St. John’s gets back on the floor at home this Wednesday against the high-scoring Creighton Bluejays, coming in from Omaha wired to score.
The Johnnies, a squad that looked like a contender for the Big East title, have lost some close ones this season already in Big East play.
The team may be good, but a team is only as good as its record. A 2-3 record in the Big East is not a pace that will get the team to the NCAA Tournament.
St. John’s needs to find a way to slow down Creighton, impose their will, and get back to the fast-attacking force that most fans thought deserved a ranking in December.
But will Shamorie Ponds be healthy to play? When he sees the kind of crooked numbers Big East guards have put up on the Bluejays, he will certainly be eager to have them on the other side of the court at Carnesecca.
But even with Shamorie, the Johnnies — who play a short bench— will need to step up their game. Creighton has won the last three outings against St. John’s at Carnesecca Arena.
I mean, this is just trolling:
With a win on Wednesday, Creighton can become the first visiting men's basketball program to ever beat St. John's at Carnesecca Arena in four consecutive seasons.— Rob Anderson (@_robanderson) January 14, 2019
Since joining the BIG EAST, Creighton is 13-2 across all sports at Carnesecca Arena:
WBB 4-2 https://t.co/3alFa9WID9
Who: St. John’s Red Storm (14-3, 2-3 Big East) vs Creighton Bluejays (10-7, 1-3 Big East)
Where: Carnesecca Arena (5,601)
When: Wednesday, January 15, 6:30 PM
TV: FS1 | FoxSportsGo
Audio: 570 WMCA AM | TuneIn Radio
Odds: St. John’s, -4
Last meeting: Creighton beat St. John’s with a first half burst, 68-63.
Rankings & School Notes
Last season final KenPom Ranking: 30 | Current KenPom Ranking: 42
School size: 8,654 (4,255 undergraduates)
School is academically known for: Finance/ business, pre-med, nursing/ health
Notable alumni: Joe Ricketts (TD Ameritrade Founder), Ron Hansen (author, The Assassination of Jesse James by the coward Robert Ford), Roman Hruska (US Senator), Symone Sanders (politics/ communications)
The always-offensively crisp Creighton Bluejays seem to have a defense problem this season.
To be fair, they have faced some of the league’s best offenses (and suffered a heartbreaking end of their game (Twitter video) vs Marquette).
But in their last three games, they have given up over 80 points in regulation in each game, and actually slowed the pace from some of their earlier contests.
- Butler shot 65% inside the arc and 37% outside. Kamar Baldwin had 28.
- Marquette scored 55% inside the arc and 57% from deep. Markus Howard had 53.
- Villanova scored 61% inside the arc and 44% from outside the arc. Phil Booth had 28.
The upshot: guards go off.
Providence, the sole Big East win for Creighton, was missing star freshman AJ Reeves.
If St. John’s is missing Shamorie Ponds, will they suffer the same fate as the Friars?
So, by the numbers: yes, the Creighton defense looks bad. They allow 36% on threes, 54% on twos, and both numbers are worse in conference play (43% shooting on threes; 56% shooting on twos). Their defensive rebounding is so-so, though the Red Storm does not crash the glass. Except for the post players, the Bluejays are good about not fouling.
Their man-to-man defense can feature some trapping on the perimeter to convince opponents to drive the ball and/ or make passes vs catching and shooting. The rotations are... well... not that quick, so there will be opportunities for St. John’s after the trap.
On offense, Creighton is a high-scoring, semi-five-out team that takes 46% of their attempts from outside the arc. St. John’s, for comparison takes 41% of their shots from deep. The Bluejays hot 42% of their threes, 57% of their twos, and do not go to the free throw line often (or crash the offensive boards).
The ‘Jays will take advantage of overplaying defenses and run the occasional backdoor play, and they pass the ball well. They love to run, and will catch teams napping in transition; the whole team can get up and down the floor.
Still, the Bluejays have post threats who cannot be ignored.
Due to injuries to Damien Jefferson (ankle) and Jacob Epperson (out for the season with a back injury), the Bluejays are less deep and less tall than they were a month ago.
But a lot of what Creighton does well starts with the versatility of Martin Krampelj (#15), a 6’9” forward who scored 20 on St. John’s last year. Krampelj is fluid, mobile, has a motor, and is a threat for lob plays. Shooting 65% inside the arc, he has good moves in the post, can crash the glass on both ends. Krampelj (pronounced like “cromple”) can shoot from outside the arc but is currently 6/24 (25%) on the season. He can get into foul trouble, however.
Damien Jefferson (#23) is a presence inside and outside who can rebound a bit at 6’5”. He can also shoot from deep at 43% if he plays. If not, the Bluejays have gotten solid contributions from freshman Christian Bishop (#13). The Missouri native has been perfect from the field since the Nebraska game, going 12/12 since. At 6’7” and 205 pounds, he’s not big, but he is solid with his post moves.
Samson Froling (#31) sees limited minutes. At 7’, he is an able shot blocker.
Despite being undersized, Mitch Ballock (#24) often ends up playing a stretch-four role. Ballock is an ok ballhandler, but has focused on shooting from deep; he’s taken 28 shots from beyond the arc and 3 from inside the arc in Big East play. And why not; he’s hitting 64% from outside the arc against the Big East squads and dishing out assists at the third-highest rate on the team.
Ty-Shon Alexander (#5) is a 6’4” guard who can create his shot a little. He’s only shooting 31% in Big East play from outside the arc but 40% from deep on the season. He has solid defensive hands and has multiple steals in each of his last three games. As the player who takes the most shots for Creighton, he needs to be guarded.
At point guard, junior Davion Mintz (#1) provides low-turnover steadiness and strong shooting. But freshman Marcus Zegarowski (#11) has emerged with Jefferson’s injury to be a creative force on the floor for the Bluejays. Zegarowski can create, is crafty with the ball, has good vision and timing; he is leading the team in assist rate this season. And the 6’2” guard from Massachusetts can score on both sides of the arc. (And he can rebound well.)
Keys to the Game
Dominate the transition game. St. John’s loves to run, Creighton loves to run. St. john’s needs to show that they can assault the rims even more than Creighton can — and hopefully draw some fouls in the process.
Move the ball in the halfcourt, the Red Storm has to move the ball crisply, and with energy. Sometimes, late in games, the ball has been sticking to certain players, or the Red Storm has slowed the pace. Slowing is ok, but lackluster ball movement makes a team far easier to defend. Shooting jump shots instead of probing makes the team easier to defend. Moving the ball and attacking will earn St. John’s open three-point attempts. (Which they will need to make.)
Defend the glass. Every team knows they will have a chance to get second chance opportunities. Playing a team that is often as perimeter-oriented and undersized as the Johnnies, St. John’s has a chance to put up strong(er) defensive rebounding numbers.
Hard to predict not knowing whether or not Shamorie Ponds will be out, but we will say that DePaul does things that get between the Johnnies and scoring. And this year, Creighton looks less defensively formidable than the Blue Demons did.
With smart shots and a better game from either Mustapha Heron or Marvin Clark II, Red Storm win in a fun game, 86-78.