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Game #32: Big East Tournament, Georgetown vs St. John's

I'm not excited about the 2009 Big East Tournament. I'm too focused on the Red Storm to really care; the Johnnies won't get far.

While other folks are busy talking about handicapping, previews, scenarios, predictions, and seeding, about the possible bubble (that I firmly believe the Providence Friars are on - just win baby!), and breaking down the possibilities, my team is stuck in the bottom 4, an area of no hope.

The expansion of the tournament one more day to accommodate the bottom teams, at least this year, just isn't worth it. No one wants to see any of those squads, it's a drain on the Big East's finances, and it's not going to be a competitive day of basketball.

I guess it gives the Big East's website time to work out the online kinks.

To follow tradition, I will add some links and preview notes for the St. John's/ Georgetown Hoyas game. As you remember, the Johnnies surprised the Hoyas at the Garden with a comeback and overtime win, bursting their NCAA "bubble"; stifling the Hoyas (or confusing them) into a serious drought. I don't expect the Hoyas to flop like that again; BUT, this same team beat a crappy DePaul squad 48-40 while shooting 39.5% from the field (effective field goal percentage: 44.2%), and they are no more physical than they have been all season.

As for the game, last week's pregame notes still stand, with a slight addendum: Paris + Justin On Fire.

The 5 Points -or Keys to the Game

St John's logoDefend Monroe Without Fouling. Greg Monroe has skill, vision, shooting range, shot-altering ability, a little mobility, and the ability to force a steal or three. He has to be disrupted; but who on St. John’s has the size and length to bother him without fouling? The defense here is a team job, covering the other players tightly and making Monroe make plays - he is sometimes "too unselfish" as announcers will say.

St John's logoRebound. It’s the one thing St. John’s is very good at. Box out, and go get that ball, especially on the offensive end. But make sure the Hoyas also don’t have easy offensive rebounds; they are athletic enough to make those noisy, demoralizing putbacks. They will come harder in this game, and St. John's has to match that intensity on the glass.

St John's logoEyes On Your Man. St. John’s has to make sure the Hoya players are covered; make them take outside jump shots, not backdoor cuts that lead to dunks. This is a team effort; the defense has to be vocal and make sure no one is ducking inside to receive a pass for an easy score.

St John's logoEyes On Your Balls. I don’t mean look down, I mean look up and look out. St. John’s has a tendency to have a streak where they essentially defeat themselves, coughing up the ball in tired or unfocused stretches, passing it into the stands or to the opposing player most likely to dunk it on the other end. Take care of the ball, especially in a slow-paced game; it’s harder to come back when neither team is running up and down the court. And if there is going to be running, let it be because of Malik Boothe’s speed and aggression, not because the team is watching Chris Wright race downcourt with the ball, ready to style on the Johnnies in the Garden.

St John's logoParis + Justin On Fire. Is it me, or does Paris look a little gassed to end the season? From the three-point line, he was 1-5 against Seton Hall, 1-6 against Syracuse, 5-8 against DePaul, 2-8 against Georgetown, and 1-10 against Notre Dame. Well, maybe not gassed, per se, but perhaps the league has figured something out? Then again, in those games Paris played 39, 39, 37, 45, and 37 minutes. You be the judge. But Paris and Justin have to get the ball in the basket to weather the Hoyas this afternoon; they won't be as bad at closing the game out again, especially with their full complement of players.

Pregame media

NY Post: Johnnies Ready to Seize the Moment

Today, the Hoyas are thinking of revenge and a chance to salvage a disappointing season with a run to the league title. St. John's is looking to climb another rung on the ladder of respectability.

Roberts said after the team completed its walkthrough last night, he intended on sitting the players down and stressing the importance and privilege of playing in the Big East tournament.

"I love end of the year tournaments," said Roberts. "Everything gets geeked up a notch. It's a second chance for everyone. Records don't count. Seedings don't count. It's how you play that day. And for us, it's a chance to do something a St. John's team hasn't done in a while."

NY Daily News: Norm Roberts, St. John's Storm back to make Big East tournament

Roberts knows that winning three of the last five Big East games - albeit against teams with a combined conference record of 14-40 - was a big lift [to his prospects of remaining the coach].

"Not winning that (Georgetown) game, there would have been pressure caused by us not playing well but I never was given the impression the scope was bigger than any other game," Roberts said. "My administration ... they've been happy with what we're doing and the progress we've made. I've never been made to feel any pressure other than the already enormous amount that comes with being a coach in this league."

Starting forward D.J. Kennedy strained his calf when the Red Storm lost the regular-season finale by 19 at Notre Dame on Saturday. He only took free throws Sunday, but is expected to start Tuesday.

Washington Times: Hoyas Hope for Big East Miracle

According to senior guard Jessie Sapp, the Hoyas' hunger and intensity will be greater this time.

"We're going to go in with a different focus than we had," Sapp said.

Any focus at all would be an improvement, especially in the waning moments. Late-game scoring droughts have been a persistent problem for the Hoyas, along with turnovers, poor rebounding and sub-par shooting from three-point range and the free throw line.

But if Georgetown can avenge its loss to St. John's, the bracket shapes up nicely for the Hoyas.

Five Boro Sports: St. John's will meet G-Town for second time in week

St. John’s coach Norm Roberts says this game won’t be anything like the last, though. On March 3, the Red Storm fell behind by 15 points in the second half against the Hoyas and came roaring back, tying the game on Rob Thomas foul shots. They did all of that despite shooting just 25.4 percent after halftime. It was a bizarre game, one that would any situation would be hard pressed to duplicate.

Plus, there’s much more riding on this game. St. John’s (15-16) has not been in the Big East tournament – every team makes it this year – in two seasons. It has not won a game in the post-season tourney, played on its home court, since 2003. This is a tremendous opportunity to advance, beat one of the league’s signature teams and show tangible proof of the program’s potential.

"For us to beat Georgetown two times in one year, I hope it’ll bring back the days of the St. John’s-Georgetown rivalry," SJU sophomore point guard Malik Boothe. First Round Preview

The one guy that Georgetown will need to get going is junior swingman DaJaun Summers (13.6 ppg, 4.2 rpg), whose slump coincided with the beginning of the team’s decline. Having a versatile big man like Greg Monroe is nice, but when Summers plays well the entire team plays well. Facing them is a young St. John’s team that won two straight before falling at Notre Dame on Friday, and the Red Storm have the right amount of fight necessary if you’re to pull off an upset this time of the year. Paris Horne has been off and on in recent games but there are other options when it comes to scoring, led by swingman D.J. Kennedy and forward Justin Burrell.

They aren’t the best team in the league on either end of the floor but they make up for it with their effort. This is one team that could make a move up in the standings due to roster turnovers for other league schools next season. Expect this game to be every bit as competitive as their first meeting, with the Hoyas pulling out the close victory.

Hoya Hoops: Red Storm Rising