#4 Villanova Wildcats (28-2) vs. St. John’s Red Storm (21-9)
When: Saturday, March 7, 2015 at 2 p.m.
Where: Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia, PA
Coverage: Fox Sports 1
Result of Previous Meeting: Villanova won 90-72 at St. John’s on January 6
Key Players for St. John’s: #11 D’Angelo Harrison (6-4, 204) Sr., G; #15 Sir’Dominic Pointer (6-6, 196) G/F; #23 Rysheed Jordan (6-4, 185)
Scouting Report: Approximately two months ago, when these two teams first met, St. John’s was going through some turbulence. The Red Storm started off their Big East schedule on a disappointing note. They had a small taste of the top 25, only to quickly fall out of the polls after three straight losses to begin conference play. Rysheed Jordan took a mysterious leave of absence. A lot has changed since then. Head coach Steve Lavin has established stability. St. John’s won eight of their last ten games. Leading the way is their star senior, D’Angelo Harrison. Harrison is the second highest scorer in the Big East, with 17.9 points per game. He is coming off of a 21 point game against Marquette. Harrison is a lethal scorer, capable of making shots from almost anywhere on the floor. He can take over a game but like his other teammates in St. John’s thin six-man rotation, he can take himself out of a game by getting into foul trouble. Harrison is a special player and will likely be named First Team All-Conference at the end of the season. Another key player to watch for in the back court is Rysheed Jordan. If Jamal Branch (strained groin) is inactive on Saturday, Jordan is going to have take a bigger role. Since returning from his absence, he has provided a reliable scoring outlet for the Red Storm. If he can find his groove from beyond the arc, he exponentially becomes a bigger problem for opposing defenses. One flaw in Jordan’s game is his free throw shooting. He has converted a mediocre 65.5% of his free throws. Another guard, Phil Greene IV, has been shooting pretty well from three point range. Over the last five games, Greene IV is a combined 18-for-34 (52.9%) from beyond the arc. He averages just above 13 points per game. While St. John’s has a formidable cast of guards, its frontcourt has the talent to rival its backcourt. Chris Obekpa and Sir’Dominic Pointer create a powerful one-two punch inside. Obekpa suffered an ankle injury at the end of the Marquette game, but he’s expected to play in Saturday’s game. Obekpa is a monster on the defensive end of the court. His 3.2 blocks per game are the highest in the Big East and tied for fourth-best in the nation. He’s also a solid rebounder, averaging 6.9 boards per game. Unlike Obekpa, Pointer can be a threat on both ends of the court. Pointer averages 13.9 points per game. He also has the fourth-highest rebounding average (7.7 per game) and third-highest blocks His team-high 7.7 rebounds per game are the fourth-highest in the conference. He’s also a good shot blocker, averaging 2.5 blocks per game, third most in the Big East.
Outlook: Expect St. John’s to provide a tougher challenge this time around. Their team chemistry is a lot better now. They could use another big win for their resume and it wouldn’t hurt to spoil #4 Villanova’s fun. With that said, it’s all fun and games for St. John’s until players start getting into foul trouble. The Red Storm do not have that much depth beyond their six-man rotation. If Branch is out, that will just add much more pressure to the starting five to not only do well, but also stay on the floor for as long as they can. On the other hand, the Wildcats have so much depth. They often get criticized for not having that “go-to star player” but have shown that anyone got hot and take charge. I’d like to see the Wildcats play a physical game and try to put the Red Storm in foul trouble as early as possible. Sure they can shoot threes, but it would be even better to take it inside and draw fouls. The sooner St. John’s is forced to use its inexperienced bench players, the better it will be for Villanova. It might be closer this time around, but the Wildcats should come out on top.