After a game of scheduling musical chairs, the St. John’s Red Storm (3-0) will take on the BYU Cougars (3-1).
This matchup came into fruition after St. John’s canceled its game against Texas Tech, then watched two other opponents — Fordham and Sacred Heart — undergo COVID-related shutdowns. With the need for games, the Red Storm got one set up with the Cougars in Bubbleville at Mohegan Sun. It’s part of the Legends Classic, which in years past was normally a bracket-style tournament. With teams rotating around, this year it is simply a showcase event, with a series of games over three days.
St. John’s enters Wednesday with wins over St. Peters, La Salle, and Boston College. As for BYU, it is looking to bounce back from a lopsided loss to USC, after enjoying one-sided wins of its own to start the year.
How To watch, listen, and stream
Game Time: Wednesday, December 2, 2020, at 5 p.m. ET
TV: ESPN2 (Jon Sciambi, Jon Crispin)
RADIO: St. John’s IMG Radio Network (St. John’s), KSL 1160 AM/102.7 FM (BYU)
Live Stream: WatchESPN (where available)
According to Oddsshark.com, BYU is a 2-point favorite.
KenPom predicts St. John’s winning, 79-76, with a 59 percent chance of victory for the Red Storm.
St. John’s leads the all-time series, 7-1.
The Red Storm won six consecutive meetings against the Cougars, with their most recent victory in a 67-62 win back in 1990.
What to Watch For
Fast and Faster
St. John’s head coach Mike Anderson loves to describe his uptempo style of play as “40 minutes of hell.” According to KenPom, the Johnnies operate at the third-highest tempo in all of Division I basketball. They’re aggressive on both sides of the ball and like to speed up their opponents. They fly up and down the floor, looking for those buckets in transition or forcing turnovers at a high clip.
BYU also likes to play on the faster side, albeit not as uptempo as the Red Storm. Much like St. John’s, it looks to create turnovers and punish opponents. The Cougars especially try to take advantage of fast break scenarios whenever possible and capitalize in transition.
Both teams will be looking to run, and it might get chaotic at times. In St. John’s love to raise hell, it can get a bit too reckless at times. While it can generate turnovers and steals, it can also cough the ball up at a fairly high rate as well. BYU is also relatively similar in that regard.
Barcello and the Band
This BYU squad is particularly experienced in the backcourt, with Alex Barcello leading the way. The Cougar guard appears to be taking a big leap forward for his team, with a team-high 18.0 points per game to start his senior season. He’ll look to bounce back from an eight-point showing against USC, but seems to be the cornerstone for BYU. He’s a solid scorer and is shooting 13-for-20 (65%) from long range to start the season. With fellow senior Brandon Averette by his side, a two-way presence, they look to make a tough one-two punch. While Averette doesn’t score nearly as high as Barcello, at just 9.8 points per game, he can contribute in other ways and provide and a shooting threat.
In the frontcourt, keep an eye on the towering Matt Haarms, a 7-foot-3 center and Purdue transfer. Haarms is the only other player currently averaging in double figures, with 10.5 points per game. With his body and frame, Haarms provides a solid amount of rim protection and is one of the reasons why BYU’s interior defense has been sturdy to start this season. Opponents have only shot 40.6% inside the arc (top 30 in the country). Although USC exposed that a bit, that might’ve been more of a testament to the ability of the Mobley brothers, who can play like guards at 6-foot-11.
With Haarms’ size, you’d expect more than just 3.5 rebounds per game, but that’s where fellow frontcourt mates Richard Harward and Caleb Lohner come in. Harward, a 6-foot-11 center, has more offensive rebounds (13) than defensive ones (10). He’s tied with Barcello for the second most rebounds per game on the team, with 5.8.
Meanwhile, Lohner leads the Cougars with 6.3 rebounds per game and is bound to finally heat up at some point after shooting just 7-of-21 overall and 0-for-11 from deep.
Red Storm Brewing
The Red Storm had a few close calls, but it’s ultimately off to a nice start to the season. It helps when new arrivals are able to make an impact right away. It’ll be interesting to see how freshman Posh Alexander and newcomer Vince Cole keep up their impressive debuts. After a standout performance at the Lapchick Tournament, where Cole earned MVP honors, he had a bit of a quieter game against Boston College. He’ll look to rebound. As for Alexander, he’s fulfilling expectations early, showing that he’s capable of handling responsibilities as starting point guard and can make his mark on both ends of the court. Through three games, he’s averaging 14.0 points, 4.7 rebounds, 3.7 assists, and 3.0 steals.
Then there’s sophomore Julian Champagnie who shined against Boston College with a 29-point performance in his first game of the season, after missing the first couple due to an ankle injury. Greg Williams Jr. gradually performed better with each and every one of the Red Storm’s three games so far.
As a team, can the Red Storm continue to build upward?