Game Preview: St. John's takes on a balanced and now-healthy Seton Hall

Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sport

After a quick break from conference play - a 69-55 win over Dartmouth - St. John’s (10-8, 0-5) is back to Big East competition when the Seton Hall Pirates (11-7, 2-3) travel to Queens for a game at Carnesecca Arena.

For St. John’s, this will be the last home game in Queens until next fall.  These two storied metropolitan programs will meet for the 90th time tonight.  St. John’s leads the all time series 55-34.

This game will be nationally televised on CBS Sports Network with Tom McCarthy and Alaa Abdelnaby on the call. Tip-off is slated for 7 PM.

This tri-state rivalry has gotten a little bit chippier in the last couple of years - both on and off the court.  Back in 2010 in South Orange during a Seton Hall blowout, then first year head coach Steve Lavin was ejected for continually arguing a call.

Then, with ten seconds remaining Justin Burrell committed a very hard foul on Anali Okoloji, sending the now-transferred forward into the ground on a drive, and he got ejected.

The tension off the court continued this fall when ESPN Top 25 recruit Isiah Whitehead from Brooklyn chose Seton Hall over St. John’s in a matter of hours. All that week, St. John’s was believed to be the favorite and overnight that changed when Seton Hall coach Kevin Willard offered a position on his staff to Whitehead’s high school coach Tiny Morton.

Scouting St. John's

The Johnnies finally got back in the win column over the weekend but still remain winless in Big East action.  Just to see that they ended the game with more points than Dartmouth brought smiles to sophomore Jakarr Sampson and junior Phil Greene IV’s faces.

In their post-game press conference they were using words like "dark place" and "desert" to describe going almost a whole month without a win.

"The balance is what really jumps out." Steve Lavin, on Seton Hall's strengths

However, it is back to Big East play and the schedule doesn’t have any more Dartmouths.

For a team that knows what their conference standing is (to refresh your memory, it is 0-5), junior guard and leading scorer D`Angelo Harrison isn’t worried about the team’s confidence.

"The last couple of practices have been hard and the team spirit is good," Harrison stated yesterday. "I don't like where we're at, but I like where we're at mentally as of right now.  With this group we're going to get it together, and we believe that, so that's what we're going to do."

Scouting Seton Hall

Kevin Willard, now in his fourth year at Seton Hall, is looking to make a mid-season run towards the upper part of the Big East standings.

Their upcoming games are against the teams in the basement.  Including St. John’s, the Pirates have DePaul and then Butler after that.  Coming off a nice win at Georgetown, they could turn things around after losing three of their last four games.

"Just as much as the win is important to them, it’s important to us," senior guard Fuquan Edwin stated while previewing the matchup with St. John’s. "We are 2-3 right and this would mean a lot."

The Pirates’ trip to Washington D.C. also featured the return of center Eugene Teague who saw his first action in conference play after missing four games due to a concussion he suffered in late December.

Teague is a big man (6'9", 270 pounds) who can a be a very strong force and could lead to matchup issues against the lankier bigs of St. John’s, Chris Obekpa (6'9", 240 lbs) and Orlando Sanchez (6'9, 232 lbs).

If Lavin chooses to bring help to the paint, that could free up Seton Hall shooters who can hit from deep.

"The balance is what really jumps out," Lavin said of Seton Hall, listing the Hall's scoring threats. "Teague's improved play and work down low, [Brian] Oliver shooting the ball so well, and [Jaren] Sina and [Sterling] Gibbs' ability to playmake and shotmake."

Lavin forgot to point out the pesky 6'6" Edwin. He was named to the preseason Big East Second Team and his effective on both sides of the court.  Edwin is currently ranked third in the nation with over three steals a game. It’ll be interesting whether he guards Harrison or freshman Rysheed Jordan to start the game.

Game Notes

Teague is averaging almost 4 offensive rebounds a game, leading the Big East by a land slide. St. John’s struggles at times to rebound on the defensive end.

St. John’s is 7-1 at Carnesecca Arena this year. The team's only loss in Queens was last week in 2 OTs against Providence.

It is Chris Mullin bobblehead night.

Prediction

I had a very hard time picking this one. I think it is going to be a very close, physical game and might need more than 40 minutes to decide a winner. Seton Hall 74 St. John’s 70

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