St. John's blog East Coast Bias has moved to new SB Nation digs over at Rumble in the Garden, but that didn't prevent Pico from stopping by to give some thoughts about the Red Storm before they take on DePaul tomorrow at Carnesseca Arena. My thoughts will go up over there some time later today.
CCB: This game is at Carnesseca Arena and not Madison Square Garden. Is that good or bad for St. John's?
RITG: I'm not one to believe that the venue causes teams to play better or worse... but Carnesecca has not been a great home court for the Red Storm this year. A quick look at the team's performances (averaged) gives me this: the team's average performance at Carnesecca is 1.01 points/ per possession - and 1.05 overall. In conference, they put up a woeful .88 ppp and a .97 against Cincinnati and Rutgers, respectively.
The defense has been better at Carnesecca - allowing .95 ppp on average to foes (1 point per possession overall). The problem seems to be all free throws, where the team shoots 57.9% from the line at Carnesecca and 78.2% at MSG. Interestingly, opponents are shooting 68.6% from the line at MSG... and 75.6% at Carnesecca. Strange. Mostly an anomaly? Or is it a mental problem for the Red Storm?
CCB: This is sort of funny to say, but this game might between two of the hottest teams in the Big East. What's been fueling St. John's recent 4-game winning streak?
RITG: I really hate to go for something so amorphous, but I will - toughness and versatility. The games have been won in different ways - two close games against Pitt and Cincinnati, two solid wins against Marquette and Connecticut. But they've all been different:
- Against Pitt, the team didn't have Dwight Hardy for much of the first half.
- Against Marquette, St. John's forced 13 steals and turned the Eagles' helter-skelter game plan against them.
- Against Cincinnati, the Johnnies packed in the defense and made the Bearcats have to shoot their way to victory (which they almost did).
- Against Connecticut, Hardy and D.J. Kennedy assaulted the Huskies' aggressiveness and cut off lanes to the basket.
So maybe we can also say "good game planning" has fueled the win streak, as well. Certainly, the team is getting the pieces to play together. Hardy is the offensive threat, Justin Burrell and Sean Evans have made a nice post tandem, Kennedy is learning how to be aggressive in the system, Malik Boothe is playing some great defense.
CCB: In your opinion has St. John's secured an NCAA Tournament berth already? Would losing to DePaul put a big kink in those plans?
RITG: I think the Red Storm are in. They've hit 9 wins and have a number of good wins. They won't want to lose 5 straight to end the season, obviously, and losing to DePaul will just bring up the questions about the team that will start to dog them - the lack of rebounding, inconsistent post scoring, the turnovers.
CCB: Having seen the Red Storm out muscle Northwestern I expect them to do the same thing to a young DePaul team. Anything you have to dispute that?
RITG: Not really. St. John's has used their muscle when they can, but recently have been playing against fairly brawny opponents. Besides Krys Faber, the Blue Demons aren't filled with a lot of brawn... that said, I don't know that the game will be played deep in the paint.
I also don't think the Red Storm will play much man (as they did against the Wildcats when they got hot), even though that will leave the three-point shooters open. I expect a good deal of running from the Red Storm, a lot of turnovers forced (possibly on both sides) and then some zone when the Blue Demons get hot.
CCB: Dwight Hardy. Wow. Does he have a chance to be the Big East's Player of the Year? Would you vote for him?
RITG: I think so. But I might go for Ben Hansbrough, to be honest. I love Hardy's game and what he means to St. John's, but Hansbrough has been a more consistent and versatile player.