Opponent: Saint John's Red Storm
Conference: Big East
Last Five: 2-3
Venue: Carnesecca Arena, Queens, NY
TV: FSN Ohio/Big East Network/ESPN3
If you like to break down the schedule into manageable bits to get a good conception of what has taken place, and what is to come, what games are easy and which are tougher. This coming Saint John's game breaks down as the last in a brutal five game stretch with Nova, USF, Cuse, Notre Dame being the four proceeding games. Of those five the two that I put down in the column of potential wins were USF and St. John's. Things don't exactly get easier per se after the game against the Johnies, but the four roadies in five games stretch that the Bearcats are now coming to the end of is arguably the toughest five game stretch this season. The Red Storm mark the end of that period.
The real importance of tomorrows game is that UC has three more road games against teams from the middle of the proverbial Big East pack, Marquette, Georgetown and St. John's. The Bearcats only had four such games in the schedule, Notre Dame being the other, and they lost the game and played terribly. It is a pretty well known fact that for this UC team to work its way into the tournament these are the type of games that make the difference between dancing and heading home to host the first round of the NIT. UC has to at the very least get one of those three games, two would be even better. So the Johnies represent the first of the three really big, really winnable road games.
St. John's is a good team that can get on these long disrupted scoring runs. This is the first year of the Steve Lavin experience so things aren't exactly dripping with crispness on either end of the floor. They generally know what they are doing, but there are times watching them where it becomes abundantly clear that this is the first year in the system.
As a team they live inside the three point line, not just on offense but on defense. They are predominately a zone team so they try to compress everything inside and make teams shoot over the top of them. On the offensive end they work inside the three point line almost exclusively, 70 per cent of a all shots they attempt will be inside the line. Conversely opposing teams shoot almost 40 per cent of their shots from behind the line. Playing a zone on defense requires constant repetition to get it perfected, St. John's just isn't there yet because they allow teams to shoot an effective FG percentage above 50 which is pretty aggressively bad. The one thing St. John's does have is experience. Their main guys on offense Justin Brownlee, Dwight Hardy and Justin Burrell are all seniors who have been through the Big East wars. One of the interesting things about this St. John's team is that only 6 guys have played in every game this year, the aforementioned three and then two seniors, D.J. Kennedy, and Paris Horne and true freshman Dwayne Polee Lavin's first recruit after getting the job. The basic MO of the team is that they have a core group that play big minutes but they don't have much in the way of a bench. The offense is pretty balanced, but there doens't seem to be a singular guy that makes the thing run. It is going to be a pretty interesting game because these are two teams that have one similar trait, a lack of a go to scoring option on the offensive end. But beyond that these two teams go about the game in completely different ways. It should be a fascinating game to watch.