You could say it was a near perfect non-conference season for the St. John’s Red Storm. Going 10-2 in that stretch, Chris Mullin’s team saw a drastic improvement from a season ago with their only losses being against Missouri and a ranked Arizona State team. For a team which finished 14-19 last year, being only four wins away from matching last seasons win total this early is a very good sign. Its shown the leap they have taken from being one of the worst teams in the conference to where they are now. The Johnnies are entering Big East play on a two game winning streak, beating Iona and Saint Joseph’s respectively. It was a close victory against Saint Joseph’s (77-73) but thanks to 28 points from Shamarie Ponds, the Johnnies were able to walk away with a win in the Hall of Fame Holiday Showcase. Now begins the real test: Big East play. This will truly show how much growth this program has made. The first step will be to eclipse their win total of last season in conference play, which was seven. St. John’s have to take it one game at a time and can’t get ahead of themselves. It all starts with the opener.
Right underneath St.John’s in the Big East standings is their opponent, the Providence Friars. Unlike their counterparts, Providence isn't coming in on a big high note. After they had their winning streak snapped in a rivalry game against Rhode Island, the Friars haven’t been able to string consecutive wins together. They were, however, able to nab a victory in their latest game against Sacred Heart. Providence got 31 points from Rodney Bullock and won by double digits, 89-75. The win now puts Providence at 9-4 and gives them some bounce back momentum from their loss against Houston. Hopefully for Ed Cooley’s squad, it can give them a boost as they begin Big East play.
After this game, Providence will face off against Creighton and Marquette. St. John’s will travel on a road trip to play Seton Hall and Creighton and it will be a big test for them by facing two ranked teams away from home.
How to watch, listen, or stream
Game Time: 7 PM ET
Radio: WEEI 103.7 FM (Providence) || 570 WMCA (St. John’s)
Odds: St. John’s enters this game as a 7 point favorite (via Oddsshark.com)
Record ATS: St. John’s (5-5) || Providence (2-10)
O/U: The O/U opened at 142
Last Time They Met
This will be the 111th meeting between the two schools with St. John’s leading the series 61-49. Last time these teams met was earlier this year in Big East play which was a 86-75 win for the Friars in MSG.
3 Things to Watch
Missing Marcus Lovett Jr.
St. John’s will be shorthanded in this game as they will be missing one of their best guards in Marcus Lovett Jr. This shouldn’t come as a surprise to many as Lovett Jr. has missed the past five games due to a sprained knee he suffered back in November. Luckily for the Red Storm, they have been on a roll in his absence and will have to continue that against Providence.
Scoring against St. John’s
The Johnnies have one of the best defenses in the country, allowing only 62.8 points per game which is good for 23rd in the nation. They also have a 91.9 adjusted defense ranking (via KenPom), which is 12th best in college basketball. It will be a challenge for the Friars and it looks like they will rely heavily on the likes of Rodney Bullock to carry them.
“Prove yourself game”
These two teams are right near each other in the middle of the Big East standings. This game could go a long way in establishing some momentum heading into conference play. Especially considering both are facing tough opponents in their next two matchups. Time to see what both of these teams are made of.