St. John’s Pounds UConn for 4th Top 25 Win at the Garden this Year

Something wrong Jim?

If you were to describe St. John’s this year the first word that would come to mind is erratic. Only a few days after going to Southern California and losing to a mediocre UCLA team, the Johnnies returned home tonight and destroyed the 9th ranked team in the country. The question is, who is St. John’s? Are they the team that won tonight, against Duke, Notre Dame and Georgetown? Or are they the team that lost back to back road games to St. Bonaventure and Fordham? The answer is both. St. John’s is not good on the road, in fact they are bad, but when they are at home they are a top 20 team.

The other thing about St. John’s is they are a type of team that is good at some things and bad at others. St. John’s is a good team when they turn you over and get out in transition. They are not a good team when they can’t the ball inside and try to shoot the three. If the team they are playing is good at attacking their strengths, even at MSG, then the Johnnies are beatable. If not, then the Johnnies are dangerous. Tonight was unusual because St. John’s usually thrives against teams that they can attack inside on offense. UConn is a tall team with good defense and good at blocking shots. This usually spells trouble for St. John’s, but they did what they needed to do, avoid half court sets and get the Huskies in transition. I believe St. John’s outscored them 27-0 in transition, yes that’s right, 27-0. UConn was exposed as a team with a lack of ball handlers and scorers outside of Kemba Walker. If you can shut him down and pressure their guards to be tight with the ball, then they can be beat. UConn likes to attack inside when Kemba Walker isn’t shooting it well, and they were neutralized from doing that we zone pressure on the outside that extended far beyond the three point line. St. John’s might not have the length of UConn, but they are longer than average and very athletic making it possible to extend the defense so far.

So what does this win mean? St. John’s is now 14-9 (6-5 in the Big East) and that puts them even closer to the tournament because of their elite strength of schedule. If St. John’s can make it to 9-9 in the Big East it might be enough, especially with one Big East Tournament win to top it. DePaul and South Florida come to the Garden and those are no excuse victories for the Johnnies. Seton Hall, Marquette and Cincinnati on the road are all winnable, but with their struggles you never know. One of three is necessary especially if they can’t upset Pitt at the Garden next weekend. The Big East remains with 11 bids comfortable for now, but St. John’s still has the most work to do. With some odd loses like Villanova’s to Rutgers last night, some teams are falling seed lines but they are all still in easily.

Lastly I’d like to comment on the Garden tonight. Once again it was rocking, and it was the fourth top 25 victory for St. John’s there this season. The energy is back and it has now become a place that other Big East foes are afraid to come and play. Usually when teams like Syracuse and UConn come they bring just as many fans because of the alumni bases and proximity, but tonight the Red Men faithful were out in full force and dominated the crowd more than we’ve seen in a long time. Its truly a home court again and it was rocking tonight. That’s one reason why second ranked Pitt can’t sleep on the Johnnies when they come visiting in nine days.

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