With final exams in the rearview mirror, the St. John’s men’s basketball team set their sights on a Saturday afternoon battle with long-time city foe Fordham. The Johnnies are looking to shake off a surprising 86-80 loss to Boston College in the NABC Brooklyn Showcase, where they looked helpless to stop an otherwise pedestrian Eagles offense.
Fordham is currently 5-5 early this season and are coming off a buzzer-beating win over North Texas this past Sunday, which was coincidentally a part of the NABC Brooklyn Showcase. The Rams are currently ranked 189th in KenPom and 213th in NET, and this Saturday’s game against St. John’s will be their first Quad 1/Quad 2 game of the season.
Who: St. John’s Red Storm vs. Fordham Rams (5-5)
When: Saturday, December 16, 2023, 3:30 p.m.
Where: Madison Square Garden, New York, NY
Opening Odds: St. John’s (-15), O/U at 144.5
Scouting the Rams
Fordham has tumbled back to Earth this winter. First year head coach Keith Urgo led the Rams to just their third 25-win season in program history last season, but no one has stepped up to replicate the production of the departing Khalid Moore and Darius Quisenberry. As a result, the Rams are rated a dismal 313th in offensive efficiency according to KenPom.
UTSA transfer Japhet Medor (11.2 ppg) has been tasked as a lead guard, but he has struggled mightily. He’s shooting 29.1 percent from inside-the-arc, and his three point percentage is only a little better at 31 percent.
They do have fine options off the ball, though. Josh Rivera (10.8 ppg), Antrell Charlton (6.6 ppg), and longtime Ram Kyle Rose (5.9 ppg) all shoot better than 35 percent from three. Starting center and defensive specialist Abdou Tsimbila (10.0 ppg) is actually turning into their most reliable option, shooting 65 percent from the field on more than nine attempts a game.
Their finishing at the basket and three-point shooting has been shaky, at best, but their free throw shooting has already lost them multiple games this season. In their stunning 3-point loss to NJIT, they shot 17-of-31. In a 5-point loss to Bucknell, they shot 14-of-25. In a 7-point loss against Kent State, they went 21-of-35. In total, they are shooting a retched 61 percent from the charity stripe this season. With a 42.1 percent free throw attempt rate, teams are delighted to send the Rams to the line to squander their freebies.
Fordham’s best offense might be their defense. They force a lot of turnovers (16.7 per game), reject shots with regularity thanks to Abdou Tsimbila, and they’re ranked in the top 70 in effective field goal percentage allowed.
Keys to the game
Efense - St. John’s allowed Boston College to shoot 61 percent from two and 38 percent from three in their ugly loss on Sunday. Despite the gobs of experience on this squad, this St. John’s team is still trying to figure out how to play defense. This should be a “get right” game against a woeful Fordham offense. However, if there is a repeat of Sunday night’s performance against this Fordham team, it might be time to hit the panic button.
Get Dingle into rhythm - Jordan Dingle is having a difficult time transitioning into high-major basketball, and it was evident when he shot 3-of-15 against Boston College. He needs to get into rhythm before conference play begins next week, so a strong performance could go a long way in preparing him for the Big East gauntlet.
Revenge game, take two - Joel Soriano’s first attempt at a revenge game over his former squad went inauspiciously, only registering 4 points in eight minutes back in the 2021-22 season. He’s a completely different player two years later, and this could be the perfect time for him to show the Rams what they’ve been missing.
If St. John’s makes Fordham’s offense look respectable, or even remotely good, it’s time to panic about their early defensive struggles. I don’t foresee that happening against a Fordham team that lacks dynamic playmakers and heavily relies on getting to the free throw line. The Red Storm should get off the schneid and create some momentum heading into the Big East season. St. John’s wins, 77-62.