"I understand why people say we haven't improved," junior forward Justin Burrell said. "I believe (we have) in my heart, but I guess the facts say (we're) not.
Tonight, two sets of fans will watch what might end up being a very ugly basketball game - slow pace, moments of ineptitude and indecision, and questionable shooting. Normally, I would say that St. John's should have their way with the weak Blue Demons, as they did in the previous contest (recap here).
But the lack of shooter Dwight Hardy and a malaise in the team (noted in the Daily News, above) might just make this game a little tougher than it should be against the Blue Demons.
Tournament Seeding Notes
A win tonight will end the season in 13th place for the Red Storm, unless Rutgers beats Pittsburgh. Then, with identical 6-12 records, the Red Storm would be in 14th since Rutgers beat the Red Storm head-to-head. The Red Storm would face either Connecticut/ Seton Hall/ South Florida/ Cincinnati (all can end up with 8-10 records; Cincy and U Conn can end up with 7-11 records and 11th and 12th place) on Tuesday. But a loss tonight would clinch 14th.
Connecticut is most likely to win their Saturday game (against USF), the rest will be projected to lose.
* DePaul, as stated in the conversation with John from Chicago Now (which you should read)... they're not very good at anything:
DePaul does very few things well. The one thing they do on offense is that they don't turn the ball over. The Blue Demons are 30th according to Pomeroy in offensive turnover percentage. They're not going to give away possessions, and quite honestly they can't afford to. I'll talk more about him in the answer to your next question, but Mac Koshwal is this team's best asset. He's been on fire lately. St. John's will have to contain him.
Also, this team is relatively better on defense than offense. That's partly because the offense, in a word, is atrocious. DePaul gives up too many offensive rebounds on defense - sometimes at the most inopportune times, but other than that they can hold their own on defense when the weather was there. It strikes me that this could be a very low scoring game since St. John's relies on it's defense to win games as well.
* Mac Koshwal, though a little mechanical, has been putting up solid double-double numbers this year. His rebounding is noteworthy.
* It's Senior night for Will Walker. Hopefully he will get some support from his teammates.
Read more pregame notes at Calm Before the Storm - Out Like a Lion.
Chicago Tribune: Walker closing out DePaul career of highs and lows
Keys to the Game
Take Them Seriously. The Blue Demons have played better than they did in the earlier game. St. John's has better athletes and are more competitive; but they cannot come out in a lackadaisical manner as they did against some teams. Sloppy play, turnovers, and lack of effort will doom them even against this weak squad, or make the game much closer than it needs to be.
Defend. The Demons have two offensive threats - Mac Koshwal in the post and Will Walker on the perimeter. The other players are poor shooters, but can drive a little bit. St. John's has to make sure to keep the point guards on the perimeter and out of the paint. And they have to make Koshwal (and the other forwards) a high volume, low effectiveness player by getting him out of position early.
Generate Easy Shots. The Red Storm need to run the court well and take the easy opportunities when they can. There will be chances to run, off of turnovers or rebounds. The team needs shots in transition, especially with Dwight Hardy out.
Win the Battle on the Glass. Second chance points can make even the most inconsistent offense look good. So St. John's has to win the battles - scoring off of putbacks on offense and limiting the Blue Demons to one shot on defense.
Recapture the Magic. The excellent, confident play against Louisville and South Florida has to come back - not the middling and distracted play from the Providence and Seton Hall contests. Swagger, body language, and aggressiveness will help them win - getting to the free throw line, taking smart shots, and playing like a favored team.