The Big East is closing out the 2014 and ringing in the new year with the start of conference play, with a huge tipoff marathon on FOX Sports 1. The game that kicks off the slate for Wednesday is a match at the Prudential Center between the Pirates of Seton Hall and the Red Storm of St. John's. Both sides are coming into the game following successful runs through nonconference play.
Myself, Harrison Malkin, Sean Saint Jacques and Anthony Santaniello discussed this game from our own vantage points for the first installment of our 5-on-5 preview series. Here's what we had to say:
Seton Hall Preview
How will Seton Hall fair with the absence of Isiah Whitehead?
Freshman phenom Isaiah Whitehead has been the motor for the Pirates so far this season and unfortunately for the Pirates is also out six weeks with a stress fracture. Prior to the injury, Whitehead was averaging 11.9 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 3.4 assists for the Pirates. While his absence is significant for Seton Hall, it also is the perfect opportunity for Khadeen Carrington who has shined in brief stretches to be given a greater chance. Sterling Gibbs and Desi Rodriguez will mostly also be given greater or rotational roles as well, especially if Willard wants to revert back to a tradition guard setup until Whitehead comes back.
Will Seton Hall's half court offense set the tone early?
St. John's will look to set the pace early as they have done so in all their games so far this season. This is something that the Pirates will look to establish early on as St. John's will be looking to breakout via points off the transition. Khadeem Carrington will most likely be on the most useful assets for Seton Hall's tempo of play especially in establishing the half court offense with the absence of Isiah Whitehead. He is also an outlet for the Pirates as St. John's has an answer to all or most of Seton Hall's options on the court, with an except to Carrington who could be crucial for his play and setting the pace.
St. John's Preview
One man can't do it, does depth factor into St. John's play finally?
Over the span of their last few games, the Johnnies have been getting a tremendous amount of help from whoever on the squad has the hot hand. Last game it was Sir'Dominic Pointer who had a career game against Tulane last time out for the Johnnies, and usually D'Angelo Harrison is a typical hot hand for the team too. However as the team now pivots into conference play could there apparent lack of depth start rearing its ugly head? In their last game three players on St. John's carried the scoring bulk while the rest of the team was relatively quiet. Heading into conference play, Steve Lavin will need a little more magic to adjust the lack of depth that the Johnnies have.
St. John's like to set the tone early, but will there be a greater focus on second half pace and play?
Let's take a moment to recall St. John's last game against Tulane for a moment, while the Red Storm overwhelmingly won the game the second half was rather sloppy compared to the play of the first. In quite a few games this season, the Johnnies have been quiet in one half and then active in another. Against Minnesota early into the season they were quiet in the first for the most part. Steve Lavin likes to set the tone early on in games, but going forward he might have to readjust for the second half to avoid be caught off guard, especially as Seton Hall will look to set the tempo early with a half court style of play.
Could this game be a revival in a dormant series between the two schools?
Both St. John's and Seton Hall are off to great starts this season. As the Pirates are 10-2 on the year and the Red Storm are 11-1 and currently sitting in the top 25 at number 15. Both teams are entering into conference play looking to make considerable noise especially considering how conference play has gone for both programs in the years prior.
But head to head is a different story. Last time Seton Hall beat St. John's was February 14, 2012 by a score of 94-64, since then St. John's has won every match up against the Pirates. Interestingly enough the last two match ups have been decided by a difference of just a point. Perhaps a change of fortunes is coming this time around? Maybe that's left to be said on the court, but for the time being this game has the potential to reignite this series. As in place a young talented Seton Hall side looking to prove something year and a veteran St. John's side looking to take the conference by storm one last time. All things considered this one should be a fun one.