Listen/ See: Smith Westerns, Girl in Love (video, opens in new window)
Tip Off: 7:00 PM, Eastern
Vs: DePaul Blue Demons (7-19, 1-13 Big East)
Location: Carnesecca Arena, Queens, NY
TV: MSG+ | Radio: Bloomberg 1130 AM
Opposition blog/ message board: Chicago College Basketball | Blue Demons Lair | Demons Abyss (message board) | We Are DePaul (message board)
The last time these two teams played, my wife and I groaned through three overtimes at the Allstate Arena with the other 20 Red Storm fans. St. John's fell behind by 20 to a Blue Demons team that was simply terrible. D.J. Kennedy carried the team through the listless contest and finally, we got to go home into the cold Chicago night.
Are the Blue Demons up for springing another surprise on the now-ranked Red Storm? Is this a trap game? We know about the team's woes at Carnesecca from earlier this morning. And we know the Blue Demons are improving at the end of this season from our Q and A. Despite the gulf between the middle of the Big East and last-place DePaul, this game could be much more competitive than the Red Storm would like.
Can St. John's play up to their ability or will they play down to the Blue Demons' level? This is not a game for letting up, it's a game to show how mature, how serious this team can be.
Learn more, with Storm Warnings, DePaul's Strengths/ Weaknesses, and the Keys to the Game, all below the fold.
Storm Warnings: DePaul
Oliver Purnell has brought his pressing, trapping style of basketball to DePaul, the fourth of his turnaround projects in his career. Despite early losses, the Blue Demons have showed some fire of late, losing to Villanova in overtime, defeating Providence on the road, and hanging tough with Cincinnati and West Virginia.
But make no mistake, the boys from Lincoln Park struggle.
They struggle to score. They struggle to defend the paint. They struggle with depth. The ballhandling needs marked improvement. And they struggled with late-game execution in the win against Providence and against Villanova, where some better defense could have salted the game away in regulation.
This Blue Demon team is likely to slow down the ball, using their full-court pressure to harass and slow teams down rather than speed them up. The team's stars are both freshmen. Point guard Brandon Young (12.2 ppg, 3.8 apg) has done a capable job as a shooting point guard. His turnovers are a little high, and his shot of late hasn't been falling - likely due to the pressure on him to generate points.
Forward Cleveland Melvin (14.2 ppg, 5 rpg, 1.2 bpg) is the one who got away from Connecticut (or U Conn decided they didn't need him). He is agile and quick up the court, an athletic finisher, and he has developed from a raw project into an impact forward quickly.
Point guard Jeremiah Kelly has come on of late, and is hitting his outside shots, going over 20 points in his previous 2 games and hitting 41.7% of his threes in conference. Krys Faber and Tony Freeland man the paint, and former Southeast Missouri State walk-on transfer Jimmy Drew hits some shots from outside.
DePaul: Pluses/ Minuses
Blue Demons Positive: Forcing turnovers. The Blue Demons force turnovers on 18.4% of opponents possessions. Not the highest mark in the conference, but they will force mistakes.
Blue Demons Positive: Hitting outside shots. DePaul has been hot from outside recently, with Jimmy Drew and Jeremiah Kelly nailing open shots.
Blue Demons Negative: Hitting inside shots. With undersized forwards like Tony Freeland and less athletic options at the guards and wings like Drew, Kelly, Moses Morgan, the Blue Demons struggle to score inside.
Blue Demons Negative: Defensive rebounding. Faber is the team's best rebounder by a solid margin; his size allows him to grab some boards. He's more burly than athletic, and isn't enough to make DePaul's ability to end possessions with a defensive rebound any better. The Blue Demons allow opponents to snag 38.5% of their offensive misses.
Keys to the Game
Get the athletes running. St. John's has to impose their athleticism on them. The guards should know trapping well, and need to pass quickly up the floor. The DePaul press is very vulnerable at the back end, with inferior defenders protecting the basket. St. John's should get some good transition looks (and dunks) with the likes of Paris Horne and maybe even Dwayne Polee II.
Defend the three. DePaul has a chance to pull of the upset if their three-pointers are falling, and St. John's is susceptible to the outside jumper. The Johnnies have to defend Jimmy Drew and Jeremiah Kelly's outside attempts.
Play crisply. The Red Storm have to step up their game. This is the kind of opponent that the Red Storm should impose their will on, playing good, crisp, smart offense, running the ball through Justin Brownlee and taking smart shots - not jumpers out of the flow of the offense.
They're free. The team's free throw shooting has been terrible at Carnesecca. The Blue Demons tend to foul a lot; if St. John's is playing their game, they should draw a good number of foul attempts. They need to hit those shots.