The Big East Tournament takes over Madison Square Garden this week, and for once, the hometown Red Storm aren’t playing on the first day.
It is the first time since 2014-15 that St. John’s has earned a bye out of the first round of the Big East Tournament.
(You can admit it. It’s strange to have the Wednesday night of the Big East Tournament and not have the Red Storm in it, after all this time.)
St. John’s will matchup against Seton Hall in the quarterfinals of the tournament, their third matchup against the rivals across the Hudson this season. This is also the first time both teams have been in the top half of the Big East standings since 1999-2000 (St. John’s, by the way, won the Big East Tourney over UConn that year.)
This game is of equal importance for both teams. Bracket expert Joe Lunardi has both programs in his “next four out” column. A defeat for either team would undoubtedly put to rest any hope of making the NCAA Tournament. A win may not guarantee a berth, but with possible next opponent Villanova missing two lead guards, the field seems wide open.
Who: St. John’s Red Storm (16-10, 10-9 Big East) vs Seton Hall Pirates (13-2, 10-9 Big East)
When: Thursday, March 11, 2021, 3:00 PM
Where: Madison Square Garden, New York, NY (limited fans)
TV: FS1 | FoxSports Online
Radio: 570 AM | TuneIn Radio
Recapping the Season Series with Seton Hall
St. John’s and Seton Hall split the season series with Seton Hall winning the first matchup in Newark and St. John’s winning the most recent tilt in Queens on Saturday.
In the first matchup, Seton Hall dominated St. John’s from the tip-off. Co-Big East Player of the Year Sandro Mamukelashvilli scored 32 points and grabbed 9 rebounds en route to a 77-68 victory for the Pirates. An undersized St. John’s team had difficulty with a long and athletic Seton Hall frontcourt, as the Red Storm were outrebounded 41-32. St. John’s also struggled from behind the arc, making only 4/21 3-point attempts.
Saturday’s Seton Hall rematch appeared to be headed in the same direction, at first. Seton Hall jumped out to an 18-0 lead against a listless St. John’s team who were without the services of Big East Freshman of Year point guard Posh Alexander. But St. John’s revived, and went into the half trailing only by 10 points. In the second half, St. John’s demonstrated the tenacity that has become a signature of Mike Anderson coached teams. Behind the impressive play of Julian Champagnie (22 points) and Marcellus Earlington (12 points and 4/6 from the three), St. John’s outscored Seton Hall 53-33 in the second half. Final Score: 81-71.
Four Keys to the Game
Contain Sandro Mamukelashvilli: It is unlikely that St. John’s will entirely shut down the Co- Big East Player of the Year. However, St. John’s must try to force the ball out of Mamukelashvilli’s hands. One of the keys to St. John’s victory over Seton Hall on Saturday was the team’s ability to limit the big man to 15 points on 6-13 shooting. Dylan Addae-Wusu has had some success guarding Mamukleashvilli and it will take another Herculean effort from the guard to stop him again.
Guards Control the Pace: St. John’s and Seton Hall play contrasting styles of basketball. Seton Hall is at its best playing at a more deliberate pace while St. John’s thrives playing at a chaotic pace. The St. John’s guards must push the ball on Seton Hall misses and apply maximum pressure after St. John’s makes.
Gang Rebound: Seton Hall has one of the biggest frontlines in the conference with a frontcourt of Ike Obiagu and Sandro Mamukelashvilli. Despite its lack of size, St. John’s was able to outrebound Seton Hall 33-32 in Saturday’s victory. Julian Champagnie and Marcellus Earlington tied for the team lead in rebounds with only 6 rebounds each, but guards Rasheem Dunn and Greg Williams were able to pick up the slack, grabbing 5 rebounds apiece. St. John’s must once again commit to rebounding as a team and limit Seton Hall’s second chance opportunities.
A Team Effort: Led by Marcellus Earlington and Dylan Addae-Wusu, St. John’s bench outscored Seton Hall 33-16 on Saturday. Posh Alexander told the media that he expects to play against the Hall. But the team has to play like a team, not just wait for Posh Alexander to disrupt their opponents. In Alexander’s absence, Jonathan McGriff ran the second unit well on Saturday, and he may see more minutes on the floor. It is critical that St. John’s reserves continue their impressive play from Saturday.
A thriller that feels too close to call, but let’s give St. John’s the edge in a 80-78 victory.