In anticipation of St. John's rematch against Creighton - at 7:00 PM at Madison Square Garden, broadcast on Fox Sports one with Bill Raftery and Gus Johnson - we have a Q and A with Chris Novak of Big East Coast Bias, along with the pieces on Chris Obekpa's emergence and the podcast previewing the Creighton game.
Q// Considering the relatively close call against DePaul, do you think the struggle was because of the long layoff between games - or something else?
I think it was both a mix of rust and flashing some of the weaknesses that this team has.
The long layoff between games has been something that Creighton has dealt with a few times. Earlier in the season, they would simply start off slow and find their groove eventually, getting by due to their opponents not being up to caliber. Now, the Bluejays simply struggle sometimes with teams who can rebound well.
This is a club that is 229th in Offensive Rebounding%, with a mark of just 29.7 percent. While their defense has done a good job of limiting offensive rebounds this season (allowing just 26.7% on the season, 14th best in the country) they have found themselves struggling sometimes against teams that can rebound and defend well. This happened against San Diego St. and George Washington earlier in the season, and it reared its ugly head against Providence, as well.
Q// The Bluejays defense is the most efficient in the Big East, mixing experience and size. What makes them so effective and where are their weaknesses?
The defensive numbers that this team has this season are the best since Doug McDermott has been there. I think that a lot of it has to do with what you noted - experience. When Grant Gibbs is on the floor, this is a club, with the lineup as it is currently constructed, that has four seniors (Gibbs, Wragge, McDermott and Manigat) on the floor with Austin Chatman, a junior point guard, running the point.
Creighton does possess some size, but not much. Will Artino, Zach Hanson, and Geoffrey Groselle are the only players on the roster that are taller than 6'9", but none of the three get many minutes on the floor. Artino was the starter at the beginning of the season, but was benched mostly due to a lack of scoring and rebounding. He only collects 33.4% of minutes this season for the Bluejays.
But defensively, they are effective because of their versatility. There is no true defensive fingerprint on this team, but they are mostly a man-to-man defensive team that is able to use their athleticism to defend at an efficient rate. The best defender might be Jahenns Manigat, who did a good job earlier on in the season against Providence's Bryce Cotton. After he was taken off of Cotton, for some unknown reason, Cotton went off against Chatman.
So, I think to answer this it has a lot to do with experience and defensive versatility. But their weaknesses of a lack of imposing big men could hurt them later on if they run into a team that can bully them inside. So far, they have yet to make that problem a worrisome one. So we can only speculate at this time.
Q// Are you worried about the St. John's game, or was that close call an aberration? What did the Red Storm do that other teams did not?
I do think that this was the St. John's team that most expected coming into the year. There is certainly a lot of talent on the team, with D'Angelo Harrison and JaKarr Sampson leading the pack. Harrison especially has been doing well, including that 27 point game he had against Marquette last Saturday.
The Johnnies were one of only a few teams who were able to get four players into double figures, with Harrison, Sampson, Rysheed Jordan and Chris Obekpa getting it done offensively. Defensively, they simply put the clamps down on everyone other than Doug McDermott when they were on the floor. The scary thing is that it almost worked.
I think that there is some concern going into this game. Something is to be said when a team travels to an historic venue, like Madison Square Garden, and as a result they might have their eyes fixated on the bright lights. If the Red Storm implements a similar style of defense and has the hometown crowd boisterously behind them, the Bluejays could very easily be on "upset alert."
Q// Grant Gibbs is back - what effect will he have on his Creighton teammates?
Gibbs is a very versatile player who can do just about anything. He can attack the basket, take jumpers, and shoot from the perimeter as well. He distributes well and is a good rebounder, as well. He's really one of the "glue guys" as people like to call them. Jahenns Manigat has a similar effect on this team and his experience can only help the Bluejays going forward.
While Gibbs is not the kind of player who will shoot you out of the gym, he is a guy who can frustrate you on both ends of the court. The effect that he will have on his teammates will be that he could make them better. Although the backcourt has played well while Gibbs has been on the bench, that's merely circumstantial. He should in no way take away anything when he's on the floor. They will be benefited, but it might not only show up on the stat sheet.
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