This afternoon, St. John’s and DePaul will face off against each other in Queens as both teams search for their first Big East win.
It’s been a rough start to the Big East season for the St. John’s Red Storm as they are one of only two teams to not have a conference win. Fortunately for them, they will face the other team that doesn’t have a win, the DePaul Blue Demons, this afternoon. You can watch the game on the YES Network at 2 p.m. ET.
Now, even though St. John’s is winless in the conference, they did get Shamorie Ponds back in the lineup Wednesday against Creighton and other players have stepped up in recent weeks like Bashir Ahmed (21 points on Wednesday).
While DePaul may seem like an easy win on paper, they have given some of the top teams in the Big East a scare. On December 30, the Blue Demons had a 16-point lead at Xavier but ended up losing the game 77-72. Two of their first three games in the conference have been against Xavier and Villanova.
On offense, DePaul has four players that average in double figures, led by junior guard Max Strus and his 18.6 points per game. Most of his shot attempts come from beyond the arc as he has attempted six or more threes in seven straight games. Plus, his 44 trifectas made are the fourth most in the conference.
With the way St. John’s has been outrebounded at times this season, they are going to have their hands full with the DePaul frontcourt. Their 12.3 offensive rebounds per game are second in the conference behind only Seton Hall (13.6). Despite that strong stat, their leading rebounder only has 6.1 rebounds per game (Tre’Darius McCallum).
Looking at this game from the Red Storm perspective, they need to find a way to drive the ball to the basket and get to the free throw line. Against Creighton on Wednesday, St. John’s had ten total free throws for the game and you can’t win consistently in the Big East with that low of a free throw attempt total.
Since Ponds got the chance to shake off the rust against Creighton, it should be expected that he would be more aggressive on offense and take the ball to the hoop. Another player that fits that mold is Justin Simon because he attacks the rim and doesn’t have the greatest jump shot.
When looking at this matchup, a low-scoring game should be expected since these teams have the two lowest points per game total in the Big East (DePaul – 75.1, St. John’s – 73.6). With defense at a premium, keep an eye on Tariq Owens.
Owens has improved his offensive game lately; the Red Storm need his shot blocking at the rim. On Wednesday, he had less than three blocks in a game (two) for the first time since November 23 against Oregon State. In total, the Red Storm had just four blocks for the entire game.
As St. John’s returns home, they now face two “must-win” games against DePaul and Georgetown on Tuesday. If the Red Storm have any hope of making the NCAA Tournament, they need to win these games.