A staple Big East rivalry will return home to Madison Square Garden on Sunday night - St. John's and Georgetown. The great players, coaches, matchups, and even wardrobes will all be put to the side Sunday, as both teams are continuing to improve their NCAA Tournament stock.
St. John's (16-9, 6-6), winners in seven of their last eight, welcome the Georgetown Hoyas (15-9, 6-6) who have won their last four games. Tip-off is slated for 7 PM and can be seen on Fox Sports 1 called by Dick Stockton and Tarik Turner.
Both these teams have been in "dark places" (as Jakarr Sampson would put it) during the inaugural season of the Big East.
Georgetown went on a two week losing streak in mid to late January, a total of five games that took them from a predicted third place finish in the Bi East into disappointment territory.
After arguably their toughest part of the schedule, they visited MSG again to play #7 Michigan State and they beat them. Now they are right back in the thick of things in the Big East.
Like the Hoyas, St. John's has played themselves back into the conference after a terrible start to conference play. They lost their opening five in league play - including the worst loss of the season, a 77-60 loss at Georgetown. From the jump, the Johnnies were dominated and were down at one point during the first half by 30.
It was also a game where a lot of fans questioned head coach Steve Lavin after starting walk-on Khadim Ndiaye and seldom-used (and formerly redshirted) Felix Balamou.
"We only scored 16 points [in the first half] and that’s not us," junior swing man Sir'Dominic Pointer stated Saturday. "We didn’t play any defense. We started off the game slow and there was no catching up when they got up."
Lavin has stated every time he speaks with the media that this team collectively the whole group has gotten better since "that half at Georgetown." On Saturday it was no different: "We didn't play well in any aspect and we were at a low point in the season," he said. "From that point forward we've begun to climb the hill. Since the second half of the game we've been competing at a high level."
For this you have to give Lavin and his players credit because at 0-5 in the conference, it could of been very easy to lose the team and just pack it in for next season. The last couple of weeks, it couldn't be more opposite - they have gone from disappointing to dangerous.
Georgetown has shown multiple signs of promise (vs. St. John's, Michigan State) but yet they also have played games that make you scratch your head. Which Georgetown team will show up on Sunday night?
For the Hoyas, it is all about limiting the turnovers. During their rough patch, they were turning it over nearly 20% of their possessions. That number has been brought down to 10% with this winning streak. However, St. John's is very good at causing turnovers and making teams speed up to their pace; even against the Hoyas, the Johnnies forced 18 turnovers.
Preparing his team for St. John's, Goergetown head coach John Thompson does not want to think about the last matchup. "We both are different, I would throw that game out the window and start it all over," head coach John Thompson III said.
Pointer agrees with that assessment. "We are a completely different team from back then," he said. "We are going to go out tomorrow and play our hardest. But they are not going to win because they played harder than us."
A great showdown will be the backcourts of both teams - St. John's Rysheed Jordan and D`Angelo Harrison vs. Markel Starks and D`Vauntes Smith-Rivera. All four of these guys can have impact on both sides of the floor. You will hear these guys' names a lot during the course of this one.
Rysheed Jordan spoke with the media Saturday on a limited basis. It was his first time talking to NYC's media. "We make choices in the best interest of both individual players and the team. At this point, we want Rysheed to be 100 percent focused on his studies and improving as a basketball player," stated Lavin.
This game will be MUCH more competitive than the disaster in Washington, D.C. last month. This is a pretty tough one to call but I am going with St. John's. I won't be surprised if Georgetown wins this one though.
What's your winner/ score prediction?
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