Two things seem certain. St. John's might be talented enough to win the Big East. And they might struggle without Chris Obekpa.
The loss to Gonzaga was the perfect scenario of how fortunes can change in an instant. Even though Phil Greene IV was up to the challenge on a night when D`Angelo's shot was not falling, the mistakes of Rysheed Jordan and the extended time on the bench for Obekpa ultimately did St. John's in.
In this next game against Niagara it will be important for Rysheed to play well and lead the way, and important for Obekpa to remain on the floor - with a huge matchup against Syracuse just days away.
Niagara is coming in with a record of 1-3 with it's lone win coming in the form of a 61-59 victory over winless St. Peter's. In their first game of the season the Purple Eagles were throttled by the Pitt Panthers 78-45 after being down 24 points at halftime.
Niagara is a young team that, much like the Red Storm, lacks size and depth up front. They shoot 42% inside the arc and 29% from outside the arc so far this season. They have allowed opponents to shoot 50% inside the arc and 41% outside the arc (one of the worst marks in the country).
With no true center and boasting only 6'5'' sophomore forward Ramone Snowden and 6'5'' junior forward Rayvon Harris as their starting big men, Niagara is small on the front line.
After being led in scoring by sophomore guard Emile Blackman with 16 points against Pitt in their first game, Harris led the team with 19 in the win against St. Peter's going 7-9 from the field.
The last two contests for Niagara have been led by the scoring efforts of 6'2'' freshman guard Karonn Davis out of Phily. Davis scored 13 points shooting 5-12 from the field and 1-3 from behind the arc and added 5 rebounds, 2 assists and a steal against St. Bonaventure in Niagara's last game. Against Hartford Davis scored 17 points hitting 50% of his shots including 3-7 from behind the arc to go along with 2 rebounds, 4 assists, one steal and only 2 turnovers, impressive for a freshman.
Davis is quickly establishing himself as the offensive leader of the young Purple Eagles.
Rounding out the starting five for Niagara is 6'2'' sophomore guard Wesley Myers who has struggled offensively going 1-7 from the field against the Bonnies.
6'8'' freshman forward Dominique Reid had 7 points and 7 rebounds in 17 minutes against St. Bonaventure and adds size off the bench.
Freshman guard Julian Richardson from Woodland Hills, CA, made his season debut against the Bonnies. Richardson played 14 minutes going 1-1 from behind the arc and missed his only other field goal attempt. He did manage to get to the free throw line and hit 1-2; he also added one assist against Bonaventure. At 6'3'', Richardson is a nice addition to a team that needs help scoring the basketball.
After fighting to the finish and coming up just short against Gonzaga the Red Storm will be looking to start fast and punish a weaker opponent. This should be a good opportunity for the St. John's coaching staff to get a few things worked out before the big matchup with Syracuse.
What's your prediction? Will the Johnnies have a letdown game while looking ahead to Syracuse or will they throttle a team that seems to be struggling with size and scoring?