The Johnnies will conclude their season of hard lessons and tough losses this weekend. The last game remaining is a home tilt with old school Big East foe, the Providence Friars.
Providence is coming off a game where they cruised by the DePaul Blue Demons at home. But Providence needs every victory they can get right now. The Friars currently are projected as a 10-seed by ESPN's Joe Lunardi, and presently sit on the bubble. Lunardi listed Providence as one of the last four teams with a bye, meaning they would avoid the Dayton play-in games - but it's close.
Losing to St. John's would be a monumental blow to their tournament hopes.
On the other hand St. John's is coming off a historically bad performance in a loss at Creighton.
St. John's loses 100-59, tying their largest margin of defeat in school history.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) February 28, 2016
Lost to Kentucky 81-40 on Dec. 17, 1951
The Red Storm must forget what happened last time out - getting crushed early and often, Chris Mullin being kicked out of the game after two technical fouls - and focus on playing well in the regular season finale. They will have a very important visitor watching to see if the Johnnies can forget the rough loss and knock off Providence.
Another #sjubb visitor Saturday: Harlem's Mohamed Bamba, consensus top 3 junior in country.— Zach Braziller (@NYPost_Brazille) March 1, 2016
Add Molloy freshman Cole Anthony and Stepinac sophomore Aundre Hyatt to list of #sjubb visitors Saturday against Providence.— Zach Braziller (@NYPost_Brazille) March 4, 2016
Some other recruits expected are Brandon Randolph, Hasahn French, Scottie Lewis and Bryan Antoine. You can read to greater extent about these prospects here.
Who: St. John's Red Storm (8-22) vs Providence Friars (21-9)
Where: Madison Square Garden, New York, NY
When: Saturday, March 5th, 12:30 PM
TV: Fox Sports 1 or Fox Sports Go
Audio: WMCA 570
Tickets: You can find game tickets by clicking here.
Twitter: Follow @rumbleSBN and @StJohnsBBall for updates.
Senior Day: "St. John's Senior Day ceremony begins at noon as four-year senior Felix Balamou (Conakry, Guinea), graduate students Durand Johnson (Baltimore, Md.) and Ron Mvouika (Paris, France), along with five senior managers will be honored."
Last Meeting: Providence rolled past St. John's in Rhode Island, 83-65.
Fun Fact: Providence College has the smallest enrollment out of all the Big East members.
Scouting the Friars
Head coach Ed Cooley brings a solid Providence team to Madison Square Garden on Saturday. The Friars started out with a 14-1 record and looked like one of the most dangerous teams in the nation.
Although they had a hot start, Providence has gone 6-8 in their last 14 games. Poor play recently has left the Friars on the bubble according to ESPN's latest bracketology. Losing against St. John's would push them right off the bubble and put them on the outside looking in.
One player that Providence fans expect to lead them to the big dance is superstar Kris Dunn. His junior campaign (very likely his last, as he is projected to be a top-five pick in the NBA Draft) has certainly been one to remember. This season he has averaged about 17 points, 6 assists, and 3 steals per contest. These numbers have made him an attractive candidate for National Player of the Year.
Down the stretch his game has been on a slight decline, as he has battled illness. In his last five contests he has only averaged 14 points, 4 assists, and 1 steal per game. This is the worst time for Dunn to play poorly, the Friars are focused on making a deep tournament run and need their veteran to lead the way.
Another impact player for Providence is sophomore Ben Bentil. This 6-foot-9 forward has come on strong following an average freshman campaign. Bentil enters the regular season finale averaging 21 points, 8 rebounds, and 1 block per game. His stellar season has kept him atop the statistical leaderboards in the Big East conference.
Bentil is the current Big East leader in points per game, and secures the fifth-most amount of rebounds in the Big East. Bentil is also one of 10 finalists for the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar award. This accolade is awarded to the top center in all of college basketball.
In general, the Friars don't have many weaknesses to expose. On the defensive end, the Friars fall into their stifling man-to-man defense. They do a very nice job at defending the three-point line, causing turnovers, and keeping the ball out of their own basket.
On offense, the Friars are most dangerous when they are drawing fouls and knocking down their free-throws. For example, against DePaul the Friars played some of their best basketball. Providence ended that game 27-30 from the free-throw line. Keeping the fantastic free-throw shooting Friars off the line is critical.
What to watch for
Don't get let the stars score: Providence will look to attack the St. John's by getting their two star players going. Ben Bentil and Kris Dunn occupy two spots on the top four of the Big East scoring list. If St. John's is going to win, they must slow these two players down. Last time the Johnnies and Friars faced off, St. John's couldn't stop the Bentil/Dunn duo. They combined for 46 points and helped Providence secure a victory.
Limit Fouls: St. John's has constantly been plagued by their foul troubles. Red Storm opponents average about 17 points per game from the foul line. St. John's only collects about 14 points from the charity stripe, per game.They can not put Providence on the free-throw line and expect to beat the Friars. Providence shoots 73% from the free-throw line as a team. They convert their foul shots often, so giving them as little opportunities as possible is crucial.
Don't turn the ball over: Another nagging problem for St. John's has been the amount of times they turn the ball over. All season long opponents have created turnovers, paralyzing the Johnnies offense. Kris Dunn is a catalyst when it comes to taking the ball away from opponents. He records about 3 steals per contest, which is so frustrating for opposing guards. Dunn dreams about playing a team like St. John's, who averages 15 turnovers a game. If Providence is going to fall, the Red Storm must keep the turnover totals low.
Providence can't afford a this devastating loss. St. John's has nothing left to play for, it seems a scenario where they run the table in the Big East Tournament is highly improbable. Expect St. John's to play with passion early on, but the Friars determination will prevail over the depleted Johnnies unit.
Final Prediction: 80-66 Friars