Time for another visit to the Red Storm.
Our good friend Pico, who you may know from his many basketball roundtables at The East Coast Bias, has jumped ship and is the official St. John’s blogger for Sports Blog Nation. His new site Rumble In The Garden is now live and we’re honored he asked us to be his first big Q&A. We’ve done this before so let’s get right to it.
1. Orange::44: St. John’s has had an up and down season so far. How the hell did they lose to Bonaventure and Fordham?
Rumble In The Garden: Experimentation. You know, like kids and drugs? No, the staff was trying to install a more aggressive style of play, but that style exposed some weaknesses in decision-making and defense. And then the staff decided to slow it down, which has been more successful. The team also was struggling to close out on shooters when playing the faster style; they've shored up that weakness a bit.
2. Orange::44: They have bounced back recently beating Big East heavy Georgetown but lost to Notre Dame. What was the difference in those games?
Rumble: St. John's was faster in their defensive rotations against the Hoyas. They were also more controlled or principled in how they went about their offense and defense. And they got better position against the Hoyas. The Irish are also a much better perimeter shooting team; and they can make the Johnnies pay for leaving gaps on the perimeter.
3. Orange::44: Obviously home court advantage in the Big East is important, but Madison Square Garden is usually owned by the Orange. What effect will the crowd have on this game?
Rumble: St. John's fans might actually attend this one; I hear it's a sellout, and that can't just be Syracuse fans from the NYC-area taking up the seats. It should be a pretty lively atmosphere; the game against the Hoyas had a homecourt feel. This one will be a little more neutral, but better than the pro-Cuse feel some recent games at the Garden have felt like.
4. Orange::44: Ten seniors. Break down who to look for?
Rumble: Justin Brownlee is an excellent finisher inside. Look for him to get some touches, but he might pass against Syracuse's length.
Dwight Hardy handles the ball and is a dangerous outside shooter. If Malik Boothe can play, Hardy might have some time off the ball and Dwight can stroke it.
DJ Kennedy is a slasher and can make plays off the dribble.
Justin Burrell will be working the post with strength; he has good athleticism.
Paris Horne is a defensive specialist who will dunk on folks.
5. Orange::44: What is the biggest weakness of this St. John’s team?
Rumble: Either size or shooting. They've played bigger than they are, but I think they will struggle against bigger teams. But the lack of outside shooting has meant that they need to play a controlled style to get the shots they want. If they don't get looks in the paint, the offense (as it has been) struggles. There are players who have shot well in the past, and may shoot well in the future. But right now, no one's killing it from outside.
6. Orange::44: Put it on the line. Is St. John’s making the NCAA Tournament this season?
Rumble: I'm not ready to say yes. But if I have to put it on the line, I say yes.
Thanks to Pico for answering my questions. My answers to his questions can be viewed here. Check back tomorrow with our usual preview of the Syracuse / St. John’s tilt live from New York, and check out Rumble In The Garden for all your St. John's musings.