Last year at around this time, a senior-laden St. John's team with some bad losses to Fordham and St. Bonaventure began Big East play with a pair of surprises - two road wins against West Virginia and Providence. Those Johnnies seemed to suddenly get it - crisp, turnover-free play and enough defense to eke out some wins.
Can this year's Red Storm team pull the same surprise? There are only seven players on the roster, but the Red Storm players are highly-rated recruits, working to become a cohesive unit.
At 6-5, St. John's has a lot to prove.
Or is Providence primed to do what St. John's did, winning at Carnesecca and moving on to knock off Georgetown? If they can do that, they will let the Big East know that they are no longer a defense-last doormat.
At 11-2, the Friars have a lot to prove. Some extra notes and media links below the fold. Let's get to talking about the Big East opener for both young squads.
Of interest: Providence, by some measures, is thinner than St. John's. They have some height, but their four main players average over 34 minutes a game. Each. They don't dig into the bench.
Tonight, watch for:
- How Phil Greene continues to adjust to the point guard role.
- How well the Storm keep Vincent Council and Gerard Coleman out of the paint in transition and off of the dribble; the Friars try to screen near the top of the key to get one of them into the paint, where they can draw fouls, score, or kick out to Bryce Cotton.
- The rebounding battle between two short squads.
- D`Angelo Harrison and Maurice Harkless' ability to generate their own offense.
- What effect the defense/ athleticism of Amir Garrett and Sir`Dominic Pointer have on the game.
How we do a Preview:
Ray Floriani contributed a tempo-neutral look at the game: Providence: Pre-Game Efficiency
League-wide looks at Big East conference play:
A number of sites start Big East conference play projecting St. John's at or near the bottom of the Big East.
- CBS Sports' take from Jeff Borzello.
- Ballin' is a Habit's take.
- From Rush the Court.
- ESPN's take.
- Our friend at Big Apple Buckets discusses the possibility of a winless Big East season.
- Capital New York brings us to apocalyptic "sad, sudden disintegration of the long-awaited St. John’s Basketball Revival".
We knew it would be a long season. Settle in and enjoy the ride, the development, and how much better the team will be in February... and next season. It was never going to be a Final Four year with a bunch of freshmen. As summed up by NBC Sports:
St. John’s, in full-rebuilding mode with its flock of freshmen and transfers, is shaping up to be the league’s bottom dweller. It’s 6-5 and opens its league schedule Tuesday night against Providence, which is essentially a coin-flip game.
It also might be the last really good chance for a win until February. And even that may be a stretch.
The St. John's Red Storm hope to put their disappointing non-conference performance behind them Tuesday, as they open the 2011-12 Big East Conference men's basketball season by hosting the Providence Friars (7 p.m. on MSG) at Carnesecca Arena in Queens. The Red Storm (6-5) are looking to improve on their current two-game winning streak, while the Friars (11-2) look to continue a very successful start to their season.
SECOND IMPRESSION: St. John's fans will get their second look at freshman Amir Garrett on Tuesday night. The 6-foot-6 swingman only became officially eligible on Dec. 21, just hours before the Red Storm's 66-61 win over Texas-Pan American. Garrett played 15 minutes in that game, despite not even being able to participate in a team practice yet, and contributed three points and two rebounds. (Click here for my story on Garrett's debut.)
We should get a little better sense of what Garrett can provide this team in this game, now that he has some practices under his belt. He said Monday that he is feeling more comfortable, particularly at the offensive end of the floor. "I'm coming along pretty quickly," Garrett said. "I think two or three weeks and I'll be where I need to be."
The Johnnies (6-5) may believe they know what to expect against the 11-2 Friars, but as assistant coach Mike Dunlap said, "We need to describe what it is to them. It’s like going from the regular season to the playoffs."
St. John’s may be the thinnest – only seven players are in the rotation – and perhaps the least experienced squad in the conference — with six guys who never played in a Big East game – but the talent level is equal to opponents like the Friars.
They bring an 11-2 record and a seven-game win streak into tonight’s Big East Conference opener against St. John’s at Carnesecca Arena. Council told The Post he believes this is his team, he is its leader and the Friars have not gotten nearly the respect they deserve.
"I’d rather be playing in the Garden,’’ said Council. ‘‘Carnesecca is a nice gym, but it’s not the Garden. We’re 11-2. We deserve more respect.’’