Tonight, St. John's basketball hopes to start a winning streak by beating the high-speed, poor-defending Syracuse Orange.
When I started writing a preview I kept coming back to one thing: how much I hate watching Eric Devendorf play basketball. Ugh. I don't hate many players, and fewer amateurs, but at a certain point, watching off-balance heaves and ill-conceived drives to the basket grates on the nerves.
Really, I should come back to how much I wish St. John's could beat the piss out of Syracuse's basketball team so they would start hiding that "New York's College Team" tag line, but that's a digression.The worst thing about Devendorf, and that kind of player in general who can create their own shot but don't necessarily know how to rein it in, is that Eric can hit those shots. Hitting one of those emboldens the part of him that plays like a playground kid; he and Jonny Flynn really don't get cheated out of their shot attempts.
A few years ago, my wife, my friend Quigs (a grad student at the school) and I went to a game at the Carrier Dome. And we made a number of "Devendorf faces", the face you make when you see a wreck about to happen, and you see the player jump right into the wreck. Devendorf was always the culprit. And it's not like he can't pass... he chooses not to, all while dominating the ball.
Haterade almost aside. I also have to comment on Andy Rautins' hair. I don't know if he's grown it out but this bit of WTF, taken from my TV:
Is a terrible bit of hair. Canadian or not, that ain't called for. Is that what the kids are wearing these days??
As far as the basketball goes, the spread (via Statsheet) and Ken Pomeroy's site both seem to think Cuse will win by 5 points, a small point spread for a Red Storm team that is not a player in the Big East, it gets crushed a lot. But the percentage of offensive rebounds that the Orange allow stands at 37.2%. That figure is in the bottom half of the Big East and St. John's will take advantage of that - it's one of the few things they do well, and is often categorized as "playing hard."
Then again, the zone might induce one too many three-point attempts from the Red Storm... and that is one of the many St. John's weaknesses.
The 5 Points or Keys to the Game for St John's:
All Off The Line. Jonny Flynn, especially, needs to see as few free throw attempts as possible. If he is getting to the line, that means he's slicing up his defender. Stop that little engine that could; and keep his mates from getting points with the clock stopped, as well!
Bring the Pain Down Low. The Justin of the Seton Hall game and the Justin of the last Syracuse game needs to come back. When he is active, aggressive, and strong, Justin Burrell looks like one of the conference's best forwards. Similarly, Rob Thomas needs to have more of an impact. Sean Evans will have his moments, and he will need to make them count.
Crash and Score. Offensive rebounding gives the poor-shooting Johnnies chances to score. They will need their chances; the team needs to negate the rebounding of Onuaku.
Pace Factor St. John's can't get into a track meet at Madison Square Garden against the Orange. They are not coached by Mike D'Antoni, they don't have the athletes to match Syracuse, and that is not their game. The slower, grind-it-out games are more their forte. The faster games leave the forwards boxing out for nothing, as Kennedy and Horne aggressively pursue scoring. THey can be aggressive, especially in trying to run the fast break to draw fouls; but if it ain't there, work on Syracuse's patience (and practice against that zone!),
Disrupt. The guards need to cut down on Devendorf and Flynn's playmaking, knocking passes out of bounds, getting on the floor, and disrupting the team's rhythm. Making Andy Rautins create his own shot, making Onuaku become a passer, making Devendorf turn into Devendorf will give St. John's a chance to win.
More Pregame Syracuse vs. St. John's Links:
NY Post: Ex-Cuse Storm's Poor Hospitality
A raucous crowd similar to the one that witnessed the Seton Hall win could make things dicey for the visitors. It is the kind of home-court advantage the Red Storm have been trying to establish....
The win over Seton Hall also makes it a lot easier for athletic director Chris Monasch and university president Father Donald J. Harrington to continue to support Roberts. It's no secret that both want Roberts to be the coach who returns St. John's to prominence.
Apparently they want it so much that they are basically paying for students to go to the game. Don't worry, St. John's, the Syracuse NY mob is strong, and they will come out for the game.
Syracuse Post-Standard: Orange men look for a critical win tonight
The Daily Orange: Syracuse basketball team looks ahead to lighter stretch of games
Syracuse Official Site: SU And St. John's Clash at MSG
St. John's Official Site: Red Storm Rolls Into The Garden To Take On Syracuse Tuesday
Orange Basketball Blog (Syracuse Post-Standard): Orange Scouting Report: Syracuse vs. St. John's (with matchups and a diagrammed St. John's play)
Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician: Contrary To Popular Belief, St. John's Still An Active Basketball Program
Orange 44: Syracuse- St. John's Preview
CuseOrange: St John’s: Slumpbuster