St. John's vs Bucknell game preview: Johnnies face possible "Sweet Sixteen" team

D`Angelo Harrison and the Red Storm will work to find their way to the basket against Bucknell. - John Alber

The St. John's staff isn't taking the opponent lightly. Will the players maintain focus against the talented, skilled Patriot League team?

St. John’s is 1-1 after a road loss to top-25 Wisconsin and a home victory over the Wagner Seahawks. The Johnnies should have beaten Wagner, and they did take care of business, 73-57.

However, they struggled at points during the second half to let the Seahawks back into the game; the Johnnies were only up 8 with 4 minutes left, a cause for concern among some fans who hoped for a more dominant performance.

Now, the much tougher Bucknell Bison come to Queens to face St. John's for the first time since 1912. The Bison have made postseason play for three consecutive years, and are one of the biggest challenges at Carnesecca for the Johnnies his season.

With a win under their belts over the Big Ten's Penn State, Bucknell will be looking to knock off the Johnnies with their hot outside shooting. Tip-Off is scheduled to be at 8:30 PM on Fox Sports 1 with Dick Stockton and Bill Raftery on the call for those watching at home.

Scouting Bucknell

[Bucknell] will likely end being a Sweet 16-caliber team." - Steve Lavin

St. John’s head coach Steve Lavin was well aware back in July when the schedule officially came out that his team will be facing NCAA Tournament caliber teams.  "Some teams would schedule cupcakes early in the year and win big," Lavin said last week, "but they wouldn’t grow as a team."

Today, Lavin took to Twitter to tell his over ten thousand followers, "[It’s the] biggest game of the year for us...it’s a team that will likely end being a Sweet 16-caliber team."

The way Bucknell has been shooting the basketball has to be a concern for the Johnnies - and it makes them the kind of threat that could lead to a tournament run.

St. John’s practices going into Wagner were 80% defense and 20% offense, and the Bison's offensive skill means the emphasis is the same. The Bison are shooting 52.1% from the field, and 45.3% from behind the arc, a concern for the Johnnies who allowed open looks to Wisconsin but did a better job against Wagner defending the deep ball.

In their last two games (at Penn State and vs. St. Francis PA) the Bisons have been impressive.  The Bison went into Happy Valley against an improved Penn State squad and put up a 90-spot on them, shooting over 60 percent from the field and the three point arc.

The Bison backcourt with Cameron Ayers and Steven Kaspar are a very explosive backcourt, possibly the most explosive in the Patriot League.  Ayers, who was selected as preseason All-Patriot League, is nine for his last ten three point attempts and will look to continue that in Queens.

Kaspar, a junior point guard, has been adjusting nicely to his starting role, putting up a career high 25 points against Penn State.

Key matchups

The matchup between Ayers and St. John's junior guard D`Angelo Harrison will be key.  Kevin Doyle from College Basketball Talk brought up a great point when it comes to Bucknell’s defense - they were dead last in forcing turnovers last year and haven’t caused many this year, so look for Ayers to stay home and play straight up with Harrison.

Will Harrison will go right at Ayers in isolation or will the Johnnies run him around screens to get him free?

It seems like St. John’s students and fans have been waiting forever for Rysheed Jordan, the Top-25 recruit out of Philadelphia, to have a monster game.  Jordan went scoreless on 0-7 shooting against Wagner and had two assists.  Patience is a virtue; it has only been two games in a long season.

D`Angelo Harrison isn't worried, and neither should fans. "Watch. He'll get it next game," the St. John's star said. "He might have triple-double. He's that good. He'll figure it out. He's a great player."

Prediction

Bucknell was voted to finish fourth in the Patriot League before the season started, Steve Lavin clearly doesn’t think that’s too accurate. If the Red Storm want to put themselves into the (very early) discussion of the NCAA Tournament, then they will have to take care of the teams that have been there.

Prediction: St. John’s 71 Bucknell 66

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