St. John’s Basketball Faces First Test of 2017-18 Against Nebraska
BLOOMINGTON, IN - DECEMBER 28: Glynn Watson Jr. #5 of the Nebraska Cornhuskers dribbles the ball while being guarded by Thomas Bryant #31 of the Indiana Hoosiers in the second half at Assembly Hall on December 28, 2016 in Bloomington, Indiana. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)

Tonight, St. John’s will look to start the season 3-0 when they take on Nebraska at Carnesecca Arena as part of the Gavitt Games.

It’s been a fairly easy first two games for the St. John’s Red Storm as they won both contests against New Orleans and Central Connecticut State by an average margin of 20.5 points. Tonight, the schedule gets a bit tougher as Nebraska heads to Carnesseca Arena as part of the Gavitt Games (6:30 p.m ET, FS1).

Now a win against Nebraska is not likely going to mean much in terms of an NCAA Tournament berth, but the Red Storm want to show they can rise to the challenge and defeat a Big Ten opponent after losing to Minnesota in last year’s Gavitt Games and to Rutgers in the preseason. Check out this quote from Shamorie Ponds Tuesday night courtesy of Jaden Daly from Daly Dose of Hoops

Nebraska has won each of its first two games against Eastern Illinois and North Texas, but they did trail in the second half against Eastern Illinois. On Monday, they defeated the Mean Green of North Texas by 19 (86-67).

There aren’t many expectations for the Cornhuskers this season in a crowded Big Ten. While they are picked to finish at the bottom of the conference, head coach Tim Miles has done a good job. In his six years at Nebraska, he has taken them to the NCAA Tournament once (2013-14).

In the first two games for the Cornhuskers, forward Isaiah Roby is averaging a double-double (11 points and 10 rebounds per game). Also, he has been able to play good defense at the rim with his shot blocking. The sophomore forward has 3.5 blocks per game (tied with Miles Bridges from Michigan State for second in the Big Ten).

While Nebraska is only sixth in their conference in rebounding, they have the second most offensive rebounds (36). Sophomore center Jordy Tshimanga does have eight rebounds per game and a team-high ten offensive rebounds.

For this game, keep an eye on how the teams do in the paint. Nebraska has the lowest two-point percentage (43 percent) of any team in the Big Ten, so it will be up to Kassoum Yakwe, Tariq Owens, and Marvin Clark Jr. to keep that trend going and force the Cornhuskers inside rather than shoot the three (10-for-33 as a team).

As for the backcourt, junior guard Glynn Watson Jr. has averaged 18 points per game. He was their leading scorer returning from last season. In addition to Watson Jr., keep an eye on James Palmer Jr. The Miami transfer has 15 points per game, but he is only 7-for-13 from the free throw line.

Right now, St. John’s has the edge with their guard play because they have a multitude of scoring options. During these first two games, Justin Simon has gone from an off-the-ball guard to attacking the rim and getting on the offensive glass. They had 43 points in the first half Tuesday night and that was without getting a single point from Marcus LoVett.

Most wouldn’t see this as a big game for St. John’s in the grand scheme of things. However, you have to remember they did lose to Rutgers in an exhibition game. A win for the Red Storm can keep their confidence going as they head towards the AdvoCare Invitational in Orlando next week.

I graduated from St. John's University with a degree in sports management. I previously wrote about the Johnnies at Rumble In the Garden.