With the St. John’s-Georgetown rivalry resuming tonight at Madison Square Garden, the game has more focus on the coaches than how the teams are doing all thanks to Patrick Ewing and Chris Mullin.
Back in 1985, it was Chris Mullin’s St. John’s Red Storm against Patrick Ewing’s Georgetown Hoyas going up against each other in the Final Four. 33 years later, the two men will go up against each other at Madison Square Garden, but as coaches when St. John’s looks for its first Big East win against Georgetown.
In time, fans hope that this game is eventually about two teams at the top of the Big East fighting for a championship. But, as Ewing makes his return to MSG, both teams are in the bottom three of the conference and Georgetown has the lone win out of these two in the league. The spotlight will definitely be on the coaches more so the players on the court.
Both of these teams are coming off of bad home losses over the weekend. Georgetown lost to Creighton, 90-66, and St. John’s was blown out by DePaul, 91-74. According to Zach Braziller of the New York Post, the team had a meeting Monday afternoon to talk about their winless start in the Big East.
St. John's had an extra-long team meeting yesterday, I'm told. Message was they aren't going to be anyone playing selfishly. Staff felt they were selfish at both ends of the floor. #sjubb
— Zach Braziller (@NYPost_Brazille) January 8, 2018
This is a different Georgetown team from a style standpoint than the ones coached by John Thompson III. They love to run and play more up-tempo basketball. They are averaging 80.6 points per game and they are second in the conference with 18.1 assists per game (Creighton – 19.9).
If you want to talk about the Hoyas, the first player to talk about is Jessie Govan. The junior center from Queens Village is averaging 18.1 points per game and 11.7 rebounds per game (second in the Big East and fifth in the country). Before that loss to Creighton, he had three straight games with double-digit rebounds. Plus, he is a good shot blocker at the rim (1.4 blocks per game – third in the conference).
Govan’s success on the boards is probably going to give St. John’s fits. The Red Storm haven’t done a great job this season with their defensive rebounding and the Hoyas have the most rebounds per game in the conference (40.6 per game).
Besides Govan, another player to watch on Georgetown is junior forward Marcus Derrickson. He had only four points against Creighton on Saturday. However, before that game, he had three straight contests in conference play in which he had 20 or more points.
For St. John’s, they have to be able to push the ball to the basket and get quick points without relying on the three-point shot. They need Shamorie Ponds to have a much better game in terms of his field goal percentage. In his last two games, he is 12-for-38 from the floor and 2-for-16 from downtown.
As we have talked about the last two games, Bashir Ahmed had to play a factor for St. John’s to have a chance to win and he had back-to-back 20 point games. Despite the Red Storm losing these games, he is starting to find his rhythm on offense and that’s a good sign going forward.
The fact of the matter is that both teams will be looking to right a wrong after the bad games they had a few days ago. You should expect both teams to bring the intensity and the energy right out of the gate.
With the Red Storm struggling to find a rhythm on offense, they need to go back to the great defensive performances they had out of the league. If St. John’s can slow down Georgetown’s offense, they will have a good chance for their first Big East win.
Will the rivalry get back to what it was in the 1980s? Maybe not. But, it could take a step forward tomorrow night as these two great Big East players of the past try to lead their teams back up to the top of the mountain where their programs once were.