The Red Storm of St. John's were finally ranked earlier this week at 23rd in the AP poll.
To celebrate being ranked for the first time in over a decade, the Red Storm went on the road and played a weak DePaul team. As expected, St. John’s won in convincing fashion.
Now St. John’s has to worry about the Wildcats of Villanova. St. John’s has proven that it can take on big teams like Villanova at home, but as March Madness approaches, now is the time to prove it can take on the bullies of the Big East on the road, since Villanova will be St. John’s last ranked opponent before the Big East tournament in early March.
On defense, there are two things Steve Lavin and his Red Storm will need to do.
1. Contain Corey Fisher
This is one person you don’t want to go on a tear against your team, especially with the home court advantage. In his last game, Fisher was held to eight points by Syracuse, but in the game before that Fisher scored 34 points against DePaul.
I am not equating St. John’s with DePaul, but late in the game DePaul had a three-point lead with less than 10 seconds that it blew and ended up losing in overtime. This happened because the Blue Demons slept on Fisher when the Wildcats needed him most; Fisher took a contested three-pointer but still was able to drain it.
The one-two punch of Dwight Hardy and Malik Boothe at point guard should be able to contain Fisher with ease.
2. Keep up the Lavin pressure
The most successful strategy implemented by Lavin this season is pressure in the backcourt and frontcourt. By putting pressure on the guard getting the inbound pass, opposing guards have to run around to try to get open.
The benefit of St. John’s guards is that they’re fast on their feet; if they were not, this strategy would be completely pointless since opposing guards could just run and get open and blow by the St. John’s guards, which would result in a fast break.
Since a fast break is not likely with the Red Storm guards, the pressure may cause a turnover, resulting in easy points for St. John's, a lot of time being lost on the shot clock or even a 10-second violation.
The defensive abilities St. John’s has this year mesh well with Lavin’s defensive strategy and it will be interesting to see how they use this strategy to their advantage against the Wildcats and any other teams they face this year.
On offense, the two key words for the Red Storm are consistency and scoring. I am not saying that they need to score every time they take the ball downcourt (which would be pretty awesome), but they need to avoid what they have been recently doing against tough opponents.
When the Red Storm were on the road facing Marquette earlier in the month, they could not make a single field goal in the last nine minutes of the game (nearly 25 percent of the game without a field goal). As long as St. John's has misses only here and there, it should be able to keep up with the talented Villanova team and possibly leave Wells Fargo Center with a victory.
It may not seem like it, but as of right now St. John’s has the advantage over Villanova. The Wildcats have been struggling recently, while the Red Storm on a hot streak. With the talent it has and its ranking on the line, look for St. John's to leave everything on the court, as those who watch the game will be in store for a great one till the end.