With the Creighton Bluejays' 19th victory of the season against DePaul out of the way, Greg McDermott's club now heads out east to a venue that holds a rich, illustrious history.
Creighton takes aim at suddenly resurgent St. John's inside "The World's Most Famous Arena" as Madison Square Garden plays host to this BIG EAST matchup between the Bluejays and the Red Storm on Sunday evening.
As there is before any contest, many questions need to be asked with this game steadfast approaching.
So, I took the time to discuss this matchup with the managing editor of SB Nation's Rumble in the Garden blog, Norman Rose. The head honcho of the St. John's blog and I discussed the matchup as well as several key points about it.
You can find my Q&A with Norman here on Rumble in the Garden.
Q: In this run that St. John's is on, their eFG% has consistently hovered around a median of 53.55%. Their average on the season remains at 48.7%, 212th in the country. What's been the biggest difference through this six-game run that has led to a leap in efficiency?
A: Transition play. The Red Storm have been able to get out and run, get easy shots - which means they have been able to get shots at the rim, as opposed to long two-pointers in the half court offense.
Why is this happening now?
Some people have pointed to the both the increased confidence in the players - especially Rysheed Jordan - or they have pointed at the increased defensive efficiency, which has come with playing more man-to-man defense.
Maybe it's simply the confidence of a shortened rotation of players, the players that most thought would be the core of the team in the beginning of the year.
The players have bought in to what Lavin wants, have played with energy, and have been able to put points on the board.
Q: JaKarr Sampson has appeared to have been a big reason for the recent string of victories as well as the season as a whole, averaging 15.0 points and a FG% of 57.9 percent over this run. How has he been able to be so divisive offensively?
A: JaKarr has been able to get to the rim, where he should have a decisive advantage with his quickness and athleticism. Having Rysheed Jordan on the floor helps; Jordan finds players cutting to the rim and draws defensive attention, and Sampson has had a chance to take shots within 17 feet.
And with that confidence, his shots between 17-19 feet are also falling with some regularity.
Q: Is what we are seeing from St. John's, in your opinion, the real deal for this team and what you expected? Or is this simply a mirage simply based on who they are playing?
A: The Marquette win and the Providence victory saw stretches where the Johnnies were dominant, and stretches where they let the other team back into the game. This is a team that is finally meeting expectations - they're using their athleticism instead of hiding it in a zone and with long jumpers.
Q: Prediction for what is going to transpire at Madison Square Garden on Sunday evening?
A: Tough one. I think Creighton wins another close one. I think Grant Gibbs makes some timely plays. I think St. John's has a real chance; but I have a hard time thinking that Creighton didn't circle this game.
They had a week and a half off, get one of their main players back, are probably stewing over how they let St. John's back into the game in Omaha.
Doug McDermott is excited to play in Madison Square Garden; if his nerves don't get the best of him, I think he puts on a show and his teammates follow suit.