It has been really hard to tell where St. John's stands this season in the crazy world that is college basketball. On some nights the Red Storm have come out and played like a Top 25 team, but on other nights they look like the St. John's team that we have become accustomed to over the past decade. This really shouldn't be the case. The one thing that you should expect from a team with 10 seniors is some sort of consistency.
Tonight, St. John's will face a team that has had no consistency issues, the No. 4 Orange of Syracuse, who enter the game as one of only five unbeaten Division I teams, with a 16-0 record.
If the Red Storm really want to make a statement and solidify their standing in what is arguably the best conference in college basketball, they will do everything they can to win tonight at home in the World's Most Famous Arena, Madison Square Garden.
After winning five straight and starting 3-0 in conference play, the Johnnies went west to South Bend, Indiana and were pummeled by Notre Dame, 76-61. This game was significant for many reasons. For one it brought St. John's back to reality. This is the Big East, and teams are not going to win every game, especially on the road. It was also significant because it exposed the Red Storm's inability to play a 40-minute game on a nightly basis.
The Red Storm have had a hard time playing 40 minutes of solid defense all season. They were able to get by with wins against teams like Wagner and Columbia because of experience, but experience only counts for so much in games against teams like Syracuse and Notre Dame. This problem was most evident in their games against St. Bonaventure and Fordham, when they blew huge leads and ended up losing. Those are key losses since St. John's will likely need an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament.
As far as the game tonight against Syracuse, it should be a better game than people think. Syracuse is playing just its second true road game of the year and barely got past the lowly Seton Hall Pirates in Newark on Saturday. This is technically a home game for St. John's, but don't expect the crowd to be too partial to the Red Storm. Syracuse is located just five hours north of New York City, and has a huge following of fans and alumni that always support the Orange at MSG.
St. John's will really need to keep this a low scoring game if it wants to win. This is good for the Johnnies, because their defense has been very strong so far this season. Syracuse plays its infamous zone defense that few teams have been able to crack. In order for St. John's to win, it will need to be a grind-it-out type of game. The Red Storm will also need to contain the three-point shooting of Brandon Triche and Scoop Jardine.
St. John's will need to stick to its game as well. The Red Storm are not a perimeter team, and they need to remember that, even if they are down in the game. They are good off the dribble with Dwight Hardy and D.J. Kennedy. St. John's isn't a huge team, but it will need to contain the Orange big men. The Red Storm should also not be afraid to foul, as the Orange are shooting just 64 percent from the line and are coming off a 17-of-36 free-throw shooting performance at Seton Hall.
The key for the Red Storm is to play St. John's basketball, and when they do that, they are successful.