After two losses in the Battle 4 Atlantis, one can imagine a casual observer making jokes about the Storm lost at sea, falling into the abyss, being deposed like Namor (that last reference is for comic book geeks only). The Battle 4 Atlantis Consolation game yesterday was no consolation.
But closer inspection shows St. John’s is a team that lost to a pair of better squads, at least in the eyes of the Vegas oddsmakers and the college hoops punditry and by most quantitative metrics.
Tonight, however, St. John’s is a 1-point favorite over Old Dominion in the final game of the tournament, the battle for seventh place. Unlike some other tournaments, no game among these eight combatants is a gimme, and the Johnnies will need to be sharp against an ODU team that took Louisville to overtime and lost to LSU by two possessions.
Who: St. John’s Red Storm (2-3) vs. Old Dominion Monarchs (2-2)
What: Battle 4 Atlantis Seventh-Place game
Where: Imperial Arena, Paradise Island, Bahamas
When: Friday, November 25th, 9:30 PM ET
TV: AXS; channel guide can be found by clicking here. For those that don’t have AXS...
@yelbeeez if anyone needs a way to watch. Sign up for the slingtv free 7 day trial and they carry axs— Christopher Brache (@9_c_j_b_1) November 23, 2016
Audio: St. John’s TV All-Access will provide free audio for the contest. That station can be found by clicking here. Also live game audio can be found on 570 WMCA.
Twitter: Follow @rumbleSBN and @StJohnsBBall for updates.
Fun Fact: Chris Mullin defeated OId Dominion as a player in the last matchup between St. John’s and ODU back in 1984 (the season the Redmen went to the Final Four).
Scouting Old Dominion
Jeff Jones’ Conference USA squad isn’t a team that has gotten much national buzz. Despite winning last year’s Vegas 16 postseason tournament and returning four starters from last season, the ODU Monarchs were picked in the middle of their league after graduating Trey Freeman, who scored 22 points per game last season.
But they can be very annoying.
Including the overtime game against #10 Louisville, and a win at a solid Richmond Spiders team, the Monarchs have allowed 55, 61, 62 and 60 points to opponents, playing a slow place and being very present defensively with stifling man defense.
And this team will be hungry, after losing to Louisville shooting 47% from the line (missing 17 of 32 free throw attempts in a six-point loss!) and 8/15 from the line against LSU (missing seven of 15 in a six point loss).
The Monarchs have size and ability up front. Big man Brandan Stith - whose father, Bryant Stith played for ten years in the NBA - is a very good defensive rebounder who also gets to the free throw line and can convert inside despite being 6’7”. He shot 9/11 against Louisville’s strong front line.
Sith’s brother, BJ Stith - who transferred from the University of Virginia - also brings some scoring punch on the perimeter to complement point guard Ahmad Carver.
The shooting percentages up and down the roster this year have not been attractive. But each of the returnees has been far better in the past. A soft defensive effort could ignite an offense that has been expecting wing Zoran Talley to get some buckets this year, or has expected guard Jordan Baker to get hot from outside the arc.
What to watch
Keeping the heads up. St. John’s has been doomed not just by scoring droughts but by the mistakes that compound scoring droughts - bad defensive communication, “hero” shots, and an unwillingness to move the ball and make defenses work. St. John’s has shown some promise, but tonight is a night to take promises and make them into facts in the shape of a “W”.
Big man attack? Kassoum Yakwe and Yankuba Sima had nice stretches yesterday against VCU, showing some of their athleticism and skill as they adjust to playing with more ball-dominant guards in LoVett and Ponds. Can they keep it up against a physical opponent? And can Tariq Owens continue to show his energy on the offensive glass? Can they defend an ODU team that looks first and second for shots on the inside of the paint?
Tight spaces. Marcus LoVett and Shamorie Ponds might find themselves forcing turnovers from the Monarchs; but more often, they will need to create shots and opportunities in tight spaces. Can they make the right decisions? Can both find shots outside the arc and slashing opportunities inside the arc?
St. John’s gets a chance to close out a tight one; free throws made and missed will be the key.
Final prediction: St. John’s 68-65