These feel like heady days for St. John's.
The Johnnies have enjoyed media mentions from the likes of Sports Illustrated Seth Davis (who seems to think the Red Storm will make the NCAA Tournament this year) and ESPN's Dick Vitale. Notes from Foxsports' Jeff Goodman and some love from Will Leitch at New York Magazine. A few votes in the coaches' poll and the AP poll. Some of the fans are getting downright giddy about a team that can compete with the nation's best.
Is St. John's back?
And tonight's game will be on TV, available nationally through ESPN 360; recruits will be in the house as well.
Similarly giddy are the fans of SUNY- Stony Brook. Did you know? Upcoming opponent Stony Brook is in the "Others Receiving Votes" of a top 25 poll... of mid-majors, as compiled by CollegeInsider.com. So they're kind of like the mid-major version of St. John's now - knocking on the door of the top 25 with stirring victories over the New Jersey Institute of Technology (who have won 2 games!), Wagner, and Maryland-Eastern Shore.
The Seawolves are 5-1, with a loss to Rhode Island on the record. While at first glance this is one of the least fearsome games on the schedule, they are not to be taken lightly.
The Seawolves have roughed up opponents on defense, stifling their ability to get quality shots off and limiting their second chances/ offensive rebounds. They have played a slow, deliberate pace, except in the fast paced demolition by Rhode Island. To their credit, the Seawolves did hold Rhode Island under their lowest point total of the season (matched in the next game against Davidson), so they had to be doing something right. Last night, Stony Brook raced to a 47-24 advantage against Lehigh and seemed to cruise the rest of the way.
In games like this, the Red Storm has to make a point to not overlook the opponent, and to work on shoring up deficiencies:
- The Johnnies need to make the paint inhospitable for other offenses, and allow fewer offensive rebounds to opponents. Allowing 11 second chances to the other team per game is going to catch up with this team. And this team has allowed middling teams to score a lot of points at higher efficiencies than they normally score.
- They need to dictate the tempo - which they have not done yet, playing instead at their opponents' tempo (see: the slowdown Temple and St. Bonaventure games).
- St. John's needs to shoot better from outside - they are shooting 31.5% from beyond the arc this year. Whether this is a problem with shooters getting their feet set or a problem with screening, they have to address the issue.
- The team needs to get Paris Horne back on track, and get Justin Burrell consistent shots. Despite some fans' talk about his game, he can be a difference-maker on offense and a post presence.
- They can work on having different players handle the ball coming up.
The Red Storm needs to not cut the game as close as they cut the Brown game. Do not take the Seawolves lightly. Do not get excited about the team's first television appearance of the year. Do not get sucked in to the giddiness; it's a long season, and those were only 5 games. The team might see the light at the end of a dismal tunnel, but they still have to keep digging. Ernie Anastos would agree, in so many words (NSFW).
Opponent Team Review
Stony Brook (5-1)
35 G Muhammad El-Amin SR 6'5 210: 14 ppg* 2.6 rpg* 45.2% FG* 33.3% 3pt
10 G Bryan Dougher SO 6'1 185: 12.2 ppg* 3.5 rpg* 2 apg* 33% 3pt* 90.9% FT
30 G Chris Martin JR 6'1 223: 9 ppg* 3.8 rpg* 77.4% FT
23 F Dallis Joyner SO 6'7 250: 6 ppg* 5.3 rpg
24 G-F Tommy Brenton SO 6'5 215: 7.5 ppg* 9.8 rpg* 3.7 apg* 2.7 spg* 64.5% FG
12 PG Eddie Castellanos SR 6'1 180: 18.7 mpg* 2 ppg* 2.5 apg
11 G Marcus Rouse FR 6'0 170: 16.8 mpg* 5 ppg* 50% 3pt
20 F-C Desmond Adedeji SR 6'10 305: 12.8 mpg* 8 ppg* 2.8 rpg* 61% FG
1 G-F Preye Preboye FR 6'6 220: 12.8 mpg* 4.5 ppg* 3.2 rpg* 1 spg
Scotch Plains' Brian Dougher is the team's leader in minutes and is second in shots taken per minute among the starters. He takes the majority of his shots from beyond the 3-point line, and can get hot. Muhammad El-Amin is more likely than Dougher to put a shot up, but takes his attempts within the arc. He is decent at handing out assists. Swingman Tommy Brenton is generally a non-shooter but is effective when he puts up shots. His real value to the Seawolves is as a monster rebounder on both ends, and a very good assist man with few turnovers. The Red Storm need to check him on rebounding situations.
Dallis Joyner is a wide body in the post and is an okay rebounder, but he turns the ball over a lot and has been ineffective at scoring. Chris Martin - not the guy from Coldplay - probably knows Malik Boothe. Martin's a junior from Christ the King and lives in Springfield Gardens. He hasn't made a three-pointer all season, but has enjoyed 31 trips to the free throw line in 6 games - about 5 per game.
Stony Brook goes to the bench for a number of minutes. Hoboken's Eddie Castellanos is a senior guard who is more concerned with making assists than taking shots. His shooting percentages in the past have been fairly poor. Marcus Rouse is a guard with a solid all-around game, and posted 16 points in the loss to Rhode Island. Desmond Adedeji transferred from the University of Dayton for more playing time. He is their tallest player at 6'10 and very large at 305 pounds. He's been an efficient scorer and shot blocker, but picks up 2 fouls per game in 12 minutes a contest. Preye Preboye hasn't shown much offensively, but has been a good rebounder at both ends for his size, adding some steals for good measure.
St. John’s (5-0)
3 PG Malik Boothe JR 5’9 188: 4.4 ppg* 2.6 apg* 2.8 rpg * 1.8 spg
23 G Paris Horne JR 6’3 191: 8.8 ppg* 3 rpg* 1 spg* 27.8% 3-pt, 42.9% FG
1 G-F D.J. Kennedy JR 6’5 215: 17.4 ppg* 4.4 rpg* 3 apg* 2.4 TO/g* 38.9% 3-pt* 55.3% FG
24 F Justin Burrell JR 6’8 235: 5 ppg* 3.4 rpg* 50% FG
5 F Sean Evans JR 6’8 255: 8.2 ppg* 6.8 rpg* 43.8% FG
12 G Dwight Hardy JR 6'2 187: 23 mpg* 12.2 ppg* 1.6 apg* 43.5% 3-pt
32 F Justin Brownlee JR 6'7 232: 19.2 mpg* 7.8 ppg* 4.4 rpg* 1.4 spg
Granted, St. John's played two teams that have had their scoring troubles and scoring droughts in Temple and Siena last weekend, but they did a good job of defending without fouling. They allowed a lot of offensive boards and turned the ball over at a high rate though; there is work to be done.
DJ Kennedy's been the most reliable scorer on the team, the guy the team goes to to make a play. But what about... everyone else? Dwight Hardy has certainly had his moments on offense, and has been very willing to take shots on offense. But Paris Horne should be the other scorer; but so far this season, he has struggled to find the range, to avoid foul trouble, and to get into his rhythm. He will be needed; some team will defend Kennedy well, and someone will need to step up. Backups Quincy Roberts and Omari Lawrence have flashed potential in their time on the court, with Lawrence making plays outside of scoring (his accuracy has not been there from the field, yet), and Roberts shooting the ball well in his 9 minutes per game. As an aside, Kennedy's rebounding rates have dropped slightly.
Meanwhile, Malik Boothe and Malik Stith have been an interesting combination. Neither is putting up big assist numbers, but both have made some plays down the stretch in games. Both have turned the ball over much more than they should. Stith has been a better scorer (in much less time, so small sample size rules apply) and Boothe has better defensive metrics, rebounding and stealing the ball at a very good clip for his size.
At forward, Sean Evans remains steady, though his urges to take jump shots have lowered his field goal percentage. He is rebounding as well as before with a sharply reduced turnover rate while hitting almost 62% of his relatively frequent free throws. Justin Burrell isn't getting any shots up. Is that his issue or the team's? The team would be better served if he was getting shots, getting to the free throw line at the frequency he did last year, and not turning over the ball as much. Despite his love of shooting at awkward points in the shot clock, Justin Brownlee has been very good and efficient, though he needs to be more accurate on 3-pointers (27.3%). His rebounding is solid. Dele Coker's time has been limited, but he still will get a block in his 6 minutes.
Keys to the Game:
Step on the Gas. Pace, pace, pace. Here is where St. John's can work on making a slower team play at their pace by defending well enough to limit their possessions and harassing them into turnovers. The Johnnies have to get the athletes out into space and put up shots.
Dominate Inside. Rebounds, rebounds, rebounds. It's basic, but St. John's has let poor teams back into games by giving up inopportune rebounds on the defensive side, and by not extending their own possessions. St. John's is bigger and stronger than Stony Brook, and they need to show it. Some post scoring and interior dunking would be welcome.
The Swish Sound. After a couple of gritty games, it would help for the Red Storm's guards to see their shots go through the net on a regular basis. Even DJ Kennedy could use a good game, especially from behind the arc. Paris Horne needs to remember how he made consistent plays most of last year - driving occasionally, working on the perimeter to get a good outside jump shot, and streaking to the basket and finishing.
Make Them Earn Every Point. Stony Brook is a little turnover-prone, and St. John's will take advantage of that. But it is very important for the Red Storm to defend from the field as well as force turnovers; the team has let too many teams gain confidence in their shots. I would like to see Stony Brook held below 40% shooting. I would like to hear their coach talk about how they were out-toughed, how they couldn't get open for a good shot.
A Rolaids-Free Ending. St. John's can't keep lower-level teams hanging around if they have hopes of being a top-25 team. The Red Storm have to take their lead, have the backups retain the lead, and spend the second half crushing the Seawolves' spirits. They have the confidence after the big road wins; now is the time to give the fans at home something to believe in.