An early start to your Saturday—coffee and basketball.
Tomorrow, January 12th, St. John’s welcomes DePaul to Carnesecca Arena for a noontime tip off. The Blue Demons had a poor start to their year. I was going to use "horrific" there, but no one got arrested, kicked off the team, or disciplined for academics, unlike at Georgia.
No, the Blue Demons have simply been beaten by a row of tough teams—Kansas, Vanderbilt, Mississippi, Georgetown, and Clemson, all who should make the NCAA tournament this year. But… they have also lost to Creighton, University of Illinois-Chicago (UIC), and North Carolina A&T, a 1-8 school out of the MEAC conference.
With a 2-7 record on December 21st… they have gone 4-1 since, with the only loss to Georgetown. They’ve won against LaSalle, University of Detroit, and then two Big East wins at home against Villanova and Providence, solid teams in the conference.
So who are they? Damned if I know.
They start fast and have lots of energy, they have a senior point who doesn’t shoot often but defends like a bulldog, and switched from zone to a grinding man-to-man in the game against Villanova (which I watched). They don’t turn the ball over a lot, and pride themselves on their defense, even if the numbers haven’t been pretty. They have a heavy shot-taker in Draleon Burns, and stud freshmen in 6’10" Mac Koshwal and 6’5" Dar Tucker who scores and rebounds well inside.
Meanwhile, St. John’s got absolutely clowned by that U Conn team, and they have to get their confidence back. After the drubbing, Coach Roberts said that he would play freshman point Malik Boothe more—we will see if he sticks with that or if he has Eugene Lawrence out there to check the Blue Demons’ guards. DePaul is a team that they should match up well with—the athletes are of similar caliber, both teams like to take it slow like an R & B ballad, and both teams let one player take a lot of shots, some of them ill-advised—Draleon Burns for DePaul, and Anthony Mason Jr. for St. John’s.
Both teams have big lumbering centers, though Wesley Green provides more production than Jasiulionis or Coker, though he is shorter. Mac Koshwal is a quick beast down low, though his free-throw shooting is at 50% in 52 attempts. The rotation is a tight 8-man lineup, and the bench has contributed in the past two games, now that Dar Tucker is recovering from an ankle injury.
Draleon Burns, (sg), 6’4", 210 17.6 p/g, 3.7 r/g, 2.7 a/g, 1.9 stl/g
Mac Koshwal, (pf), 6’10", 240, 11.4p/g, 8.5 r/g, 1.4a/g, 2.4 to/g
Karron Clarke, (sf), 6’6", 210, 10.5 p/g, 5.4 r/g, 0.9a/g, 1.1 stl/g
Cliff Clinkscales, (pg), 6’1", 175, 3.2p/g, 1.1 r/g, 3.1 a/g, 2.6/1 a/to ratio
Wesley Green, (c), 6’9" 300, 5.2 p/g, 4.5 r/g, 1.2 a/g
Jabari Currie, (g), 6’4", 215, 5.8p/g, 3.0 a/g, 2.4 to/g
Dar Tucker, (f), 6’5", 210, 12.9 p/g, 5.8 r/g, 21.3 min/g, 12-50 (24%) 3 pt, 38-75 (50%) 2 pt
Will Walker, (g), 6’0", 180, 8.2 p/g, 2.2 r/g, 37.5% 3pt, 47.5% 2-pt
Matija Poscic, (c), 6’10", 235, 1.8 p/g, 2.2 r/g, 12.3 min/ g
Keys to the Game
DePaul = Fast starts. The Red Storm have to play within themselves. The DePaul players are not U Conn, so I think St. John’s can handle the pressure defense. That been said, they must execute more crisp passes and get back on defense.
A simple, fundamental part of the game, I know, but St. John’s can’t go around giving up points to the other team. The matchup between Lawrence/ Boothe and Cliff Clinksales/ Jabari Currie will be telling; both sets of guards will work to take the other out of the offensive sets. Most of the Blue Demon scorers can have a hot night or a hot half, whether it is Will Walker and Clinksales draining threes, or Karron Clarke and his efficient inside-outside scoring. St. John's has to drag them into the slow, muddy games the Red Storm has played this season.
Draleon Burns + Mac Koshwal. He’s a little smaller than Niagara’s Charron Fisher, but he sure loves to score. He’s the dangerous guy; I assume DJ Kennedy will start out on him and Paris Horne will get some minutes checking him also. Koshwal is a solid offensive rebounder and has some hops. He could be a problem. Both get to the free throw line with some frequency, even if Koshwal doesn't hit his shots.
The Ball Is My Friend. Not just with the turnovers, but on the boards, too. Dele and Tomas, Kennedy and Burrell, Rob Thomas and Mason all have to get in there and get. some. rebounds. In an ugly game like this, not turning the ball over and pulling downs some nasty boards will do wonders.
I expect a game around 63-60, with St. John’s winning. Expect floor burns. Too bad the DePaul Blue Demons aren’t playing at home. Next year, I’ll be able to see my team here in Chi.