Chris Mullin and crew will look to build off a game where they beat UMBC soundly. St. John's wants to get the season rolling with their biggest game yet. This game is part of a new series called the Gavitt Tipoff Games. This annual event is between the Big Ten Conference and the Big East Conference, a three-day bragging rights competition shown on ESPN and Fox Sports.
Who: St. John's Red Storm (2-0) vs Rutgers Scarlet Knights (2-0)
Where: Carnesecca Arena, Queens, NY
When: Thursday, November 19th, 7:00 PM
TV: Fox Sports 1
Audio: 570 WMCA
Twitter: Follow @rumbleSBN for game updates
Tickets: Tickets to the game can be found here
Last Meeting: St. John's edged Rutgers by a score of 72-60 in New Jersey
Fun Fact: In 1869 Rutgers topped Princeton by a score of 6-4 in the first ever college football game
Rutgers pays a visit to Queens for a battle with St. John's. The Scarlet Knights have started the season the way they would have wanted to - with confidence-building wins. They come to Queens with a pair of wins against Howard and Division III Rutgers-Newark. Those wins did not come easy for the Scarlet Knights. Both Howard and Rutgers-Newark played competitive games against a young Rutgers bunch.
Rutgers enters this season returning only two starters from last season, Eddie Jordan's third. Jordan left the Los Angeles Lakers organization to try to bring Rutgers basketball back from the abyss. After two years of depleted rosters and trying to keep former coach Mike Rice's recruits on board, he has his own players in place. But it seems that Eddie Jordan may be in the midst of a rough season once again.
The Scarlet Knights want to run through guard Corey Sanders. Sanders is a freshman and the future of the Rutgers basketball program. He is expected to run their newly incorporated up-tempo offense. Last time out against Howard, Sanders finished with 15 points, 5 assists, 3 rebounds, and 2 steals.
On Thursday, Rutgers wants to depend on Corey Sanders and Deshawn Freeman duo to spark their inside-out attack. It seemed as if those new players - both in their first year with the Scarlet Knights - took a drastic step forward against Howard. While Sanders finished with an impressive stat-line, the forward Freeman contributed with 17 points of his own. Freeman also finished with 7 rebounds and 3 assists.
The Scarlet Knights in many ways share weaknesses with St. John's.
Much like St. John's, Rutgers has struggled with turnovers. In both games this season Rutgers has turned the ball over 20 times. Also Rutgers is a terrible three-point shooting team. They have missed tons of open three's early on which is concerning. With the stingy St. John's defense, Rutgers may struggle to score points and hit shots.
Keys to Game
Turnovers: If the Johnnies have a chance competing in the Big East, they need to cut down on their turnovers.
Excluding the 28 turnover performance against St. Thomas Aquinas, the Johnnies are averaging about 16.7 turnovers a game, including the Sonoma State exhibition game.
In the two regular-season games, the Red Storm have turned the ball over on 23% of their possessions.
These hefty numbers should alarm Red Storm fans. If St. John's is going to beat Rutgers they must focus on keeping their turnover total low.
Yankuba Sima Fouls: When Yankuba Sima gets in foul trouble it makes the St. John's team much more one-dimensional; with Kassoum Yakwe not yet eligible, the Johnnies' front court is an even-more depleted unit. In Sima's limited time against UMBC he had four blocks. When he can stay out of foul trouble, driving the lane against the Johnnies becomes a daunting task. Whether Sima can keep his fouls under control will be a deciding factor in this game.
Defense: So far this season, the Johnnies have played tremendous defense. Opposing teams have shot an average of 31% from the field against St. John's. Excluding the St. Thomas of Aquinas massacre, opposing teams have shot an abysmal 26% from the field. If the Red Storm can keep field goal percentages this low they can beat anyone in the nation.
Plain and simple, both of these teams are in the rebuilding process. Rutgers is coming off a gloomy 10-win season and St. John's enters this year losing over 90% of last year's scoring. This game has the potential to get ugly, really fast. Expect the Johnnies to build off the momentum from that UMBC game, and finish off Rutgers.
Final Prediction: 66-54 St. John's