Listen/ See: Lord Tariq & Peter Gunz - Deja Vu (Uptown Baby) (video, clean; opens in new window)
Tip Off: 7:00 PM, Eastern
Vs: Fordham Rams
Location: Rose Hill Gym, Bronx, NY
Opposition blog/ message board: Fordham Fans (message board)
We gave up one at home [to St. Bonaventure] and that kind of hurt us.
- Paris Horne in pregame quotes
The Red Storm have another road game. Fortunately, this game is across the Whitestone Bridge and up the Bronx River Parkway, to Fordham to play the Rams. The Johnnies will try to wipe the taste of the bitter last-minute defeat to St. Bonaventure from their mouths with a game at Fordham's historic Rose Hill Gym. The game is a homecoming for Bronx' Dwight Hardy, who will have friends and family in attendance cheering for the Red Storm. And I'll be there as well.
The New York teams are beginning to show signs of resurgence. Much like Wagner, the Fordham Rams hired a local coach to help them get closer to double-digit wins from the 2-win debacle they recorded last year with former Wagner coach Dereck Whittenburg and interim coach Jared Grasso. Tom Pecora may have wanted the St. John's job, but Fordham wanted him more to revitalize the low-level Atlantic 10 program.
It's working for the Rams so far; they have doubled their win total from last year, while winning 2 games in a row and beating local rival Manhattan. It's an achievement for a team that was blasted by almost every team they played in 2009-2010. It's very possible to make the first-level leap from sub-4 wins to the 10-win range.
But getting from 10 to 15 wins is harder. Getting from 15 to 18 is also difficult. And 18 to 20+... there is a plateau that programs reach that is hard to advance beyond.
Storm Warnings, Keys to the Game, Pluses and Minuses, all below.>>
Storm Warnings: Fordham
The main threats on Fordham are Chris Gaston and Brenton Butler. Gaston takes shots like Providence's Greedy Peterson did - early and often (27.6% of shots while on the floor). He makes them, unless he's at the free throw line, where he shoots 46%. Gaston also blocks shots and is a beast rebounder (29.7% defensive rebounding percentage, 11.3% offensive rebounding percentage). The Rams can't do anything if he isn't having an impact on the game; but the Red Storm may not have the paint presence to get him into foul trouble.
Brenton Butler isn't a sharp shooter, but his steady ballhandling (turnovers on only 14% of possessions) keeps the Rams from turning the ball over even more than they currently do (23% of their possessions). Forcing him to struggle - or to the bench - would impact the game, since the Rams only go 6 deep. And if he is forced to shoulder the scoring load, he's less dangerous; his shooting percentages are not sharp, despite the number of shots he takes.
Alberto Estwick has been shooting the lights out (41.7% on threes) in the early going; Marvin Dominique rebounds from the forward position (14.8% offensive rebounds, 20.1% defensive); and Kervin Bristol had a breakout game with 16 rebounds on Wednesday. Freshman Branden Frazier focuses his scoring efforts on the outside (68% of his shots are from outside), and has been solid on offense, despite a high turnover rate (26.4%).
Despite not forcing turnovers - or maybe because of it - the Rams have been solid in defending opponents' shooting, laying back and making shots hard.
(photo courtesy of Fordham Athletics)
Keys to the Game
Force Turnovers. Fordham turns the ball over. St. John's would love to help them out by taking the ball and reducing the number of shots the Rams take. The Storm has to be battering and relentless.
Defend the Outside Shot. The Rams have some dangerous perimeter shooters; and defending the perimeter shot has been a weakness of the Red Storm. Estwick is the most dangerous shooter, but both Brandon Frazier and Brenton Butler will b e up for this game, trying to knock off the Johnnies.
Make the Shots. It doesn't help to steal the ball if the Johnnies can't convert on the other end. Or hit free throws when fouled. St. John's has to convert the easy opportunities that they generate.
Negate the Rebounders. The Rams have some size and skill on the boards; St. John's needs an edge to extend possessions with offensive rebounds. The Red Storm hasn't been great at rebounding, and this is a great game to figure out how to get better against height. Also, allowing the Rams extra shots is a recipe for an upset.
Get Into the Depth. Since the Rams only go 6 deep, their staff obviously doesn't think their other players are ready; St. John's needs to wear the Rams down, get them into foul trouble.
St. John's will win if: They can severely defend Chris Gaston and Alberto Estwick, hounding them into 20-30% shooting nights inside the arc and few makes from the perimeter.
Transplanted New Yorker and now Midwesterner Peter a/k/a Pico writes for Johnny Jungle, doing the Calm Before the Storm posts and also for the Church of Bracketology. Pico is also on Twitter, @ECoastBias. Add the East Coast Bias to your .rss feeds; or follow by email.