St. John’s looks to leave Charleston with two wins, as they face the Utah Utes (3-1) in the third place consolation game of the Charleston Classic. So far in the tournament, Utah has defeated Wake Forest, 77-70, and they have lost to Houston, 76-66.
Who: St. John’s Red Storm vs. Utah Utes (3-1)
When: Sunday, November 19, 2023, 5:30 p.m.
Where: TD Arena, Charleston, South Carolina
Odds: St. John’s (+4.5), O/U at 147.6
Scouting the Utes
Suffice to say, Utah is big. Very big. According to KenPom, they are the tallest team in the country in terms of average height (79.5 inches). Patrolling the paint will be the 7-foot-1 Branden Carlson, who is playing in his fifth and final season for the Utes. The two-time All-Pac 12 honoree has been impressive in his first four games, averaging 18.8 points per game on good efficiency. Back on Friday, he scored a career-high 31 points in a win over Wake Forest. His partner-in-crime in the starting frontcourt is another 7-footer, Lawson Lovering, who isn’t as offensively gifted as Carlson, but creates even more interior issues for opposing teams.
The Utes have had a strong start from beyond the arc. In Craig Smith’s first two seasons, they shot a measly 33 percent from three. This season, they’re firing from three at 37 percent, with senior guard Gabe Madsen leading the squad with 13 threes through four games.
Keys to the game
No second-half swoon - In their last three games, St. John’s has been outscored by 27 points in the second half. They looked gassed as Dayton went on their momentum-shifting run with about 10 minutes to go in Friday’s loss. The Red Storm needs to dig deep and find their second wind after the halftime break.
They might be giants - The towering Branden Carlson and Lawson Lovering could create tons of issues in creating offense at the basket. St. John’s has not exactly been lights-out around the perimeter (36 percent shooting from three). They need to stay strong when setting screens and they’ll have to space the floor to create cutting lanes, or else this will be a long day inside the arc.
No ho-hum play for Ledlum - It’s been a rough early season start for Chris Ledlum. Since the Michigan game, he’s shooting 20.8 percent from the field and 25 percent from three. It’s imperative for the Harvard transfer to find a way to break out of his cold offensive stretch.
If the start of this season has taught us anything about St. John’s, it’s that there is a lot of work to be done in order to make this an NCAA tournament team. The size mismatch will pose lots of problems for the Johnnies, and they’ll leave Charleston with a losing record. Utah wins by 8.