Why on earth is winless St. John's a five-point favorite at home against the Seton Hall Pirates, despite being 0-5 in Big East play?
For one, St. John's is at home at Carnesecca (which is worth around three points to basketball oddsmakers).
For two, outside of the Georgetown game, Seton Hall is an enigma - and only an enigma because they handled the Hoyas so well in the second half. After halftime, the Hoyas shot 33% inside the arc and 1/11 (9%) from beyond the arc, while the Pirates shot 63% (5/8) and forced 9 turnovers (29% of Hoya possessions).
The Hall (2-3 in the Big East) got hot. Can they stay hot?
What does St. John's need to do tonight for the win?
Move the ball + hit the right shot - not the first shot
The Hall allow opposing players to assist on 58% of baskets and allow threes (36% of opponent attempts in Big East play). Being well-coached, expect them to give St. John's room to pass the ball and shoot from distance.
St. John's has been prone to taking those shots just inside the arc, with Rysheed Jordan and Jakarr Sampson showing an urge to shoot the first open shot, in particular.
D`Angelo Harrison spoke of the players discussing their plight in team meetings, adding that they agree that "you have to play hard for the man next to you, always, no matter what." Playing for pride and wanting to win is one thing, but understanding what "playing hard" means in a team concept is another.
The Red Storm are at the bottom of the league in assists per field goals made, helping on only 37% of teammates' baskets; the Johnnies have many players trying to score in transition and trying to create off the dribble in the half court. Passing and ball sharing are a big key against a Seton Hall team that doesn't possess overwhelming athletes.
And sharing the ball is a key for a team with athletic finishers who, despite avoiding the three-point shot more than almost every other Division I team, are shooting 40% inside the arc in conference play and get to the free throw line (Free Throw Rate: 30%) less than only three-point shooting addicts Creighton so far in Big East play.
Defend the three-pointer
Handling the Hall at full strength will be a challenge. The team shoots spot-up three-pointers from the outside very well, with Brian Oliver leading the Pirates at 45% (58/128 on the season).
But Kevin Willard's team also has a powerful post man in Gene Teague, a slashing wing in Fuquan Edwin and a creative scorer who draws fouls in Sterling Gibbs - imagine D`Angelo Harrison but even more physical.
Seton Hall's best weapon is the three-pointer, and they use precision passing to get men open for the shot. St. John's perimeter defense has to be strong, and some player has to handle Teague inside so the perimeter players do not have to help inside.
Will that defender be Chris Obekpa, who was at the team's media day despite playing under 20 minutes in four of his last six games? Will it be Orlando Sanchez, who has flirted with foul trouble in all five Big East contests?
Facing steal-master Fuquan Edwin means the Johnnies have to play aggressively and with purpose, not giving the Hall's players time to predict a pass and jump the passing lane.
On the other end, St. John's has to find a way to put pressure on the Hall, force them into hurried shots and find transition opportunities - where their athleticism can excel, given the right amount of ball-sharing and decision-making.
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