1. First things first, how big is the loss of Rysheed Jordan going to be for the Red Storm, both in this game, and going forward?
Robert O'Neill (Butler): Even though Jordan's had mostly a bench role the past month, he's still scored 14 points per game this season, and made an impact defensively. In addition to that, he's been helping out fellow guard Jamal Branch with some things, so with all that in mind... it's a huge loss for the Red Storm.
Mike Murtaugh (Butler): In reality, any time a team loses a key rotation player, it's a big loss. In the case of St. John's, the loss is amplified by the fact that the team tends to keep its rotation small, with six players averaging over 24 minutes and the rest of the bench fighting for any impactful playing time. Jordan was one of those players, and head coach Steve Lavin will need to get creative to replace Jordan's production. It's not a devastating or "they're screwed" absence, but they're going to miss him in the lineup.
Andrew Padyk (St. John's): St. John's thin roster got a little bit thinner with the loss of Jordan. Though he lost his starter job to Jamal Branch, Jordan was still getting significant minutes as a spot starter and off the bench, playing 65% of the time. He was the most attack-minded guard that St. John's had and an important asset for the Red Storm's fast break attack. This wasn't just a bench loss, this was a significant loss for Steve Lavin and St. John's.
2. Branching off of that, how will Jordan's absence change Butler's plan of attack?
Robert O'Neill: In the Red Storm's loss to Seton Hall on New Year's Eve, they only used eight players. Jordan was one of them. I think Butler should be looking to drive the lane and get the Red Storm in foul trouble so they have to tap into their dilapidated, inexperienced, bench. I also think Roosevelt Jones and Andrew Chrabascz will benefit because Jordan is 6'4", so the two tall Butler players will be able to thrive on potential mismatches.
Mike Murtaugh: With the loss of Jordan, the Red Storm lost one of their admittedly few three-point threats, and without a clear-cut replacement for his production standing out, the Bulldogs will be able to focus more on protecting the rim defensively than pressuring on the perimeter. On offense, the Bulldogs should look to take advantage of St. John's' lack of size beyond Chris Obekpa. Jordan's absence means one less lengthy defender to deal with, so if Roosevelt Jones can control his wild shot selection, he and Andrew Chrabascz should have some nice production inside.
Andrew Padyk: The loss of Jordan means the loss of secondary scoring option and a fast break threat on the transition for St. John's. With these two facets slowing down the Red Storm from the get go, the change that Butler can make is rim protect that and do what they can to fully take advantage of St. John's lack depth and the disadvantage in height. On defense taking Phil Greene and Sir'Dominic Pointer out of the equation will give the Bulldogs an even greater advantage.
3. Chris Holtmann was named the permanent coach of the Bulldogs on Friday. Is it possible that this will change his coaching style/Butler's playing style now that he has that added job security?
Robert O'Neill: It's tough to say, really. On one hand, Holtmann is now fully free to implement "his system". On the other, his system likely doesn't differ than greatly from Brandon Miller's. In college, your personnel generally determines your system. I'll go with "maybe" to answer this question, because Holtmann will definitely be under less pressure now, but obviously it'd not be wise to make TOO many changes to a 10-4 team in the middle of the season.
Mike Murtaugh: To be honest, I don't think that it will. Everyone within the program seems to have been impressed with the attitude and style Holtmann brought in to his interim term, and a big part of that was because he treated the job like a full-time head coaching position all along. Watching him in person at practice and at games, it's not hard to see how much respect he commands from players, and with 14 games under his belt, I think Holtmann has a pretty good idea of how he wants to run the team. It's a terrific move by Butler to make his position official, but I can't imagine much will change in his style, at least through the end of this season.
Andrew Padyk: I don't think he'll change much in his style or anything in the ways that Butler has done so far this season. If anything changes will comes at the end of this season and into the next season. It was a smart move on the part of Butler to make him the permanent coach, but we're a season away from seeing the Chris Holtmann era of Butler basketball go into full effect. For now the most important thing for him and his team is to continue the course they began this season.
4. Villanova did a very good job containing Butler's Kellen Dunham by forcing him to take bad shots and pressuring him. Will St. John's be able to do that?
Robert O'Neill: I noted this very thing in the Villanova/Butler game preview, if you double team Dunham and put pressure on him, he'll turn the ball over and take bad shots. That being said, St. John's obviously isn't Villanova. St. John's had only five steals against Seton Hall with Rysheed Jordan accounting for three of them. St. John's will also have to be weary of being over-aggressive on defense because of their lack of depth.
Mike Murtaugh: I've written about this a few times this season (most recently in our Crossover Examination of Butler's loss to Villanova, which you can find HERE), but Dunham's production really takes a hit when he can't square up and shoot. The Wildcats were able to take away his catch-and-shoot opportunities, and basically took Dunham out of the game all together, and that appears to be the blueprint for slowing him down moving forward. For St. John's, they'll need to be careful due to their size disadvantage, so if they leave openings in the lane to try and trap Dunham on the perimeter, it may open the floodgates for Jones and Chrabascz inside.
Andrew Padyk: If St. John's can limit Dunham's catch and shoot options and pressure him into bad shots as Villanova was able to do so then Dunham is in for a rough time. However I don't think that St. John's will be able to do what Villanova was able to do to Dunham. The major factor being that the Red Storm won't be able to execute their fast break transition style of pressure that they were able to do so in games prior, partly now because of the absence of Jordan and the lack of roster depth means St. John's will be much more conservative on defense than they were in games prior. Meaning that Butler and Dunham might have better opportunities to take advantage in this game.
5. D'Angelo Harrison has been, arguably, the conference's best player so far. How can Butler slow him down?
Robert O'Neill: As crazy as this sounds, I don't know if they need to worry about slowing him down. Again, Harrison is great. I'm not denying that. But with Jordan out, that's 14 points per game St. John's won't have. If Butler can focus on slowing down a secondary scoring option like Phil Greene or Sir'Dominic Porter, they can let Harrison do his thing and still survive.
Mike Murtaugh: He's going to be the best (and maybe only) three-point threat for the Red Storm, so if they can stick Alex Barlow or Roosevelt Jones on him outside to get physical with him while the rest of the team is able to slide a little bit more into the paint, they should be able to contain him. He's an extremely physical guard, so the best play here will be to meet him at the point of attack and fight fire with fire.
Andrew Padyk: Pull out the tablecloth from underneath the silverware. The Bulldogs should not make Harrison their primary concern. While he has been stellar this season he is not the player(s) who Butler should worry about. The focus should be on slowing down the secondary scoring of Phil Greene and Sir'Dominic Pointer who are much more manageable to control. Especially now with the loss of Rysheed Jordan and the fact that Lavin will have to turn to an inexperienced bench is much more manageable than containing Harrison. He had a solid game against Seton Hall, but at the end of the day was less of a factor than the overall lack of execution by the Red Storm, part of that had to do with the slowing down of those around him.