St. John's vs. Butler pregame: Johnnies look to win sixth straight

John Alber

Assuming the Butler Bulldogs make it in from Indianapolis - given the weather, no simple task - the Red Storm will have a quick turnaround from their rousing win over Georgetown to face a struggling Butler squad that played St. John's fairly closely in their first meeting in Hinkle Fieldhouse.

The game will tip at 9:00 PM with Tarik Turner and Justin Kutcher on the call again.

Scouting St. John's

St. John's (17-9, 7-6 Big East) heads into the matchup with the winds of success at their backs. The team has won five staring - including the win over ranked Creighton - and eight of their last nine after an 0-5 start in the Big East. Tournament hopes left for dead have been revived, with fans checking in on Bracketology and the team playing with confidence.

Rysheed Jordan - winner of his second consecutive Rookie of the Week award - and D`Angelo Harrison, who received a Big east honor roll nod - lead the team with dynamic play on both sides of the ball. Their ability to take on opponents and defer to each other has honed the Red Storm's attacking style. The more active they are, the easier it is for JaKarr Sampson and Phil Greene IV to get looks for jump shots.

The plan seems to be working. The Johnnies are peaking.

But they are not secure enough to afford a slip-up against one of the lower-level teams in the conference.

Scouting Butler

Meanwhile Butler has struggled. Freshman guard Rene Castro left the team last week.

But Steve Lavin and the Red Storm don't plan to take Butler lightly. "This year they been as competitive as anyone in our conference with six overtime games, losing four," he said. "But they’ve taken the top half of the league to the wire."

In their last game, Doug McDermott needed a three-pointer in the last minute to give the Bluejays a 64-63 victory in Indianapolis. Ten of their games have been decided by five points or less, with the Bulldogs going 4-6.

The problem seems to be rebounding and raw talent. The Bulldogs are near the bottom in offensive and defensive rebounding, with big men who struggle to grab boards - outside of Kameron Woods. And the team has been poor at shooting the ball from all over the court; still they manage to slow teams down and make enough plays to stay close to opponents.

Butler had season-lows for rebounds (21), field goal attempts (43), three-point field goals (1) and three-point field goal attempts (8) against St. John's last month. They will be looking to play the Johnnies a little tighter and earn a breakthrough; that loss was one of three in Big East play that was by more than 10 points.

Would the game have been closer if Kellen Dunham shot more than 1/5 from behind the arc? If now-surging point guard Alex Barlow was playing with the tenacity he has shown in recent games?

St. John's has to avoid playing loose, down to the opponent; Butler is crafty enough to earn a signature victory tonight.

Prediction

St. John's will struggle... for a few minutes. Johnnies surge by halftime and complete a 79-68 win.

& What's your prediction?

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