Listen/ See: The Meters, Chicken Strut (video, opens in new window)
Tip Off: 7:00 PM, Eastern
At: Louisville | Location: KFC Yum! Center, Louisville, KY
TV: SNY | Radio: Bloomberg 1130 | Internet: ESPN3
Opposition blog/ message board: Card Chronicle | U of L Card Game
Even in practice, they put in a 24-second shot clock, kind of how we want to do things. So they kind of mirror us in certain aspects, pressing and getting back to make turnovers and play at high speed to make it uncomfortable, which they don’t like to do. That’s the style of basketball that we want play at the same time, so it will be interesting to see how that pans out for us. - Justin Burrell in the pregame press conference
Tonight, St. John's Red Storm (11-5, 4-2 BE) faces off with Rick Pitino's Louisville Cardinals (14-3, 3-1) in their new basketball arena, the KFC Yum! Center, the most delicious arena in basketball, where the game smells like mass-produced grease fired chicken and the bourbon that Kentucky fans didn't get to first.
The team is more than just a glittering new stadium. Rick Pitino decided to roll right into the jokes and state that he wanted his team to score in 15 seconds, to beat the shot clock.
As for the team, the Cardinals do a lot of things well on the basketball court, not least of which is pressure defense. St. John's will have to be sharp to beat the Cards. Fans know he thinks highly of St. John's; he gave the Red Storm their sole #1 vote in the Big East coaches' voting last summer.
Did You Know?: Rick Pitino was solicited, possibly, to take Steve Lavin's head coaching job at UCLA in 2001. Steve Lavin was not amused.
Storm Warnings: Louisville
Despite any jokes I might have at Pitino's expense, he doesn't care because once again, he's proven he's a good coach. He loves real chaos on and off the court, continually mixing up lineups and making players earn their time, creating a fast-paced, high-energy brand of basketball.
On offense, the stars are Preston Knowles and Peyton Siva. Preston Knowles will light you up like a midsummer barbecue pit. He is not afraid to pull up for a jump shot, even a good foot behind the three-point line; he is an excellent floor-spacer, reminding me of St. Mary's Mickey McConnell but with more ability to get his shot. I would love to love Knowles game, but I can't get past last summer's domestic violence dispute.
Siva captains the ship with a quick dribble, slick passing, and quick hands. The forwards play as a committee, with freshman Gorgui Dieng emerging as a shot blocking force with some effective offense. He and the other forwards have some ability to run, and a bit of touch within 5 feet of the basket.
There aren't many individual players to key in on. The parts of the Louisville team bring unique talents to make a chaotic and effective whole.
For St. John's strengths and weaknesses, check out yesterday's team review.
Louisville Strength: Chaos. Led by Siva and Knowles, the Cardinals work hard to force the other team into missed shots and/ or turnovers. The missed shots seems to be working particularly well in Big East play. St. John's guards Dwight Hardy, D.J. Kennedy, and Malik Boothe need to make sure they see the whole floor as they make their passes. More importantly, those who handle the ball less have to be careful yet aggressive in moving the ball out of danger/ trap spots.
Louisville Strength: Shooting. The Cardinals also have a number of very good shooters at the wings in Kyle Kuric and Manhattan College transfer Chris Smith to complement Knowles and Siva's efforts. Dwayne Polee II, Paris Horne and Kennedy have to watch for players slipping free to the corners, ready to shoot.
Louisville Weakness: Defensive Rebounding. It's not terrible, per se. But for some reason, opponents have been getting a fair number of offensive rebounds against the Cards. With the size the team has in the paint in Terrence Jennings, Stephan Van Treese, George Goode, and Gorgui Dieng... one would expect better rebounding on the defensive end. St. John's might not attack the offensive glass, but if they do, Justin Burrell and Justin Brownlee could find themselves with a lot of chances to finish or draw fouls.
Louisville Weakness: Free Throw Defense. The bigs do seem to foul a bit more than they should. The effort's great, but St. John's will look to find ways of getting to the line and capitalizing there; free throws could be a great equalizer.
Keys to the Game
Control! The Cardinals want to hurry opponents into their game - fast, many possessions, loaded with turnovers. St. John’s has to play their game – run when it works, don’t get caught in bad positions, no unguarded Brownlee jumpers with 30 seconds left on the clock.
Ball Protection. The Red Storm have found themselves giving up some unforced turnovers - getting caught in bad position, throwing the ball away, and such. That needs to be minimized against the Cardinals, who will happily take advantage of any Johnny miscues.
Score in the Paint. St. John’s needs to get into a controlled game and work the ball into the paint, whether on the fast break/ transition or in the grind of halfcourt play. If they run, Polee could be a real breakout candidate.
Defend a Hasty Offense. Knowles and Siva will draw defenders in, probe the defense off of a screen, and find an open player for a jumper. And in lieu of that, Knowles will cock back and fire up a shot from anywhere; Kyle Kuric has that range as well.
Clear Their Misses. The Cardinals’ bigs try to get offensive boards with some regularity. They are bigger and quick; St. John’s has to box out well and get those defensive rebounds.
What do you think the Johnnies need to do to get the win?