ago before suffering a gruesome knee injury. He’s not 100% yet, but he’s worked his way back into the starting rotation and shouldn’t be overlooked.

Projected Starting Lineup:

F Doug Anderson
F Nick Minnerath
C Juwan Howard Jr.
G Ray McCallum
G Jason Calliste

St. John’s (0-0, 0-0)
Head Coach: Steve Lavin

While St. John’s has plenty of familiar faces returning, there is still a great deal of uncertainty surrounding the young Red Storm. Incoming players Orlando Sanchez and Marc-Antoine Bourgault are still awaiting initial eligibility rulings from the NCAA. God’sgift Achiuwa and Felix Balamou are expected to redshirt. D’Angelo Harrison is the dog house and will be replaced in starting lineup.

However, there are plenty of reasons to be excited for St. John’s this season regardless of the outcome of the first game. JaKarr Sampson, Chris Obekpa, and Christian Jones all look like they’re capable contributors day 1, Jamal Branch will be eligible to play in December, and Phil Greene looks poised to breakout in his sophomore season.

St. John’s has shown different looks in the preseason. Most notably, their defensive philosophy has switched from zone to man-to-man. Will the Johnnies go back to match-up zone or with more bodies to spare this year go with a pressure man-to-man?

While many questions are left to be answered, Detroit will be a great measuring stick for St. John’s in the first game of the season.

Projected Starting Lineup:

F Amir Garrett
F JaKarr Sampson
C Christian Jones
G Phil Greene
G Sir’Dominic Pointer

Keys to Victory

  • Protect Your Glass- St. John’s rebounding efforts in the preseason were alarming. The Red Storm will need to limit Detroit to one shot per possession. Having strong defensive rebound effort will also allow St. John’s to play in transition where they thrive. If this game is regulated to a half-court game, it’s going to be a long day for the Johnnies.
  • Shutdown McCallum- When McCallum is scoring the ball efficiently, it opens up opportunities for their complementary scorers. Wouldn’t be surprised to see a mix of Sir’Dominic Pointer, D’Angelo Harrison, and Amir Garret defend McCallum.
  • Shot Selection- Last season there was a strong emphasis on valuing the basketball. St. John’s would run what is called a “False Motion” taking 20 seconds off the shot clock per possession to limit opponents from getting more shot opportunities. D’Angelo Harrison is the only player on Red Storm who has the ultimate green light shooting the ball. New players will have to show good judgement in the shots they take because this game will come down to a matter of 1-3 possessions.
  • Set the Tone- St. John’s doesn’t want to play from behind in their own arena. The crowd needs to be involved early and often making it hard for Detroit to call out their sets. Look for St. John’s to really attack the basket early trying to get to the free throw line often.

Final Prediction: Detroit Wins, 67-61