Hello Sun Devils, our old friend/ We come to match up with you again...
With apologies to Simon and Garfunkel, St. John’s annual matchup with Arizona State is on tap for Saturday at Mohegan Sun Arena in Connecticut.. This year’s tournament is a two-day event, one where the wild & athletic styles of ASU matches up with the wild style of the Red Storm — but this time, with a new coach.
St. John’s has lost the last two matchups, held at bay by Bobby Hurley’s crew in both games, looking the part of a team that was lacking some element of talent to catch up.
Will this game be different, despite the loss of some star talents from last season? This is the Red Storm’s first high-major opponent, and a chance to see where the team, and its depth, really stands against the kind of athletes the Johnnies will see in league play.
Who: St. John’s Red Storm (4-1 ) vs. Arizona State Sun Devils (2-1)
When: Saturday, November 23rd, 2:30 PM ET
Where: Mohegan Sun Arena, Uncasville, CT
Audio: Tune In Radio
Tickets: Tickets are available as low as $10/ each for the tournament.
Last Meeting: The Sun Devils are like old frenemies, like that person who edges you out for a rare seat on the commuter rail so many mornings, like that person from that other unit at your workplace that you know is a rival, but can’t figure out why.
Last March, both St. John’s and Arizona State stumbled into the tournament. But St. John’s was a little more flawed, getting ousted by the Sun Devils by the score of 74-65. In the next game, coach Bobby Hurley’s former assistant at Buffalo crushed the Sun Devils. Make of that what you will.
The previous December, Chris Mullin’s Red Storm took a 82-70 loss to ASU in the Staples Center in another Basketball Hall of Fame Classic. That game was better than the NCAA Tournament loss, at least; most of the game was closer than the final score.
Some Arizona State Instagram Influencers
Other people who went to Arizona State: Mary Kay LeTourneau | Scott Peterson
We did the alumni last year: Jimmy Kimmel, some porn stars, David Spade.
Scouting Arizona State
Arizona State opened their season in China against Colorado. Unlike earlier trips involving NCAA hoops teams in China, nothing untoward happened, and no players got arrested. That’s a plus.
The Sun Devils this year have played three games, losing in China and winning against two Hall of Fame Classic participants from the other bracket, Rider and Central Connecticut State.
ASU has done a great job in forcing turnovers and using their athleticism to crank up the pace; they have forced turnovers on 21% or more of opponent possessions in all three games. They have rebounded well on defense in all three games.
But the offense, while good, shows some warts. The team is shooting 32% from outside the arc. The offense has been guard-focused, with last year’s returnees up front not factoring heavily into the action.
On offense, point guard Remy Martin (#1) has been an effective leader, shooting 43% on shots beyond the arc and 56% inside the arc. His steal rate has been high, he leads the team in assists, and continues to be a threat.
Alongside Martin, freshman Jaelen House (#10) and junior college transfer Alonzo Verge (#11) add passing and scoring punch. Or they should be. While House has been decent, Verge has gone 0/11 from beyond the arc. House has shot 4/14 from distance.
Senior Rob Edwards (#2), in his second season coming over from Cleveland State, continues to be a spot-up shooter, shooting 50% from deep. He’s not wildly athletic and not a shot creator, but he will nail his opportunities.
Up front, freshman Jalen Graham (#24) has led the team in minutes inside. He’s been a dunk machine, doing his damage at the rim and shooting 71% from the field. Surprisingly, the local product has not made much of an impact rebounding, despite standing 6’9”; he has 11 rebounds (four offensive) in 65 minutes.
Kimani Lawrence (#14), a 6’8” holdover from last year, is athletic but will drift away from the basket to shoot jumpers and threes. He will block some shots, but hasn’t been a big rebounder. Taeshon Cherry (#35), a 6’8” holdover from last year, is athletic but will drift away from the basket to shoot jumpers even more than Lawrence. Romello White (#23), a 6’8” holdover from last year, will go straight for the basket on offense; he does rebound well.
Caleb Christopher (#3) and Elias Valtonen (#5) are two more players who may see time.
A list of players who played last season in the game, by team:
Arizona State: G Remy Martin, G Rob Edwards, F Taeshon Cherry, F Romello White, F Kimani Lawrence
St. John’s: G LJ Figueroa, G Mustapha Heron
Keys to the Game
Don’t get run out of the gym. In a game where both teams want to run, St. John’s has to maintain a level of control and poise, not taking the first easy shot available. It will be a bit like playing themselves, but the other team has more experience in their chaos-making system. Point guard play will be key, as will transition floor balance.
Win on the glass. Against a bigger opponent with multiple 6’8” bodies to throw around, how will Josh Roberts and Julian Champagnie fare? Will they still generate second-shot opportunities?
Stars shine. Mustapha Heron and LJ Figueroa will need to get some scoring done early to set the pace — and allow the rest of the team, with far much less experience on the floor — settle in to a bigger-time atmosphere against a high-major opponent.
Minutes of hell: 25, Minutes of What The Hell?: 10, Minutes of IDK: 5
St. John’s wins 79-74.