With all the negativity around the St. John’s program right now, it doesn’t get any easier as they face the top team in the country tonight, the Villanova Wildcats.
Right now, the St. John’s Red Storm are searching for any positive answers. The team is 0-5 in Big East play after a close loss to Georgetown on Tuesday and one of their top scorers, guard Marcus LoVett, is out for the season with a knee injury after all the mystery of where LoVett has been since Nov. 26.
On Saturday night, they’ll be at Madison Square Garden once again and Chris Mullin’s squad will get the chance to go up against the number one ranked team in college basketball, the Villanova Wildcats (8 p.m ET, FOX Business Network). Villanova made a big statement on Wednesday when they beat #10 Xavier, 89-65, at Wells Fargo Arena.
The last time these two teams played was in the quarterfinals of last year’s Big East Tournament and Villanova routed the Red Storm, 108-67. While Kris Jenkins and Josh Hart are not on this year’s team, Jay Wright’s squad still is one of the deepest teams in college basketball.
This season, the Wildcats have six players that average in double figures and their 88.9 points per game are the seventh most in the nation. Plus, they have scored 95 or more points in three of their last five games.
On offense, they are led by the Big East Preseason Player of the Year in point guard Jalen Brunson (19.3 points per game – third in the conference). Also, he is second in the conference in assists per game (5.2) and fourth in field goal percentage (58 percent). He can attack the basket and he shoots the ball well from the outside (48 percent).
As a team, Villanova shoots 41 percent from downtown and St. John’s has had their troubles defending the perimeter this season. They have three players that make over 40 percent of their trifectas in Brunson, Mikal Bridges, and Phil Booth.
Defensively, there could be a lot of steals in this game if you go off the numbers. This game has the top three in the Big East in steals with two from St. John’s (Shamorie Ponds and Justin Simon) and Bridges from Villanova, who has seven steals in four Big East games.
For St. John’s, it will be interesting to watch how healthy Ponds is after trying to battle a knee injury in the Georgetown loss. He is 2-for-19 in the last three games from downtown and the only chance the Red Storm have of pulling the monumental upset is to hit a good percentage of their three-point shots.
Now that the LoVett situation has a resolution, the Red Storm need to try to find that second scoring option to pair with Ponds that can help an offense that struggles to score points. Bashir Ahmed has been a good source of offense in Big East play and hopefully, he’s back to form after battling flu-like symptoms earlier this week
Chris Mullin said Marcus LoVett may return to practice court tomorrow. Also, Bashir Ahmed was battling flu-like symptoms. #sjubb
— Zach Braziller (@NYPost_Brazille) January 10, 2018
The guards are the storyline in this game, but the battle in the frontcourt will be fun to watch as well between ‘Nova freshman Omari Spellman and Tariq Owens for St. John’s. Spellman has eight blocks in his last four games while Owens had eight blocks by himself on Tuesday.
Villanova should be able to win this game easily, but St. John’s has played the top of the Big East tough on the road this year in Seton Hall and Creighton. However, the Wildcats have too much depth and firepower on offense as they should be one of the favorites to cut down the nets in San Antonio this April.