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Game #26: Duke vs. St. John's

It's a long season for these Johnnies...

We're going to get it together. It is just a matter of learning. As long as we stick together and never get down on ourselves and pick each other up game-by-game, we will be a lot better.

- Paris Horne on the team, pregame

This week, St. John's host the Duke Blue Devils in a game that seems tailor-made for the struggling Blue Devil squad... even though it is on the road. Though the garden may be half Duke fans, and the Dookies have played at MSG before, St. John's is known to play up to their opponents for stretches before faltering.

A mistake or ten by Duke, and they could fall victim at the Garden like Notre Dame did.

It's a longshot, but there's still a chance.

5 Keys to the Game

st john's logoNew York Hustle. The best ways to win are to keep them off of the offensive boards and put pressure on the ball, especially on Paulus in the half court. Disrupting passes and getting some easy opportunities would be a real boon to this team. The Red Storm need to actually space their players out and run the 3-on-1 break the way it's supposed to be run. St. John's needs to outdo the Dukies in scrap and hustle, brawling their way on the offensive and defensive glass, as well. It's a mindset, a never-quit mentality that the team loses at times in games.

st john's logoMake Shots! The shooting desert that happened against Clemson was likely a one-time thing, and was helped along by intense defensive pressure that St. John's is not ready to provide wire to wire. So whatever St. John's does, they are going to have to make shots. Deep three-pointers, preferably, but that is not this team's forte.

st john's logoLess DJ Kennedy. D.J. Kennedy has been shooting a bit more than he needs to, trying to carry the team, though his strengths have been slashing, passing, and rebounding. He's a player, to be sure, but putting up double-digit shot attempts should not be his first course of action. DJ has to think like a point guard and force feed the ball to Burrell, Horne, and Rob Thomas. And those players, in turn, need to put up great offensive performances.

st john's logoFight the Duke Spurt. They will go on a run, hit a three, get a dunk, get a foul call they don't deserve. It's going to happen. What matters is how St. John's responds in those times of adversity. Or, to paraphrase the title of a Bukowski collection, what matters most is how well they walk through the fire.

st john's logoDon't Get Tricked. Not by ball fakes… or defensive traps... charges... grabby hands in the post... feisty guards slapping the floor. Duke plays hard and finds ways of taking a team out of their offense via turnover or disruption. St. John's should look to have single-digit turnovers in the first half if they want to stay in the game. Good smart passing in practice against overplaying defense is key this week. And Duke will ball fake a player into jumping up, then they will draw the foul. St. John’s loves to leap in the air on defense. It looks dramatic, but loses the player’s control on defense… position defense instead of leaping defense is important.

Norm Roberts and Mike Krzyzewski(photo at left courtesy of Red Storm Sports)

I will be away from keyboard pretty much until Saturday... I may return to recap the game over the weekend or next week. Follow the kenpom and statsheet pages for Duke.

The two coaches will meet at center court to support Aeropostale's "Teens for Jeans," a program to raise awareness on the plight of homeless teens in the United States.

From Statsheet, an early preview:

Matchups with St. John's in recent years have given Duke a breather from grueling ACC competition. This season, the Blue Devils are in particular need of an easy win and a confidence boost.

The Blue Devils, though, have had little trouble stopping the Red Storm (12-13) in the teams' last five matchups, holding them to 53.6 points per game and 37.2 percent shooting en route to winning by an average of 18.4 points.

These teams have met each of the last 11 seasons, and the Blue Devils lead the series 12-5. Most of the matchups have been late in the season, and recently Duke has been able to enjoy a break from ACC competition with cakewalks against a rebuilding St. John's program.

Same game, different year?

Or is this a game that Duke could lose to St. John's?