On Saturday evening, St. John's faces Fordham as part of the Holiday Festival doubleheader.
"Local rivalries will be renewed when St John’s takes on Fordham and Rutgers takes on the Gaels of Iona," says the tagline on Ticketmaster.
While Iona and Rutgers may have some longstanding beef, the matchup between Fordham and St. John's has some history. Added to that history is Tom Pecora, who coached against St. John's a number of times at Hofstra and treated the game like his March Madness.
Jaden, who handles women's coverage here on the Rumble and has his own successful site, Daly Dose of Hoops, in addition to his play-by-play duties for colleges around the city, dropped some insight on the matchup against the Rams, why they are 1-7, and what St. John's expects to see.
(Jaden also raised the bar - succinct, informative answers here. Other Q and A-ers, be warned. The gauntlet is thrown DOWN.)
Q: Fordham comes in at 1-7 on the season. Is that a function of the tough schedule or had the plot gone wrong for Tom Pecora? If the latter, what's gone wrong?
A: Fordham's biggest reasons for the 1-7 start are both the challenging schedule, which Tom Pecora has said will never be seen again, as well as their nomadic start to the season. The Rams have only played one of their eight games at Rose Hill Gym, and they will have as many nonconference home games (three) as they will have played at Lehigh. Chris Gaston's injury doesn't make it any easier either.
Q: With Chris Gaston out (what's his injury?) who is the Rams' go to player? Who seems most capable of leading them out of the near-lossless wilderness?
A: Speaking of Gaston, he tore his meniscus in the third game of the season against Robert Morris (November 13th) and underwent arthroscopic surgery later that week. Expected to be out a month, Pecora has said he hopes to have him back for the Princeton game at the Barclays Center. In his absence, junior guard Branden Frazier has stepped up to lead the team; and is doing a solid job of it, but the Rams' most important player is Bryan Smith. As the enigmatic Smith goes, so too does the team. If he had more than one point and made a couple of shots against Manhattan, Fordham would have won. When he gets hot from beyond the arc, there could be an upset in the making.
Q: Why did St. John's draw Fordham again? Was that intentional? Also, talk about Tom Pecora's desire to build city rivalries and what it means for his program.
A: As far as Pecora's desire to play the local schools more often, it benefits Fordham more than anyone. Among the biggest reasons for that are the Rams' increased brand visibility and a selling point for the New York City high school players Pecora recruits as good as anyone else in the country.
Q: What does the future look like for the Rams in the A10?
A: Fordham does not have an easy road in the Atlantic 10, and that was before the arrival of VCU and Butler. The conference is still very deep for the future even after losing Temple and Charlotte, and before possibly bringing in a few Big East castoffs if realignment gets more disastrous. Fordham can eventually move toward the middle of the conference, but I'd be lying if I said they could turn into a perennial contender at the moment.
Q: Do you have any tidbits on the kind of offense/ defense they play? Will St. John's see zone? Man?
A: With Gaston on the shelf, Pecora has taken to playing four guards more often than not, which gives St. John's an athletic advantage that will enable them to press and spread the floor on every defensive possession. Pecora's consistent ball screens create a lot of moving parts in his offense, giving the transition game added value for the Red Storm. On defense, the Rams run a mixture of man and zone, but are prone to giving up three-pointers a little more than Pecora would like.