The last game of the regular season takes place in Notre Dame's Joyce Center. St. John's is 1-7 on the road, Notre Dame's tough at home, and it's senior night for McAlarney, Hillesland, Zeller, and Ryan Ayers... hm.
Is a repeat of that surprise win plausible, or just dream for the oft-struggling St. John's?
Two wins in a row are good, but three wins going into the Big East Tournament? That would be much better, and would give St. John's fans a glimmer of hope going into next year if Norm Roberts remains the head coach.
Tyrone Nash, from Jamaica, Queens and Nassau County's Lawrence Woodmere Academy (out near the great neighborhoods of Rosedale + Laurelton on the other side of the Nassau/ Queens border) will see more minutes. He's a strong rebounder, and could make a difference in this kind of game.
The 5 Keys to the game:
Bring That Energy: Against DePaul on the road, and against Georgetown at home, St. John's came out ready to brawl. It's not always pretty, but coming out with some fight early is a great way of setting the tone against an opponent with a great deal of doubt in their collective psyches. St. John's has to let them know they're in for a fight. The game at home was close; the Irish will be fired up for their last game at home, with 4 seniors on the floor.
Defensive Principles: St. John's has to remember the same defensive principles that they used against the Irish before: single-cover Harangody; stay in Kyle McAlarney's jock; disrupt Ryan Ayers. This time around, they will also need to block out Nash, and keep Harangody from imposing his revenge-minded will on the game. St. John's doesn't want to be the victim of a 40 point, holler-at-the-rafters Harangody performance. At the very least, they have to make Notre Dame score inside the arc.
Set Up and Hit It: Kennedy and Horne had solid scoring nights against the Irish in January. But the Johnnies have evolved a bit since then. Paris Horne has become a primary scorer, and Rob Thomas is getting his legs underneath him, finally. The team has to space well and look for opportunities to hit the outside shot against the weak Irish defense. Some slashing and free throw attempts will go a solid way to making this game close enough to steal.
Bangin': Evans and Burrell and Kennedy have to aggressively get after every rebound they can, and keep Notre Dame from getting second shots. Boxing out and making something happen with those second shot opportunities should be the a prime order of business.
Don't Make Them Look Good: St. John's will turn the ball over to anyone; the January game had 10 turnovers that were not steals, while only forcing 11 turnovers (6 steals). Some better ballhandling, recognition of traps and better work against zone will allow St. John's to win or lose on its defense and scoring merits, not on how many "young" mistakes they make.
Statsheet link. Point spread is 11.5 in favor of the Irish.
Chicago Tribune: St. John's Red Storm at Notre Dame in Fighting Irish's home finale; January defeat vs. St. John's may end up haunting ND
Chicago Tribune: Notre Dame seniors aiming to avoid ill finale
South Bend Tribune: It's more than 'just another game'; It will be an emotional Senior Day for Notre Dame
Fort Wayne Journal Gazette: Irish seniors left with regret, happy memories
Irish Eyes/ Scout.com: Preview: St. John's
Rivals.com: Basketball Preview: St. John’s @ Notre Dame ($ required)
The Observer: Men's Basketball: Going out in style?; Hoopsters hope to win Senior Night contest against SJU