Once again for the 2013-2014 St. John's Red Storm a great opportunity for glory and the NCAA Tournament sits right in front of them.
However, this opportunity lies in front of every Big East team, and under the bright lights of the Big East Tournament at the World's Most Famous Arena teams want to roll, simply keep winning until they are cutting down the nets on Saturday night.
Today, two teams look to improve their seating arrangement at the dance (Villanova and Creighton). St. John's is not one of those teams. As the five seed in the new Big East, will be meeting Providence on Thursday at 2:30 P.M. (get out of work early) for a near-knockout game; the loser definitely won't be going to the NCAA Tournament, while the winner still has life.
Scouting St. John's
In case you haven't noticed St. John's and Providence are very similar teams when comparing resumes. Both have 20-11 overall records, with a 10-8 record in the conference, and a victory over each other on the opponent's home floor.
Along with that, their numbers against the RPI Top 50 aren't great. St. John's has a 1-7 record, while Providence has a 2-6 record in a measure that might be the dividing line between inclusion and staying home for the NIT.
Sophomore forward Jakarr Sampson thinks this team is better than what their resume states. "We feel like we’re one of the best teams in this conference," he said. "We’re not just thinking in terms of marking the NCAA Tournament. We feel like we can win the Big East Tournament."
The Johnnies seem to be getting back to 100% at the perfect time. This team has been through a lot the last couple of weeks in regards to injury, deaths and other family obligations.
Freshman Rysheed Jordan had a death of an immediate family member, which caused him to miss a game against DePaul and practice time. There were also a few more deaths that affected the team, along with other distractions. And senior forward Orlando Sanchez became a father, and sophomore Chris Obekpa had sprained ankle which caused them both to miss time.
Steve Lavin was very happy with the way his team handled all the off-the-court distractions, telling the media that "we had a bump in the road because those things that were outside of our control, but if you can absorb those lightning bolts it can bring you closer together as a team." But now the main rotation will be in full affect for the Johnnies come tomorrow afternoon.
Ed Cooley continues to do a great job with his Friars this year. Providence is led by first team All-Big East point guard Bryce Cotton. Cotton is averaging just under 22 points and 6 assists per contest.
He is the backbone of this team and has a motor like nobody else in the conference. The numbers show it as well; he is averaging over 40.1 minutes played per game (there were many overtimes). He had games where he played 50 minutes like the two double overtime games against St. John's and Villanova. I am excited to see the matchup of him vs the scoring of Rysheed Jordan and D`Angelo Harrison.
Another player for the Red Storm to watch is Kadeem Batts. Sometimes St. John's struggles to clean up the defensive glass, and that's where Batts makes his living. He his third in the Big East in the rebounding and has put up double doubles in three of his last five games.
Tyler Harris brings length that can bother St. John's as well. He, like the rest of the Friars' six-to-seven-man rotation, brings a lot of toughness and shooting to the court every game.
St. John's continues to fight another day, as they have done all season. SJU 71 Providence 70