As the St. John's Red Storm close out a final three-game home stand tomorrow afternoon against the Georgetown Hoyas, the program will also say goodbye to the first recruiting class of the Steve Lavin era.
Although this will not be the final time that the five seniors will play in Madison Square Garden in their St. John's careers, it is their final home game of the season, and will be the final time that fans get to thank them for a memorable four seasons in a Red Storm uniform.
But aside from being the final time that D`Angelo Harrison, Phil Greene IV, Sir`Dominic Pointer, Jamal Branch, and Khadim Ndiaye will get to call the World's Most Famous Arena their home, tomorrow marks an incredibly important day for the St. John's tournament hopes.
Still sitting comfortably off the bubble and in fifth place in the Big East at the moment, many feel as though a win against Georgetown tomorrow would officially punch the Red Storm's ticket to the dance.
On what is sure to be an emotional afternoon, can the Red Storm and their seniors exact some revenge on the Hoyas?
How to Watch/Listen
The game will tip-off at 12 P.M. on CBS with Marv Albert and Len Elmore on the call, and the radio broadcast with John Minko and Brandon Tierney can be heard on 98.7 WEPN-FM. Those attending the game should plan on getting to their seats early, as Senior Day ceremonies will begin from Madison Square Garden at 11:35 A.M.
St. John's is currently a one-point favorite in this game.
Scouting St. John's
Winners of five of their last six and six straight Big East games at home, St. John's enters the Garden tomorrow with a 19-9 overall record and 8-7 mark in the conference. Their win over Xavier on Monday night put them over .500 in Big East play for the first time this season, as they have vaulted them into the fifth place spot in the conference as well.
In Joe Lunardi's latest "Bracketology," released earlier today, the Red Storm were predicted as a 10-seed in the South Region.
Starting with the seniors, D`Angelo Harrison and Sir`Dominic Pointer are the two leading scorers for St. John's, with Harrison averaging 18.4 points per game and Pointer at 13.6 per contest. Playing in a home game at Madison Square Garden for the final time in a St. John's uniform, Harrison is nearing the end of a Red Storm career which saw him tally the third most career points in program history.
He led the team with 20 points in their huge win over Xavier earlier in the week, and has now scored 20-plus points three times in his last six outings.
Pointer, who became the 50th player in St. John's history to hit the 1,000-point mark on Monday night, only continued his career year against Xavier with 19 points, nine rebounds, and a team-high six blocks. Always known as someone who could give the Red Storm a little bit of everything throughout his career, Sir`Dom has transformed himself from a role player to a star as this season has come along.
He has now had 11 straight games in which he has scored in double-digits and grabbed at least five rebounds, not to mention that he has blocked an average of just under four shots per game in that span as well.
Senior Phil Greene IV has also appeared to save his best season at St. John's for last, as he is averaging a career-high in points and field goal percentage this year. Really one of the unsung heroes for the Red Storm this season, Greene struggled in his last outing with just five points against Xavier.
However he was their best player on the court in their 79-57 loss to Georgetown earlier this month, scoring a team-high 18 points including 4-8 shooting from 3-point range.
The two non-seniors who will be crucial for St. John's tomorrow are Rysheed Jordan and Chris Obekpa. Jordan has stacked up two straight exceptional games over the past week, while Obekpa remains the sixth-man for the Red Storm as he continues to make his impact felt coming off the bench.
With an 18-8 overall record and an impressive 10-5 record in the Big East, the Hoyas sit in a tie for second place in the conference and appear like they will be making another trip to the NCAA Tournament next month after a one-year absence.
They've won three straight games in Big East play, including a 79-57 blowout over St. John's on February 17, however tomorrow will be only their fourth game since February 10, as they've had a week off to prepare for this one.
Preseason Big East Player of the Year D`Vauntes Smith-Rivera is having what some may call a down season by some standards, his scoring has dropped from 17.6 points per game last to just 15.5 points per game this season. While some may say that scoring differential is due to the Hoyas having more scoring options this season, Smith-Rivera's shooting percentage and 3-point percentage each have dipped in 2014-15.
Nonetheless, Smith-Rivera still remains the top scoring option for Georgetown, and he flirted with a triple-double in the last meeting between these two teams with 12 points, 10 rebounds, and six assists.
Leading the way in the paint for Georgetown, who as a team rank third in the conference in rebounding, are Joshua Smith and Mikael Hopkins.
Smith leads the team with just over six rebounds per game, and although he grabbed just three boards in the last meeting between these two, he was able to score 12 points and get any shot that he wanted against a hobbled Red Storm frontcourt in that one. In the Hoyas last outing against DePaul, Smith tallied a double-double with 15 points and 11 rebounds in a 68-63 win.
But Georgetown has also been getting a good deal of production out of some of their stellar freshman this season, including L.J. Peak and Isaac Copeland. Peak ranks third on the team in both points and minutes played per game, and he scored 12 points in just 29 minutes against St. John's on February 17.
However, Copeland has emerged as the star freshman in D.C. over the past few games, scoring double-figures in four of his last five games including a 12-point, nine rebound output against the Johnnies. He's been named as the Big East Rookie of the Week for two straight weeks, and has clearly moved himself into consideration for the conference's Rookie of the Year award.
St. John's Keys to the Game
What will St. John's have to do in order to rebound from their embarrassing loss in the nation's capital just over two weeks ago?
Don't allow your emotions to get the best of you early. Senior Day against one of your biggest rivals with a possible spot in the NCAA Tournament ready to be clinched with a victory. This will be the definition of an emotional day for the Red Storm.
Georgetown will clearly be coming out ready to play tomorrow, and the Hoyas would want nothing better than to spoil the party at the Garden. After the pre game ceremony for the seniors, the Red Storm will need to block out all of the distractions that will be surrounding them, and come out of the gate focusing on the ultimate task at hand, taking care of business on the court.
Keep the battle on the boards close. Georgetown out-rebouded St. John's 43-33 in the last time that these two met, with just three Hoyas nearly combining to grab more rebounds than the Red Storm did as a team. Aside from Sir`Dom's eight rebounds that night, no other St. John's player grabbed more than four boards, with Obekpa pulling in just two.
If that type of Hoya domination occurs again tomorrow on the boards, then St. John's can kiss their chances for a huge resume-boosting win goodbye. They'll need a much better effort tomorrow from their bigs, not only Obekpa but Amar Alibegovic and Joey De La Rosa as well.
Get a big game from Harrison. The fact the play of D`Angelo Harrison and the play of St. John's as a team are very much correlated this season is not very much of a secret. When Harrison plays well, the Red Storm offense flows much better, as the floor then opens up for guys like Rysheed Jordan and Phil Greene IV.
But instead of wasting time talking about what we already know, let's talk about something that has really gone under the radar over the past few years, D`Angelo Harrison has historically struggled in his career against Georgetown.
In seven career games against the Hoyas, the senior has scored in double-figures just twice, and he was held without a field goal in the first meeting between these two. If Harrison's struggles against Georgetown continue tomorrow, it will likely spell doom for St. John's.
The Bottom Line
With tomorrow being the final time that the five St. John's seniors will play a game in front of their home fans at Madison Square Garden, it's only fitting that this game comes with huge NCAA Tournament implications.
With a chance to cement themselves into a firm position to hear their names called on selection Sunday for the first time in a few weeks, will we see the Red Storm get some sweet revenge at the Garden tomorrow?
Behind a fired up crowd at Madison Square Garden, the Red Storm hang on for a 67-65 victory.
What's your score prediction?