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Game #24: St. John's basketball vs. Villanova Wildcats (Madison SquareGarden)

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The St. John's Red Storm (10-13, 4-8 Big East), coming off a loss at Cincinnati, play the Villanova Wildcats (14-9, 4-7 Big East) in Madison Square Garden tomorrow night at 8.00 pm ET. Villanova is coming off of a heartbreaking loss at Georgetown.

Villanova IconI’ve been out there with my proverbial internet lamp, looking for pregame information for the Villanova/ St. John’s game tomorrow night from the ‘Nova side.

And they all. Are posting. About the ref call. At the end of the Georgetown game. Only the VU Hoops Aggregator has a mention of the game so far, and they even have the old dribblin’ Inidan Redmen logo.

We can take this one of two ways:

1. They are stuck on that game because they know (as Ken Pomeroy’s predictor surprisingly states) that the St. John’s Red Storm are going to defeat the Wildcats tomorrow, or

2. St. John’s basketball is so minor now that all they need to worry about is the drive up to all of those deliciously empty seats in Madison Square Garden.

Yeah, you take the pick.

Foul on VillanovaVillanova has been sinking like a stone before giving the Hoyas a heck of a run on Monday, only losing because of a ticky tack foul on the other side of the halfcourt line with one-tenth of a second remaining.

From Ken Pomeroy's stats, the Wildcat team is vulnerable on defense, allowing a 52.9 effective field goal percentage (eFG%, which adds weight to three-pointers made) in their 23 games. St. John’s allows 48.3 eFG%. The differences come in part in how each team gives up points. St. John’s gives up points inside—leading to a lower eFG%-- and Villanova allows one of the highest rates of 3-point attempts to overall field goal attempts in the nation.

‘Nova also gives up a lot of foul shots, and a lot of assists. As far as I can tell, this is a fault of their fast, guard-heavy style—though earlier versions of Coach Jay Wright’s 3 and 4 guard lineups managed to get through games without fouling. The guards take a lot of shots and are not particularly efficient. The current stars are sophomore Scottie Reynolds (49.8 eFG%), freshman guard Corey Fisher (47.4 eFG%; went 1-16 on Monday, a very Ingram-esque performance); and forward Dante Cunningham, who all of the rebounding when former Lincoln high player Antonio Peña is not on the court to help.

Granted, St. John’s shoots worse. The Red Storm don’t do anything well offensively, and that’s being kind; they are not only awful to watch, but they are inept on offense, bad at scoring. The Red Storm hang their hat on defense, but often don’t put up enough points to be competitive, and don’t get enough turnovers. And when they get the turnovers, the athletes have a hard time completing the plays for easy points.

But if a team is going to put up jump shot bricks… I can see why St. John’s has a chance. St. John’s is coming off an awful loss also—though the Red Storm’s loss was far less competitive. It’s at the Garden, and hopefully St. John’s sees this as a last stand of sorts and come out with that Saturday night special.

My Keys to the Game:

Man With the Handle. If St. John’s plays decently on the inside and Reynolds and Fisher look for their shot more than the assist, St. John’s will be able to focus on getting their shooters out of rhythm. They are better with the ball than St. John’s Boothe and Eugene Lawrence are, but they can still be pressured. On the other side, Boothe and Lawrence have to get the Red Storm into their sets faster, probe the ‘Nova defense for weak spots. And hang on to the ball.

Guard Rebounding. If they execute the first part of the game plan, they will hopefully see some long rebounds off of outside shots. Boothe, especially, has to run those rebounds down their throat and aim for the basket. Burrell and the others have to run for opportunities and offensive rebounds off of the transition.

Fight Like a Brave. I don’t think any players quit in Cincinnati, but they sure didn’t play smart and tough. And they need more tough play. Evans is best when the ball is in his zone; he and Burrell have to try and get the rebounds that are out-of-zone. Now, Coker tried and was called for fouls, but Burrell and Evans have to believe that every ball is theirs.