Listen/ See: Strafe, Set it Off (video link, opens in new window)
Tip Off: 8:00 PM, Eastern
Vs: Columbia University
Location: Carnesecca Arena, Queens, NY
TV: Storm Tracker All-Access
Radio: WSJU, WKCR 89.9
Opposition blog/ message board: none noted
The Johnnies open at home against the Columbia Lions, and it's their only home game for half a month; they travel to the Great Alaska Shootout next week. This is the team's chance to take that Nor Cal taste out of their mouths from the St. Mary's loss, and to start getting their games - especially their offense - on track.
The Columbia Lions are two games into a season with new coach named Kyle Smith. Incidentally, he was a longtime assistant at St. Mary's under Randy Bennett. According to the Blue Ribbon Yearbook writeup on the Lions, Smith sees what he did at St. Mary's a bit like using the "Moneyball" concepts that the Oakland A's used to locate talent. So where the A's valued on-base percentage, St. Mary's values passing... and Columbia will as well.
Smith is a proponent of creating new statistics to measure and improve his players.
Shooting: The Lions have been running on opponents and playing a fast-paced game. Led by returning star Noruwa Agho, Columbia has been taking shots early in the shot clock - within 15 seconds. They've scorched the nets (45.7% on three-pointers, 54.8% on two-point attempts). Even though they lost, they did go into halftime with a lead against the Atlantic-10's LaSalle.
Ball Protection: The Lions may be going TOO fast; they have turned the ball over on 23.8% of their possessions. That number is in sync with what the Lions did last year, as well.
Defense: It's great that Columbia is shooting so well. Against LaSalle, they allowed 46% shooting from beyond the arc; and neither defensive performance has been dominant.
Malik and Polee Makin' Plays: Malik Boothe is Erick Sermon, and Dwayne Polee's Parrish Smith. They're not making dollars yet, but Malik and Polee used their ability to the fullest; let's hope to see more of that tonight and in the future.
The Frustrating Matchup Zone: St. John's had nice stretches of defense and made shots hard to come by for St. Mary's. Except for that spot with Clint Steidl's name on it and an outline for him to plant his feet when shooting.
Disappearing Acts: DJ Kennedy...? Dwight Hardy...? Bueller...? All were a wee bit absent against St. Mary's defense. The Gaels are good on defense, but not that good; that was worrisome. Was that opening game jitters, increased responsibility, over-caution? We will find out in the next month.
Did You Know? Lou Gherig, Sandy Koufax, Paul Robeson, and Max Kellerman all attended Columbia University. I am contractually obligated to mention Max Kellerman whenever I can.
Keys to the Game
Bother The Early Shots. The Lions have played fast-paced games and will get up and down the court; St. John’s has to be ready to contest the shots fairly quickly (and run out on their misses). If St. John’s can make them run a halfcourt offense for 20 seconds or more, that would be ideal. And hopefully frustrating.
Score. St. Johns might see some zone tonight. They need to attack it well and get into shooting rhythm against Columbia.
Force Turnovers. The Lions have not protected the ball at all in their two games. St. John’s style is beginning to look like one that will be dependent on turnovers. This could be a feel-good game for the players if they can use their length and smarts to force miscues and run out for crowd-pleasing dunks.
No Second Chances. The Red Storm need to restrict second chance shots – own the defensive glass. Get those rebounds.
True King of the Jungle. St. John’s needs to give the fans at home – and themselves – a reason to continue dreaming big. They have to own this game, knock Columbia out early and keep punching.