Optimism surrounded St. John’s ahead of their Big East opener against Providence. With a whited out crowd at Carnesecca Arena on hand, the Johnnies seemed to have the advantage on paper.
Instead, Providence blew by the Red Storm. Along the way, point guard Shamorie Ponds injured his knee, capping a brutual opening to conference play.
However, St. John’s must have a short memory because the Pirates of Seton Hall await them. As Zach Braziller of the NY Post reports, Ponds is expected to play after his MRI results came back fine. He also reports that Marcus LoVett will likely miss Sunday’s contest as he continues to nurse his own knee injury.
Who: St. John’s Red Storm (10-3; 0-1 Big East) vs. #23 Seton Hall Pirates (12-2; 1-0 Big East)
Where: Prudential Center, Newark, NJ
When: Sunday, December 31st, 5:00 PM ET
TV: FS1 and Fox Sports Go
Audio: 570 AM WMCA; TuneIn Radio
Last Meeting: St. John’s topped Seton Hall 78-70 last February at Madison Square Garden.
Scouting Seton Hall
The Pirates have a serious contender in the race for the Big East crown. This is arguably coach Kevin Willard’s best team in his 8 seasons at Seton Hall. Heading into Sunday’s game, the Pirates already hold impressive wins over Louisville, VCU, Texas Tech, and Creighton.
Offensively, Seton Hall plays up tempo. When they have the ball, there is not much they do not do well. The Pirates crash the offensive glass, hit shots inside and out of the perimeter, and push opponents around in the paint.
Seton Hall is led in the scoring category by senior forward Desi Rodriguez. So far this season he has averaged 18 points, 5 rebounds, and 2 assists per game. Not far behind is sophomore guard Myles Powell who averages 15 points and 3 assists per game.
Arguably the Pirates most important player is senior big man Angel Delgado. He has been a menance for all Seton Hall opponents this year. He is averaging a double double with about 14 points and 12 reobunds per game. St. John’s may have a tough time containing his low post offense.
On the defensive end, the Pirates have forced turnovers, made opponents shoot uncomfortable shots, and kept their foes off the foul line. Seton Hall has only allowed teams to shoot 48% from within the arc, and 31% from beyond. Additionally, they have limited the chances they give opponents on the charity stripe. Only 18% of their points given up are from the foul line, lower than the 19% national average.
The Pirates are a very balanced team and have a physical advantage over St. John’s. The Red Storm best bring their best to New Jersey.
Keys to contest
Get Delgado into trouble: As mentioned above, Delgado can absolutely control the paint. St. John’s can not afford to have him bully them in the paint all evening. If they can drive at the big guy early and get him into foul trouble, their chances of winning should increase.
Guard the three: St. John’s got lit up by Providence from deep. Defensive breakdowns left open shooters all over the floor, and the Friars took advantage. Seton Hall knocks down a decent 36% of their three-pointers. The Red Storm must ensure that the Pirates do not shoot any better than that.
Pressure the ball: Providence had a relatively easy time dribbling the ball against St. John’s, especially in the second half. St. John’s needs to win pressure ball handlers into turnovers, and ultimately score in transition.
This contest could be St. John’s toughest test to date. Seton Hall will have the home crowd behind them, and an advantage in the frontcourt. Throw in the fact that we do not know if Shamorie Ponds is 100% healthy, the Red Storm could be in a for rough ending to their 2017. I’d expect Seton Hall to win comfortably.