Listen/ See: Dismemberment Plan, The Ice of Boston (video, opens in new window)
Tip Off: 7:00 PM, Eastern
At: Providence Friars
Location: Dunkin Donuts Center, Providence, RI
Radio: Bloomberg 1130
Opposition blog/ message board: Friarblog | Friar Basketball | Big East Boards - Providence (message board) | Friar Talk (message board)
Last Year: How to lose to a team that plays no defense.
Last year's loss was simply shocking, and spoke to how last year's team didn't have an answer when their plan didn't work, or when the point guard was injured. Malik Stith had not developed enough to run the offense without 5 turnovers in Malik Boothe's injury absence, and the team looked wholly unprepared to score against Providence. And the Friars spent the year giving up points like a Division II exhibition team.
Yet the Red Storm could only muster .797 points per possession. That's incredibly bad against anyone - even for a Division II exhibition team against a top-ranked school. The Red Storm turned the ball over on more than 30% of their possessions, sent the Friars to the line, and embarrassed themselves in the on-campus arena where the vulnerable opponents come to play. Of course, the previous year St. John's started the New Year in Providence, and also laid an egg.
It's a different year. The Red Storm come in looking like an invigorated and tough team, a crisp set of seniors who can execute a gameplan. And the Friars come looking strong as well, with an 11-3 mark on the season and a competitive loss to the Syracuse Orange in the Carrier Dome.
Storm warnings, strengths and weaknesses, and keys to the game all below>>
Storm Warnings: Providence
Providence plays fast, as they did last year. But this season, they are less loose; the players look to stop some penetration (though they miss at times), they make an effort to defend the paint, the long guards get out on three-point shooters, and importantly, they grab defensive rebounds. It's a better effort so far, but the non-conference strength of schedule has been fairly weak, even with wins against Alabama and Rhode Island and a loss to Boston College.
This young team has done a very good job of grabbing offensive boards, but they need to; their outside shooting has been unspectacular, despite their eagerness to take shots. The teams' best players are on the perimeter - Marshon Brooks at the wing and Brooklyn's Vincent Council at the point.
Strength: Getting the Stars to the Line. The duo of Brooks and Council have combined for 167 free throws on the season in 14 games - nearly 12 attempts per game. The Friars play a fast pace, and these two guards are taking advantage. Kadeem Batts and his activity on the offensive glass also contributes to a healthy team free throw rate.
Strength: Low-Maintenance Post Play. The Friar forwards, Bilal Dixon and Kadeem Batts, don't need many plays called for them. They block shots, grab rebounds, and score off of put backs and from the foul line. Though in Dixon's case, he tries to score from the foul line (48.1% on free throws)
Weakness: Team Depth. Against Syracuse, the Friars played Brooks and Council for the full 40 minutes. Gerard Coleman, the freshman wing, logged 34. Duke Mondy led the bench with 24 minutes. The Friars played one other man 11 minutes, and Dre Evans logged 1. The Friars like to play a 4 guard lineup, but at some point, they will need post depth.
Weakness: Perimeter Shooting. As a team, the Friars shoot 31%. Granted, that's not much worse than St. John's 31.7%, but the Red Storm have generally avoided perimeter shots. With sheer volume, the Friars have accumulated a solid number of makes, but they would probably like to have the outside jump shot as a reliable weapon in their offense as Big East defenses come at them with more size, athleticism, and skill.
Keys to the Game
Take Care of the Ball. The Red Storm can’t defeat themselves by turning the ball over to a team that isn’t good at forcing turnovers; the Storm had a number of unforced turnovers vs. West Virginia, and they need all the possessions they can get.
Anticipate Fast Attacks. Providence will attack off of misses and makes. So the Red Storm has to get back in transition and anticipate the streaking Friars’ players; many of their points come from their transition game. If St. John’s can either slow them down or prevent them from getting easy perimeter shots in transition, the Friars will struggle to score.
Control the Game. The Fordham game is a good lesson for this matchup – the Friars can give up a lot of points but can also score a bunch in a hurry if the Red Storm isn’t careful. St. John’s has to take smart, efficient shots… preferably the types that get Friar post players into foul trouble. Justin Burrell and Justin Brownlee need to impose their strength in this contest.
Master the Glass. If St. John’s can keep their opponent from offensive rebounds – and get some second-chance points themselves – the Red Storm can win this road game.
Cover the Perimeter. Providence's shooters haven’t tasted success this season, but they have offensive talent and take a lot of shots. The Red Storm can’t slack on their perimeter defense - even on Kadeem Batts, who has a little range.