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Game 19: at Georgetown Hoyas

Listen/ See: Chuck Brown + the Soul Searchers, Bustin' Loose (video, opens in new window)
Tip Off: 7:00 PM, Eastern
At: Georgetown Hoyas
Location: Verizon Center, Washington DC
TV: SNY | Radio: Bloomberg 1130 AM
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....everyone wants to participate in the NCAA Tournament. But understanding how to get there is the important part. That starts on a daily basis in practice and continuing to improve. The success, the body of work and the resume will follow if you manage to make enough progress over the course of the year and win enough games, then you'll have the opportunity to do something special come March. And if not, then you regroup and you look to the next year.

But our focus is just on right now and this week obviously free throw shooting as we get ready for Georgetown.

- Steve Lavinpregame

The first game against the Georgetown Hoyas was a heartwarming, feel-good win of the winter. It was hard-fought and dramatic. The local media got all tumescent with projections of a St. John's resurgence.

But a resurgence happens over more than one game. Since that win, the Red Storm have gone 1-4 in Big East play, in a tough stretch of basketball for any team, playing against Syracuse, at Notre Dame, home to Notre Dame, and against the resurgent Cincinnati.

Those losses shouldn't change fans' hopes for the future; there are a number of wins to be had, starting this evening in Washington D.C.

Tonight, the Red Storm meet the Hoyas in the rematch. With the home loss to the Cincinnati Bearcats, the Red Storm could really use a road win to balance out and keep the realistic hopes alive for the NCAA Tournament. Of course, that win against the Hoyas was a very close one, and Austin Freeman only managed 9 shots. I would expect him to take the first shot, and take many shots; he is deadly from all over the court.

The Hoyas have had a week off to prepare, and the Red Storm are coming off a loss they gave away on Sunday; both teams should come out fired up and ready to ball.

More on Georgetown, strengths and weaknesses, and Keys to the Game, after the jump.

Storm Warnings: Georgetown

The Hoyas have struggled in Big East play. Their scoring is okay, not great - 6th in the league with an Offensive Efficiency of 106.8. And their defense is... wow-level poor. They're allowing opponents to score 1.098 points per trip, which is 13th in the league. The problem isn't their field goal defense; rather, they are just not clearing defensive rebounds and they're not forcing turnovers.

In other words, the opponent has every chance to score, where better defense force turnovers and keep opponents to one shot per possession.

From our question session with Hoya Prospectus:

Coming into the season, I expected the Hoyas to struggle defensively and Alan correctly kept pointing out to anyone that would listen that a small line-up in the Big East was going to have a tough time. Right now, Georgetown is the second-worst defensive rebounding [61%] team in conference play. They're just giving up too many second-chance points.

But there's something much weirder going on, and I don't understand it. You asked about turnovers, and they actually are a huge problem for the Hoyas, but it's on defense. Georgetown is a guard-oriented team that simply can't turn over their opponents. Fewer turnovers mean fewer fast-break opportunities for easy points. But the low turnover rate on defense [14.5] also means that, at their 63-possession pace, the Hoyas have ended up with 4.4 more defensive possessions ending with a scoring attempt than the average Big East team.

And those two things are leading to more points surrendered. A lot more.

Read more at the link above!

Updated From Earlier Game - Hoya Strengths and Weaknesses

StrengthScoring Versatility. The Hoyas are still good at getting all kinds of shots. Freeman can post up in the paint with with width or shoot a jump shot from anywhere. Jason Clark + Chris Wright can drive, pass, and shoot. The forwards have jump shots and can generate scoring in the paint. Can they HIT those shots is always a question; if the Red Storm can frustrate the Hoyas again from the perimeter, they have a good chance to pull off the upset.

StrengthPost Depth. The Hoyas have a quartet of capable post players- the junkyard dog Julian Vaughn, the long Henry Sims, and the more perimeter-oriented Hollis Thompson and Nate Lubick.

WeaknessTurnovers. Outside of Austin Freeman and Hollis Thompson, the Hoya players cough up the ball on 22.6% of their possessions. Chris Wright can over-penetrate, as can Jason Clark (despite his lack of assists). And with turnovers on the perimeter, the opponent can get a lot of high percentage shots - layups and dunks. This has been a feature of John Thompson III's teams, so it's not as bothersome as the Hoyas' complete inability to force turnovers (14.6% in Big East play). This leads to a number of extra shots and possessions for opponents in a league where any team can be deadly.

WeaknessDefensive Rebounding. Despite playing a number of good post players, the team isn't elite at clearing the glass (opponents' offensive rebounding percentage: 39%, 15th in the league). There will be second shot opportunities for the Red Storm, and they Hoyas' lack of height will likely mean that the Johnnies will look a little more offensively fluid than they did against Cincinnati.

Keys to the Game

Cold Clark/ Wright Case. St. John's needs to stifle the Hoyas on the perimeter. They will defend Austin Freeman as a first option, but he will get his shots. If they can keep Freeman relatively in check, and really give Jason Clark and Chris Wright fits (and Markel Starks, if he plays), the Hoyas will struggle to score. D.J. Kennedy and Paris Horne need to be tough defensively tonight.

No Unforced Errors. In the last game, the Red Storm found themselves with 4 turnovers at the end of the game, a season-low. Can they play mistake-free basketball again? Can they hit their free throws again?

Inside Out Scoring. Justin Brownlee, Justin Burrell, and Dwight Hardy need to be on track in this game. Georgetown will give a better defensive effort; the Red Storm have to match it by attacking and finding themselves with 3 scorers. We will assume Brownlee. Will Hardy rise to the challenge? Horne, Kennedy, Malik Boothe?

Rebound When Available. The game needs to be an ugly battle on the glass. Justin Burrell (and Sean Evans, if he plays) can compete with the Hoya bigs for rebounds on both ends.

Media Coverage

NY Post: Johnnies gird for Big East stretch

NY Daily NewsSt. John's out to get NCAA tournament hopes back on track vs. Georgetown after loss to Cincinnati

Washington Post:  Freeman braced for Red Storm

Johnny JungleSweep Dreams

Johnny JungleShowdown in the Capital

Casual HoyaSt. John's Red Storm @ Georgetown Hoyas GameThread, Jan 26, 2011 4:00 PM PST - Casual Hoya

Hoya ProspectusHoya Prospectus: Five questions with Rumble in the Garden