The most inconsistent team in college basketball struck again, as the St. John’s Red Storm topped a very good Butler team. Loyal Johnny supporters packed into Carnesecca to witness what felt like a program changing victory, against the 13th ranked Bulldogs. St. John's last win over a ranked opponent came in 2014, when the Red Storm surpassed No. 12 Creighton at Madison Square Garden.
What ensues for the Johnnies is a trip to Chicago for a tilt against DePaul. Although DePaul has earned a reputation as a Big East pushover, never overlook a conference foe.
Who: St. John’s Red Storm (7-7) vs DePaul Blue Demons (7-7)
What: Big East Conference game
Where: Allstate Arena, Rosemont, IL
When: Sunday, January 1st, 2:00 PM
TV: Fox Sports 1 or Fox Sports Go
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.
Last Meeting: DePaul held off St. John’s in Rosemont, by a 83-75 score.
Dave Leitao’s second stint at DePaul hasn’t started the way fans would have hoped, but do not be mistaken, the Blue Demons are on the right track.
Last time out, DePaul gave No. 1 Villanova all they could handle in Philadelphia. Just over two weeks ago they played a tough Temple team tight. Despite the scares they have put in a few teams, DePaul has yet to beat anyone of note. Their best win was at home against Missouri State.
So far, the Blue Demons have been held back by inexperience and a lack of depth.
Offensively, KenPom ranks their efficiency 187th, which is slightly below average. DePaul isn’t a great shooting team in general, and they struggle to keep turnovers in check. In addition, they are one of the worst three-point shooting teams in college basketball. As a team they shoot only 30% from deep, which is a Big East worst. As a team, they hope to get their points from the free-throw line. Almost a quarter of DePaul’s scoring comes from the charity stripe.
On the flip side, DePaul has struggled to keep opponents off the free-throw line. Nearly 23% of opposing points have been from the line. Additionally, they have ineffectively created turnovers, and prevented their foes from getting good looks at the hoop. One thing that the Blue Demons do well is defend the three-point line. Teams have shot an average of 32% from deep when going up against DePaul. This is key because St. John’s heavily relies on the deep ball.
DePaul should give the Johnnies a good fight. Both teams are young and inexperienced and have the capability of winning big games. Those factors should make for an interesting game.
Blue Demons to watch
Eli Cain: This sophomore guard currently is DePaul’s leading scorer. So far this year he has averaged 18 points, 5 rebounds, and 2 assists per game. He is a special talent that could cause the Red Storm backcourt problems.
Billy Garrett: Chicago native Garrett is the senior leader on this DePaul team. This season he has averaged 15 points and 3 assists per game. Garrett is incredibly effective because he attacks the basket furiously and often draws fouls. He averages about seven free-throw attempts per game, and is shooting about 94% from the line this season.
Tre’Darius Mccallum: Listed at 6-foot-7, Mccallum acts as DePaul’s preeminent big man. This year he has averaged just about 10 points, 7 rebounds, and 2 assists per contest. He is the main force down low that the Johnnies must be aware of.
Keys to contest
Get those assist totals up: Upsetting Butler was a major achievement in Chris Mullin’s young coaching career. The Red Storm played very well against the Bulldogs, but one thing they failed to do was pass to scoring teammates. Offense is best run when everyone is touching the ball, and multiple players are scoring. Against Butler, the Johnnies only tallied five assists. This is something they must improve on if they want to keep winning games.
Run through Ponds: Freshman Shamorie Ponds flashed brilliance against the Bulldogs. At times it was hard to imagine he was a first year player, as he lead the Red Storm throughout and scored when St. John’s needed a bucket. Ponds is a developing star and clearly the Johnnies go to player. St. John’s is at its best when offense is running through him, and that must continue against DePaul.
Prove this program is improving: St. John’s has a huge opportunity to expedite the rebuilding process. Following two impressive wins against Syracuse and Butler, beating DePaul on the road would further prove just how much the Johnnies have improved in one offseason. However, a loss in this contest slightly sets St. John’s back which is not ideal when trying to building a consistent winner.
St. John’s has the talent to beat anyone in the nation, but also is too inexperienced to avoid bad losses. At times, that is certainly fun to watch, but in general it is not a recipe for consistent success. The Red Storm really should win this game, but it wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest to see them lose.
KenPom Prediction: 76-75 St. John’s (55% of victory)