“You’re right there on the cusp of beating a good team that’s been playing really well and just could not finish the last minute and a half the correct way.”
Those were the remarks of head coach Mike Anderson following another brutal Red Storm loss. This time it came against Xavier, a team that the Red Storm held a five-point lead on with two minutes remaining.
Unfortunately, this has been the central theme of this Red Storm team. Execution late in games has cost the Johnnies numerous games. This includes losses to Butler, Seton Hall, Georgetown, and Xavier, all of which came at home. Had the Red Storm closed out those contests, they would be sitting at 18-8, and likely headed for the NCAA Tournament.
Nevertheless, there is no time to dwell in the Big East. Up next for the Johnnies is Seton Hall, arguably the best team in the conference. This begins a stretch for St. John’s in which they will face five straight teams currently ranked in the AP Poll.
Who: St. John’s Red Storm (14-12, 3-10 Big East) vs. #16 Seton Hall Pirates (19-7, 11-3 Big East)
When: Sunday, February 23rd, 2:00 PM ET
Where: Prudential Center, Newark, NJ
TV: Fox | Fox Sports Go
Audio: St. John’s website provides free audio for the game. The stream can be found by clicking here.
Tickets: For any fans hoping to catch the game, it will only set you back $37. Fans can purchase tickets by clicking this link.
Last Meeting: Just over a month ago, Myles Powell took over Madison Square Garden in the second half, pushing the Pirates past St. John’s 82-79.
Last Big East game: It was the same old story for St. John’s last Monday, as they failed to close out Xavier at home, losing 77-74 in the final seconds.
Seton Hall very nearly coughed up their last contest against Butler. Despite the Bulldogs late effort, the Pirates were powered to victory by an alley-oop at the buzzer.
Scouting the Pirates
Seton Hall is well on its way to earning a high seed in the NCAA Tournament. So far this season they own victories over Maryland, Marquette, Butler, Villanova, among others. They are tied for the most Quadrant 1 in the country alongside Baylor and Kansas. The winner of Baylor-Kansas on Saturday will stand alone with the most.
The Pirates can beat teams in a variety of ways. Nevertheless, their strength is defense. KenPom rates Seton Hall as the best defensive team in the Big East, and the 12th best in the nation. The Pirates make it incredibly difficult for opponents to get easy looks at the basket. They also have a penchant for blocking shots.
Senior center Romaro Gill leads the team in blocked shots. He is averaging a little over 3 blocks per contest. He has been the anchor of Seton Hall’s defense this season, as they rely on this 7-foot-2 menace to bolster their frontcourt.
For as strong of a defensive team as Seton Hall is, they do have some issues on that end. They do struggle to rebound out of their defense, and as a result, give up a slew of second chance baskets. In the last meeting between St. John’s and Seton Hall, the Johnnies had 16-second chance points and 15 offensive rebounds. St. John’s must focus on crashing the offensive glass to score on Seton Hall.
More so than many other teams in the nation, Seton Hall can keep pace with St. John’s. The Pirates are not afraid to play in transition. They are an effective scoring team and rarely do they shy away from contact. However, the Pirates are not a formidable threat from distance. Collectively they are only shooting about 33% from three-point range.
Much of Seton Hall’s offense runs through their backcourt. The duo of Myles Powell and Quincy McKnight has been exceptional this season. Powell is currently averaging 21 points, 5 rebounds, and 2 assists per game. He is also in the running for National Player of the Year. McKnight has been a nice compliment to Powell, as he is much more of a distributing point guard. He is averaging 12 points, 5 assists, and 3 rebounds per contest.
Another impact player to watch on Seton Hall is Sandro Mamukelashvili. This junior forward was last seen hitting an improbable buzzer-beater. He is a smart player that has earned the trust of coach Kevin Willard. He is averaging 11 points and 5 rebounds per game.
Keys to Contest
Crash the offensive glass: As mentioned above, one way to attack the Pirates defense is to get on the offensive glass. It was a significant source of offense last time St. John’s faced Seton Hall. The trio of Josh Roberts, Julian Champagnie, and Marcellus Ellington will likely be tasked with doing just that.
Turn the Pirates over: Another way St. John’s attacked Seton Hall last time was by turning them over. In that January contest, Seton Hall turned over the basketball 19 times, leading to 20 Red Storm points off of turnovers. The Johnnies are going to need a repeat performance in that category.
Keep Powell in check: Simply put, Myles Powell is a game-wrecker. When he is rolling, it seems impossible to slow him down. Regardless, it is going to be critical for the Red Storm to keep Powell from taking over the game. They cannot afford to let him have 29 points like he did the last time these two met.
It is tough to imagine St. John’s finishing the season without another victory. However, it is also tough to foresee a victory on the road, at the first place team in the Big East. Seton Hall is having a special season, expect them to take care of the Johnnies.
Seton Hall: 82 | St. John’s: 70