After dropping their Big East opener and having their seven game winning streak snapped on Wednesday against Seton Hall, St. John's (11-2, 0-1 Big East) will return home on Saturday afternoon to take on the Butler Bulldogs (10-4, 0-1 Big East) in their Big East home opener at Carnesecca Arena.
Breaking news: St. John's will be without Rysheed Jordan, taking a leave of absence for personal reasons.
How to Watch/Listen
The 4:00 P.M. game will be nationally broadcasted on CBS Sports Network with John Sadak, Doug Gottlieb, and sideline reporter Allie LaForce on the call. No online availability, it seems.
If you're unable to make it to a TV, the game can also be heard on the St. John's radio broadcast on 570 AM (WMCA) with John Minko and Brandon Tierney calling the action.
The Red Storm are currently favored by 5 at home over Butler at the moment.
Scouting St. John's
Currently sitting at 11-2 and ranked 15th in the nation, the Red Storm will face another big test early in conference play when the 10-4 Bulldogs come into town on Saturday.
Although Butler dropped their conference opener against Villanova on Wednesday, they have already generated the feeling around the Big East and across the country that they are one of the most surprising teams in the nation to start the season so far. The Bulldogs struggled mightily in their first season in the Big East last year, going 14-17 and losing both of their games against St. John's, but this year's team has seen much more success so far.
St. John's defeated Butler handily twice last season, but this year's game will be a bit tougher. The Johnnies don't have forwards like God`sGift Achiuwa and Jakarr Sampson to attack the Butler interior.
St. John's dependent on their defense. On days like Wednesday where the opponent breaks the Red Storm pressure and makes shots, who is there to step up and get buckets?
The St. John's scoring attack is very dependent on D`Angelo Harrison (19.5 points/ game), but Phil Greene IV - who scored 15 points but needed 16 shots to do it - and
Rysheed Jordan need to add scoring punch in the half court. someone else needs to add scoring punch in the half court.
Leading the way for the much-improved Bulldogs is junior guard Kellen Dunham, who leads the team with just over 16 points per game. And while Dunham is at the top in the scoring department for Butler, it will likely be their weapons in the frontcourt that St. John's will have to gameplan for going into Saturday's matchup.
6'9" forward Kameron Woods will likely be the X-factor for the Bulldogs as he battles down low with Chris Obekpa. Although he blocked five shots, Obekpa was only able to grab five rebounds in 33 minutes for the Red Storm on Wednesday against Seton Hall. Obekpa struggled to defend Seton Hall freshman Angel Delgado in that game, and his task will be no easier against Woods on Saturday.
Aside from Woods, St. John's will likely have to watch out for forwards Roosevelt Jones and Andrew Chrabascz. Jones, who missed all of last season due to injury, has come back strong this year with averages of 11 points and six rebounds per game so far. Meanwhile, the 6'7" Chrabascz has averaged just under 10 points and four rebounds per game so far on the season.
Obekpa and Sir'Dominic Pointer will obviously have the assignment of dealing with these Bulldogs forwards for a majority of the game, but Red Storm fans will likely be wondering if they'll see any of Christian Jones or Joey De La Rosa on Saturday, as the two played just a combined three minutes against Seton Hall.
St. John's Keys to the Game
Defense. So what will the Red Storm have to do in order to pick up their first conference win of the season on Saturday? Well first of all, they'll simply need to play better defense than they did against Seton Hall, especially against the 3-pointer. St. John's allowed the Pirates to shoot 46% from the field on Wednesday, including an unacceptable 50% in the first half, along with 44% from 3-point range.
And while Butler is not the strongest team offensively, ranking 135th in the nation with 70.1 points per game and shooting just under 34% from three as a team, if the Red Storm play the same level of defense that they did in their Big East opener it could be a long day in Queens.
Transition. Also key for St. John's will be their ability to get out in transition for some easy baskets. It seems like we've been spoiled with highlight plays from the Red Storm so far this season, but those same highlight plays seemed to be absent from Wednesday's loss in Newark.
That's because the Johnnies were unable to score nearly any easy baskets in transition, as they had just 14 points off turnovers - and not the easy, team-inspiring dunks of non-conference play - and 14 fast break points. Seton Hall did an outstanding job of forcing St. John's into running a set offense, which is something that we all know they struggle with, and Butler will try to do the same on Saturday.
Frontcourt production. And finally, the Johnnies will need much more production out of their frontcourt if they expect to deal Butler their second conference loss of the season.
The aforementioned Chris Obekpa and Sir'Dominic Pointer combined for just 11 points and 12 rebounds on Wednesday against Seton Hall, compared to the Pirates two main starting forwards (Angel Delgado and Brandon Mobley) who combined for 26 points and 22 rebounds. If those kind of lopsided numbers occur on Saturday in Carnesecca Arena, it could spell disaster for the Red Storm.
While this game likely isn't a cliche "must-win" for the Red Storm with so many games left to be played in the conference, with a loss in their conference opener, tough tests against Villanova and at Providence coming up in the next few games, and memories of an 0-5 start to Big East play last season in the back of their minds, St. John's players definitely understand the importance of this Big East matchup.
What's your score prediction?