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St. John’s vs. Providence: How to watch, preview

Big East basketball is back!

NCAA Basketball: Providence at St. John Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

Following the Christmas break, St. John’s will host Providence in Queens. The Johnnies have not played at Carnesecca Arena since beating Sacred Heart there on December 2nd.

Entering conference play, the Red Storm are hoping for a Marcus LoVett return. According to Zach Braziller of the NY Post, a decision regarding his availability will be made at shootaround. He adds that it is unlikely to see LoVett play tomorrow.

Game Details

Who: St. John’s Red Storm (10-2) versus Providence Friars (9-4)

Where: Carnesecca Arena, Queens, NY

When: Thursday, December 28th, 7:00 PM ET

TV: Regional Fox Sports Channel (YES Network)

Audio: 570 AM WMCA; TuneIn Radio

Last Meeting: The Friars topped St. John’s 86-75 at Madison Square Garden last March.

Scouting the Friars

Providence enters Thursday’s contest trending downward. The Friars sit at a trying 9-4 record, with their best win at home against Boston College.

Albeit victorious, Providence struggled mightily against teams like Belmont, Brown, and Stony Brook. Each of those games easily could have been losses. The Friars needed a buzzer beater to top Belmont, overtime to put away Brown, and a second-half surge to stop Stony Brook.

The Friars issues have stemmed from a myriad of injuries. Key players including Emmitt Holt, Kyron Cartwright, Alpha Diallo, and Maliek White have missed time this year.

Holt is likely the most significant loss. He is sidelined for the year following abdominal surgery. Last year he played about 28 minutes per game, adding an average of 13 points and 5 rebounds. He has been greatly missed in the frontcourt. Younger players like Nate Watson and Kalif Young have stepped in amidst his absence.

In the backcourt, critical players like Cartwright and Diallo have gone down with nagging ankle injuries. While both players have been in and out of the rotation, it appears they will play against St. John’s. As for White, he has provided the Friars with much-needed energy off the bench both defensively and as a shooter. Due to a knee injury, he likely will miss the St. John’s game.

Coach Ed Cooley’s unit is clearly hobbled. Still, they have done enough to keep them in NCAA Tournament contention with their defense. Opponents of the Friars shoot a lousy 31% from deep, and turn the basketball over at a 21% rate. Their man defense has also done a formidable job getting steals and blocking shots.

On offense, Providence has found their touch from deep. Collectively they are shooting 40% from three-point territory. Unfortunately for them, they have allowed opposing defenses to steal the ball at a high 10% rate. Much of this could be because of injuries to backcourt leaders like Cartwright. While freshman Makai Ashton-Langford appears to have a very bright future, he is not ready to assume such a huge role on a team that relies heavily on the point guard creating offense.

Keys to contest

Pressure opposing ball handlers: Providence has turned the ball over at a high rate so far this season. St. John’s, on the other hand, has been very efficient at creating turnovers and stealing the ball. With a banged up Cartwright and inexperience in the Friar backcourt, the Johnnies must apply pressure and limit the looks Providence gets at the hoop.

Crash the boards: The Friars have struggled to keep opponents off the glass, especially having problems on the defensive end. Providence allows a good amount of second chance opportunities. St. John’s could take advantage and crash the offensive glass. Tariq Owens has been the best on the offensive glass for the Red Storm.

Sustained play: St. John’s has had a little bit of a problem playing well for 40 minutes. At times this year, they have come out slow in the first half. The Johnnies could be an immensely better team if they play at a high level for a full game.

Predictions

The Friars appear to be a team yet to find their identity headed into conference play. Opening against an up and coming Red Storm team on the road is not what Providence needs right now. However, each Big East contest is a battle and could go either way. Anticipate St. John’s to take care of this one, but do not be shocked if the Friars steal one on the road.