Big East Basketball Tournament: Will St. John's Prevail Over Rutgers in NY/NJ Rivalry?

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Big East Basketball Tournament: Will St. John's Prevail Over Rutgers in NY/NJ Rivalry?
Chris Chambers/Getty Images
Head Coach Steve Lavin looks to lead his team to victory against Rutgers.

Although they did not get a double bye in the Big East tournament, St. John's received a first round bye and the team was able to watch the overtime thriller between Rutgers and Seton Hall from the comfort of their couches.  

In overtime, both teams exchanged leads including several ties and a few players fouling out.  Made obvious by the title, Rutgers won and will no face a rested St. John's team on Wednesday in the second game of the day session.

In their last game against the Scarlet Knights, St. John's won in a close game as they beat Rutgers 58-56 on February 2nd.  This game was a poor display of the new way of playing St. John's basketball. 

There was no distribution of points for St. John's. Of all the players, only three scored in double digits (Dwight Hardy, Paris Horne and Justin Burrell), while others made little or no impact on the court.  This lapse in production from other members on the team was part of the reason why the Johnnies were not able to score as many points as they did in their previous game (93 against Duke).

This time, the Red Storm will be rested and they will not have to skate by Rutgers because of a clutch layup by Justin Brownlee with four seconds left in the game and here's why:

1.) Madison Square Garden belongs to St. John's.

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The last time these two teams played, it was at Carnesecca Arena in Queens.  Sure it was a home game for St. John's, but this time the stakes are much higher.  With this game, the loser goes home (and if it's Rutgers, they stay home), while the winner will get to live to see another day in the Big East Tournament, which means playing against Syracuse. 

Along with the high stakes, the game is being played at one of the most famous arena's in the world.  With the exception of their lose to Syracuse in January, St. John's has been unstoppable at Madison Square Garden this season.  Since we've entered 2011, the Red Storm have defeated: Pittsburgh, Connecticut, Duke, Georgetown and Notre Dame all at Madison Square Garden.

2.) Back to back blows.

Like I said earlier, Rutgers' 2 PM game on Tuesday went down to the wire in overtime against their New Jersey rivals, Seton Hall.  There is no doubt the game was physical and going into overtime does not help when a team has to play at the same time, the next day.  In order to win, Lavin and the Red Storm need to take advantage of the fact Rutgers will be sore and tired. 

The way they can do this is by putting intense pressure on Rutgers' offense.  The Johnnies have Hardy and Malik Boothe playing the guard positions, and the two can put great pressure on opposing offenses.  By doing so, they can tire out the Rutgers players by making them work to pass the ball to one another.  

On offense, St. John's should attack the paint as much as possible.  With players like Burrell and Brownlee down low, they can tire out the bigger players on the Scarlet Knights.  This will lead to easy points and three point play opportunities, which are assets the Red Storm should take advantage of.

3.) Better overall players.

Let's face it, Rutgers may have beaten Seton Hall (who beat St. John's last week), but that no longer means anything to the Johnnies and their faithful fans.  If you were to compare these two teams and pick who'd win, you would say St. John's.  They have lethal weapons across the court that can handle anybody Rutgers puts on the court. 

First, Hardy can control games.  He makes clutch shots on demand, can drive to the hoop and finish off plays.  Meanwhile, Burrell and Brownlee are on the baseline to secure rebounds and lock-down Rutgers' big men if they try to work the post.  With these players on the court, St. John's can shoot from wherever they want, whenever they want.

Thus, St. John's is a better team and they should be able to win this game.  Judging by their last game against South Florida, expect the game to be close in the beginning but as time progresses, St. John's will break away and end Rutgers' dream of winning the Big East Tournament.

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