After St. John’s seemingly locked up an NCAA Tournament bid with a win over Villanova on Sunday, Mustapha Heron said that the NCAA Tournament was third on their list of priorities behind finishing the season strong and doing well in the Big East Tournament.
Heron and the Red Storm are talking about the right priorities. Despite three high end (Quad 1 in the parlance of the NCAAs NET rankings) wins, the at-large decisions still have to be made. The team still needs wins. Bad losses still mar a resume and affect seeding.
Chris Mullin's team needs to finish strong. Finishingthe season strong starts at Providence.
Who: St. John’s Red Storm (19-7, 7-6 Big East) vs Providence Friars (14-12, 4-9 Big East)
Where: Dunkin Donuts Center (capacity: 12,993)
When: Wednesday, February 20th, 8:30 PM ET
TV: Fox Sports 1 | online
Audio: TuneIn Radio | online
Odds: Providence, -1
Last Meeting: With Heron out, St. John’s lost in a choppy one at the Garden to the Providence Friars, 70-56.
St. John’s: Last season final KenPom Ranking: 74 | Current KenPom Ranking: 50
Providence: Last season final KenPom Ranking: 63 | Current KenPom Ranking: 95
Scouting the Matchup
Providence is having a rough February. The Friars are 1-4 this month with their win coming at the expense of the Red Storm. But as evidenced last year, there are few things in life scarier than a desperate team coached by Ed Cooley.
As for St. John’s, forwards Sedee Keita and Josh Roberts will likely be asked to make heavier contributions in this matchup against the Friars.
In the last matchup with Providence, Roberts set a career high in minutes with 14, and Keita picked up 19 minutes of his own in a spot start.
The Red Storm need to take more than 12 of 54 shots from distance, and need to force enough misses to get the running game going. Heron's play should give some more looks for Shamorie Ponds and LJ Figueroa.
The big man duo, with Figueroa, will be key in keeping Providence off the offensive glass and will need to grab more than the 5 combined rebounds they grabbed last time against Providence.
Speaking of keys...
Keys to the Game
Finish defensive possessions. In conference, Providence is 1-3 in games where they grab fewer than 10 offensive rebounds. After St. John’s loss at home to Providence, Coach Mullin noted that getting out in transition starts with grabbing defensive rebounds. In that game, Providence grabbed 16 offensive rebounds to St. John’s 16 defensive rebounds. Rebounding 50% of an opponent's missed shots is particularly bad and a recipe for disaster.
Dictate the pace. Providence ranks 180th in pace with 71.5 possessions per game. St. John’s ranks 41st with 74.9. If Providence wins in an up-and-down horse-race, then hats off to them.
Finish at the rim. Providence has committed the second most fouls in Big East play and is 5th in the conference in blocked shots. if Providence does not foul or step up its rim protection, there could be several #SCtop10 moments at their expense of St. John’s gets to the rack.
St. John’s displays consistency on the road and picks up a 79-71 victory over the Friars at the Dunk.