What exactly is a Monmouth anyway?
It can be a city in eastern New Jersey.
A Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference member? Sure, that too.
But most importantly, at least for the St. John's Red Storm (2-1), this Monmouth represents a chance to catch a collective breathe, a lightweight in a bevy of title contenders. The Johnnies were tested and then some in Tuesday's 67-63 win over Bucknell. And looking ahead, there's Penn State, Georgia Tech or Ole Miss, leading to Syracuse and then the Big East. In other words, the currently ranked number 315 in Ken Pomroy's standings, are one of the rare gimmies still left on the schedule.
It's not that the Hawks (1-2) don't have talent, what with four players averaging ten or more points. In particular, St. John's will have to focus in on Deon Jones. The junior guard is averaging 21 points and eight rebounds a game. In Monmouth's loss at Seton Hall earlier in the week, Jones scored 24, hitting three triples.
And Steve Lavin's crew should also be ready for Hawks sophomore forward, Tyrone O'Garro. The 6-foot-5 forward averages close to eight boards per game.
Still, if we're being real, this opening round game of the Barclays Center Classic, 9 p.m., Fox Sports 1, should be over before halftime. Actually, the opening twenty minutes is exactly when St. John's should jump because Monmouth has been outscored by a total of 94-124 in the first half this season. Yikes. Couple that with the fact the Johnnies are 21-4 in Carnesecca Arena under Lavin and there should be no question about this game. But that doesn't mean tonight's game doesn't have significance.
Barclays Center Classic
- Where: Carnesecca Arena
- Time: 9:00 p.m.
Television: Fox Sports1
Against the Bison, leading scorer D'Angelo Harrison was held to 13 points on 3-of-13 shooting. Monmouth should be an opportunity for Harrison to get his scoring groove back. But the good that came from Harrison's bad against Bucknell was Phil Greene IV. Greene scored a team high 16, hitting two massive threes midway through the second half as St. John's fought its way back.
Harrison will eventually get buckets, in one way or another, but Greene as another option for the Red Storm offense is exactly what Lavin is looking for. It will be interesting to see if the junior guard sees a bigger role on that end of the court. Between Harrison and Jakarr Sampson, St. John's is good enough to compete with most teams, but a third option separates the great from the good.
Of course, it's hard to win at a consistent level in college basketball without a consistent point guard, too. And right now, like a third option on offense, St. John's is still figuring things out in that department. Freshman point Rysheed Jordan is shooting just under 23 percent from the field, with just seven assists to five turnovers in three games. Sure, a frosh, even a highly touted one, has some wiggle room, but the Big East will eat Jordan for lunch unless he turns it up on both ends of the floor. This game against the Hawks could very well be a chance to, at the very least, help his confidence because the Hawks start two freshmen guards in Josh James and Justin Robinson.
Yet, even if Greene doesn't go for double-digits and Jordan plays just a handful of minutes, St. John's is likely to win this game going away. The point here, really, is that games like this don't come along too often. Where Bucknell provided a much needed get-up-off-the-canvass and start fighting back game for the Johnnies, the Hawks present a different opportunity. A chance to throw haymakers early and often, a quick knockout before the real heavyweights step into the ring with the Red Storm.