Listen/ See: GangStarr, Step In The Arena (video, opens in new window)
Tip Off: 7:00 PM, Eastern
Vs: Georgetown Hoyas
Location: Madison Square Garden, New York, NY
Radio: Bloomberg 1130
Opposition blog/ message board: Hoya Prospectus | Casual Hoya | Glide Hoyas | Hoya Hoops | Hoya Talk (message board)
With the rival Georgetown Hoyas coming to town, could this be the beginning of the year where St. John's takes Madison Square Garden back? For years, the Garden has been almost a neutral site for Big East games. Opponents could expect to hear some familiar cheers bouncing off of the Garden rafters, while the Red Storm's longtime fans stayed home, not willing to waste their money on another St. John's loss.
But the Johnnies are 2-0 in the Big East, after a pair of road wins against foes that should end up in the middle of the league standings at the end of the year. This is positive momentum, and maybe, just maybe, the beginning of something good.
For Storm Warnings, Georgetown strengths + weaknesses, and Keys to the Game, read below>>
Storm Warnings: Georgetown
The Hoyas are 1-1 in Big East play. They defeated the DePaul Blue Demons, but lost at Notre Dame. In that game, they found the scoring difficult and turned the ball over on 23% of their possessions - on a number of unforced errors (9 times, almost 14% of their possessions). On the year, the Hoyas are turning the ball over on 21% of their possessions, and don't force turnovers. And the rebounding on both ends could use more contributions from their guards.
But despite the team's flaws, they shoot. And the most important predictor of winning basketball games is shooting. Their effective field goal percentage of 59.1% is 2nd in the country. St. John's fans know very well that all they need is a little time and those perimeter shooters, led by Austin Freeman (66.8 eFG%), can balloon a lead with jump shots or with backdoor cuts.
Strength: Scoring Versatility. The Hoyas are very good at getting all kinds of shots. Freeman can post up or shoot a jump shot from anywhere reliably. Jason Clark and Chris Wright can drive and shoot. The forwards have jump shots or can generate scoring in the paint. And the Hoyas are one of the best outside shooting teams in the nation - still a weakness for the Red Storm defense.
Strength: Post Depth. The Hoyas have 4 players who can defend and score down low, with different skills. Henry Sims and Julian Vaughn are good defensive rebounders and shot blockers, and Hollis Thompson and Nate Lubick have the ability to shoot from the perimeter or play in the paint.
Weakness: Turnovers. Outside of Austin Freeman and Hollis Thompson, the Hoya players cough up the ball on over 20% of their possessions. Chris Wright can over-penetrate, as can Jason Clark (despite his lack of assists). And with turnovers on the perimeter, the opponent can get a lot of high percentage shots - layups and dunks. And the Hoyas don't force turnovers in return.
Weakness: Defensive Rebounding, At Times. Despite playing a number of good defensive rebounders, the team isn't elite at clearing the glass. There may be second shot opportunities for the Red Storm.
Keys to the Game
Active/ Pressure Defense. No matter what lineup the Red Storm play, they need to have active hands and feet, making sure Georgetown gets few easy looks. This is a must; the Hoyas can put a game out of reach if they get comfortable on the perimeter.
Force Miscues. The Red Storm can force some turnovers via steals and traps, especially if they speed the guards up. Those turnovers will help the Johnnies' scoring, as well.
Outside In, Inside Out Scoring. The previous opponents allowed St. John's to get a lot of good shots inside. The scoring may be harder against the tougher Hoyas. Against an outside shooting team, St. John's has to be able to hit some perimeter shots as well as score inside - or get to the free throw line a lot.
Austin Freeman. Know where Austin Freeman is. He's the most consistently dangerous scorer. He'll get his shots, but they need to be difficult attempts.
Defend the Interior. The Hoyas will look to run some backcourt cuts for their guards and get shots at the rim. St. John's forwards need to be prepared to slide over and defend cutting players. The Hoya forwards can get layups and dunks when the guards get deep penetration.