When: Wednesday, January 15th @ 8:30 pm (EST)
Where: Dunkin Donuts Center in Providence, RI
Stream: Fox Sports Go
Records: St. John’s (12-5, 1-3 Conf) Providence (10-7, 3-1 Conf)
Rankings: St. John’s 65 NET, 80 KenPom|| Providence- 91 NET, 74 KenPom
The Johnnies and Friars face off at the Dunk in a pivotal game for both. The Red Storm had been a nice surprise due to a strong non-conference performance but dropping their first three league games has dulled some of the hype that was starting to build in Queens. Fortunately, St. John’s picked up its first Big East win of the season against DePaul on Saturday to improve to 1-3. Following up on that win with a road victory would go a long way towards putting the three game slide in the rear-view mirror.
Providence comes in off their first loss in conference play to Butler (no shame there.) Despite the loss; the Friars are off to a solid 3-1 Big East start. Unfortunately, because of their underwhelming (aka mostly stinky) non-conference results, every game is pivotal. Aside from winning the Big East tournament outright, Providence probably needs 11 or 12 Big East wins to be in play for an at-large bid in the NCAA tournament. Ed Cooley is working with very little margin for error the rest of the way and a home game against a 1-3 St. John’s team is an opportunity the Friars can’t afford to squander.
A Few Things to Keep An Eye On…
The Re-emergence of Mustapha? The biggest positive for St. John’s from their DePaul win was the encouraging play of Mustapha Heron. Heron had recently been sidelined with a nasty ankle sprain but he’d been in a bit of a funk even before the injury. Against DePaul, he scored 15pts (including 3-6 from 3) which may not sound like a landmark performance but Heron was much more confident in his shooting and just looked much sharper on the court overall. Getting their senior leader to perform at the level he was expected to coming into the season is essential if St. John’s plans on defying the odds and playing meaningful games in March.
Which Luwane Pipkins shows up? Providences grad transfer guard has had an up and down season. While he’s clearly a capable scorer, Pipkins has proven susceptible to some nasty slumps. He seems to currently be in one of them having not hit a single shot from the field in the past 2 games. In the three games prior he’d averaged nearly 15 ppg in wins over DePaul, Georgetown and Texas. Getting offense from Pipkins (if he can keep his turnovers down) tends to lead to better results for the Friars.
Neither team will shoot well but who will shoot better? These are two of the worst shooting teams in the Big East. St. John’s has a putrid 41.3 FG% while Providence checks in at a 41.1%. That’s good for 9th and 10th in the league. Additionally, Providence ranks second to last in FT% while the Johnnies are dead last in 3pt shooting at an anemic 29%. Somebody has to hit some shots. If one of these teams can raise their shooting from bad to simply mediocre for the evening that will probably be our winner. If both squads are their usual off-the-mark selves then this game will be a rock fight in a mud pit in a hail storm (translation: it’ll get ugly.)
Prediction: Close one. Providence has the size and home court advantage which gives them a narrow win over the pressure defense of St. John’s. Let’s say 69-66.