St. John’s has the opportunity to put an exclamation to their current homestand with a victory over 13th ranked Villanova. After losing to Providence at the Garden then being forced to overtime by Butler, the current homestand has underwhelmed in comparison to the last road trip which included wins at Creighton and at Marquette.
A win against Villanova would be a fitting end to the homestand and arguably lock up a tournament bid for St. John’s.
A week ago, Marquette provided the blueprint for beating Villanova. Notably, Marquette kept Villanova’s shooting from putting the game out of reach, as Villanova only shot 31% from deep.
With the exception of the Duke game, St. John’s has played to the level of its competition in almost every game against Power Conference teams. St. John’s has also played Villanova well over the past two seasons.
This should be a good game.
More on the matchup, below.
Who: St. John’s Red Storm (18-7, 6-6 Big East) vs Villanova Wildcats (20-5, 11-1 Big East)
Where: Madison Square Garden (capacity: 19,812)
When: Sunday, February 17th, 5:00 PM ET
TV: Fox Sports 1 | online
Audio: 570 AM WMCA | online
Odds: Villanova, -3
Last Meeting: St. John’s built a 13-point lead in the first half, but a late surge by VIllanova gave the Wildcats the win, 76-71, in Philadelphia.
St. John’s: Last season final KenPom Ranking: 74 | Current KenPom Ranking: 53
VIllanova: Last season final KenPom Ranking: 1 | Current KenPom Ranking: 21
Scouting the matchup
Since the two teams last met, there have been small changes on both sides. Villanova has lost forward Cole Swider to a broken bone in his right hand. Swider did not play major minutes, but he did provide some breathers for Eric Paschall, who is now on the floor for most minutes for the Wildcats.
Jermaine Samuels has stepped into a starting role, as Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree and Joe Cremo come off the bench. As a starter, Samuels is a reluctant shooter who can nevertheless stretch the floor, make decent passes, and most importantly — block shots. At 6’7”, 220, his defense will be tested on the likes of Mustapha Heron.
For St. John’s, the difference has been a willingness (or foul-driven need?) to play more bench. Forwards Sedee Keita and Josh Roberts have seen more time. Greg Williams Jr., who didn't ply in the first contest, is also available.
But how willing will Chris Mullin be to give extended minutes to his rawer bench? Williams, Roberts and Keita are less experienced defenders and commit fouls at a higher rate. But each brings a solid energy to a team that sometimes needs a breather to play its best.
Keys to the Game
Chase Villanova off the three-point line. Villanova has averaged just under 35 points a game from the three-point line in Big East play by both taking and making the most threes in the conference. Forcing Villanova to pump-fake and drive into the lane takes the Wildcats out of comfort zone offensively, albeit for potentially easier looks at the rim,
Defend aggressively. Villanova has the fewest turnovers in the Big East in conference play and ranks fourth in assist. The Wildcats operate within a disciplined and efficient offense that St. John’s will have to disrupt. The Red Storm accepted the trade-off of aggressive defense at the cost of foul trouble against Marquette and was able to hang on for the win. A similar effort defensively will be required against the Wildcats.
Have fun. After the Butler game, Coach Mullin talked about Duke’s Zion Williamson and later spoke about Okalhoma City Thunder’s Russell Westbrook and the joy that they play with. With joy being both an emphasis and a trend among quality players, it needs to be a priority for St. John’s.
Outside of keeping Villanova from shooting well, Marquette collectively did not not anything special like force turnovers or get Villanova in foul trouble. If St. John’s can do the same and force a few more turnovers, it should be enough for a chance to dance.
St. John’s wins, 76-71.