On Saturday, the Red Storm (10-8, 0-5) rebounded from a heartbreaking double overtime loss to Providence with a win over Dartmouth at Carnesecca Arena that stopped a five-game skid. Unfortunately for St. John's, the win over Dartmouth doesn't count towards its Big East record and the team is still winless in conference and the chances of making the NCAA Tournament are becoming more and more slim every day. On Thursday night, Seton Hall (11-7, 2-3) rolls into Queens, New York in a pivotal game for both teams.
For St. John's, each and every game left on its schedule is now a must-win game. Starting 0-5 in conference play certainly wasn't what the team, coaches or fans had in mind at the beginning of the season. It's now looking like St. John's best chance to make the NCAA Tournament will be to make a run in the Big East Tournament in March and earn an automatic bid.
After dropping three straight to the likes of Creighton, Villanova, and Marquette, the Hall bounced back with a ten-point road victory over Georgetown. With Fuquan Edwin, Gene Teague, and Sterling Gibbs all healthy and in the lineup, Seton Hall is looking to make a run of its own and certainly has the talent and depth to climb the ladder in the Big East. The game tips at 7 P.M. EST on CBS Sports Network.
Here are a few things to keep an eye on for tonight's game:
Rysheed Jordan vs. Sterling Gibbs
After sitting out for a season after transferring from Texas, New Jersey native Sterling Gibbs has been putting together a successful first season for the Pirates. Averaging 15.3 points, 4.4 assists, and 3.2 boards while getting to the line 9.2 times in 30 minute a game, Gibbs has been a huge addition to the Pirates rotation and has been even more crucial to the program now that Tom Maayan is gone from the program. St. John's freshman point guard Rysheed Jordan has been up and down this season but has shown the ability to slow down opposing point guards while getting his on the other end. At 6-4, 185 pounds, the Philly native has the size to slow down Gibbs. Jordan will have to stay out of foul trouble and slow down Gibbs to give the Johnnies a chance to win.
Who Will Stop Fuquan Edwin?
Senior guard/forward Fuquan Edwin is one of the top scorers in the Big East and has a legitimate shot at being selected in June's NBA Draft. After being hampered by a knee injury, Edwin broke out with a 24-point, 6 rebound, 5 steal performance against Georgetown. Sir'Dominic Pointer is St. John's best perimeter defender and is relentless on the defensive end but is averaging 6.5 points on offense in 23.7 minutes per game. Pointer will likely draw Edwin either at the tip or very early in the first half but will Lavin keep him in and sacrifice offense for defense if St. John's falls behind?
Battle in the Post
After a scary concussion, Gene Teague made his return to the Pirates lineup against Georgetown. While he was largely ineffective due to foul trouble, the re-addition of Teague to the lineup is a huge boost for the Hall. At 6-9, 270 pounds, Teague is bigger and stronger than any St. John's big man and against a poor rebounding Johnnies team, expect Teague to attack the boards hard when he's on the floor. Red Storm big man Chris Obekpa has been nonexistent in Big East play and needs to regain his focus and determination or he will likely find himself on the bench, despite his shot blocking prowess. Seton Hall forward Brandon Mobley is averaging 9.2 points and 5.2 boards per game while 6-9 forward Patrik Auda is averaging 9.8 points and 4.9 boards per game while fighting a nagging foot injury. The Seton Hall frontline is much better than the Obekpa-JaKarr Sampson-Orlando Sanchez-God'sgift Achiuwa rotation and will look to exploit the advantage early.
St. John's is a mess right now while Seton Hall is getting healthy and better at the right time. Look for the Pirates to pound the ball inside and give the Red Storm fits on the glass and in the paint. Lacking an interior presence, St. John's will continue to try and defeat teams from the perimeter. Look for the Pirates to win a close game and build momentum before taking on Butler and DePaul.