St. John’s blasted through the Scarlet Knights on Friday night in New Jersey, but there is no rest at the end of November; the Johnnies face another major conference foe on the “road” in Brooklyn, the home of the Brooklyn Nets.
The California Golden Bears come to New York ready for the road, having already traveled to China for their season opener. The Bears also had a Friday game cancelled because of the devastating wildfires in Northern California — the air quality in the area and in the gym was hazardous. They will be ready to compete, despite a reputation as one of the nation’s worst high-major teams this season.
And remember, for St. John’s, a lot had to go right for them to defeat Rutgers, a team with a lot more size on the floor than St. John’s plays. The Knights got second shot opportunities, but blew chances with bad shooting and turnovers.
A more composed team could pose a real threat to St. John’s, especially if the outside shots aren’t falling for the Red Storm.
Will that threat be California?
Who: St. John’s Red Storm (3-0) vs California Golden Bears (1-1)
Where: Barclays Center (17,732 capacity)
When: Monday, November 19, 7:00 PM
TV: ESPN2 (Bob Wischusen, Fran Fraschilla)
Audio: 970 WNYM | TuneIn Radio
Odds: St. John’s by -14
Last meeting: This is the first meeting between the Red Storm and the Golden Bears.
This game is part of the Legends Classic. The winner will face the winner of VCU/ Temple on Tuesday night.
Rankings & School Notes
Last season final KenPom Ranking: 244 | Current KenPom Ranking: 162
School size: 42,519 (30,853 undergraduates)
School is academically known for: being the best public university in the US; research; computer science, physics
Notable alumni: 31 Nobel laureates; Douglass North (economist), Supreme Court Justice Earl Warren, John Kenneth Galbraith (economist), Rube Goldberg (cartoonist/ engineer), Max Boot (journalist/ columnist), Sanaa Lathan (actress), Beverly Cleary (author), Jack London (author), Terry McMillan (author), Scott Adams (Dilbert cartoonist), Steve Wozniak (Apple co-founder)
It’s hard to know what threat California poses on Monday, because the team, in Wyking Jones’ second year, has turned over some 60% of the team’s minutes as they work to rebuild from the talent crater left after Cuonzo Martin, a host of seniors, and a one-and-done freshman all departed two seasons ago.
Last year’s Cal team struggled badly, going 8-24, winning two games in the Pac-12, losing to Chaminade in the Maui Invitational by 24 points and to Portland State by 25.
This season, the Cal Bears both lack experience and high-end recruits on the roster. While last year’s team played to its strength by crashing the offensive glass and forcing turnovers, the identity of this year’s team will need some detective work to define.
Now, four freshmen and a high-scoring transfer hope to turn around last year’s 8-24 record. So far, they team has been working on running the weave and capitalizing on mismatches after switches. Their first win of the season over Hampton at home was not pretty, but they locked in late to pull off the win.
Paris Austin and Justice Sueing are the main threats from the Golden Bears. Austin (#3), a transfer from Boise State, has been a good passer in his first two games, as he was with the Broncos. He is a capable and quick 6’0” slasher who draws fouls and scores most of his buckets inside the arc. His three-point shooting percentage, in two-plus years of college stands around 23%.
Justice Sueing (#10) is a 6’7” wing who can rebound a little, draw fouls and slash to the basket. He’s missed quite a few shots at the rim this season, but is dangerous. Both Sueing and Austin can pick off bad passes and make opponents pay.
The stars of the recruiting class are small forward Matt Bradley (#20) and big man Andre Kelly (#22) — both are undersized but competitive. Bradley is a strong lefty wing who stands 6’4”. He earned eight trips to the free throw line against Yale. Andre Kelly is a 6’8”, 260 pound big who has been a very good rebounder in his first two games for the Golden Bears. Given his size and efficiency so far, he could be a problem for the Johnnies.
Second-year guard Darius McNeill (#1) has proven to have quick hands on defense. He shot 35% from outside the arc last season but just under 40% inside the arc. McNeill has not been able to get to the rim, and misses a number of his mid-range jump shots. When he is hitting, he can drop some buckets — like the 30 he put on Cal State Fullerton (on 7/10 outside shooting).
Juhwan Harris-Dyson (#2) also provides some depth in the backcourt at 6’5”. He has solid defensive stats.
Also on the roster are freshmen Connor Vanover (#23), a 7’3” center who has rebounded well in limited minutes; freshman wing Jacobi Gordon (#24), a 6’7” player who got three offensive rebounds against Yale; and 6’7” forward Roman Davis (#15).
Keys to the Game
Active rebounding. LJ Figueroa has been an aggressive rebounder, and with Mustapha Heron, the team has been competitive on the glass, if not a high-end rebounding team. Against a big freshman center, the team has to keep attacking the ball off of misses on both ends, making it hard for the Bears to end possessions.
Few mistakes. Marvin Clark II will hope to play with less foul trouble; Shamorie Ponds and Justin Simon will hope to minimize ballhanding miscues; and overall, the team will hope to tighten their defensive rotations and transition spacing to minimize mistakes and maximize their talent.
Above all, play hard. For St. John’s, a lackluster effort will reveal a team that lacks size and is dependent on shooting and events (steals/ run-outs) to power the offense. A lackadaisical defensive effort and some solid shooting from the Bears could put the Red Storm on their heels at home.
Prediction: Cal is young, and St. John’s should be feeling their rhythm, despite what Cal can throw at them. If St. John’s takes this game fully seriously, they should win, 83-69. Hopefully it will be the kind of game where they can give the bench some run, and allow the starters to rest for tomorrow’s game.