With writing comes bias and with March Madness comes the Big East Tournament. Thursday at 2:30 my Providence Friars will take on the St. John’s Red Storm for the third time this season. Both teams sit at 21-10 on the season and are in good position to make the NCAA Tournament come selection Sunday. If there’s one team the Friars were looking to avoid in tournament play, it was the Red Storm. Serving as Providence’s Achilles heal this season, St. John’s went 2-0 against the Friars this year, winning 83-70 in Rhode Island on January 14th, and then 75-66 at Madison Square Garden three weeks later. Let’s take a look at where each team stands entering crunch time here in March.
Coming off a loss to the #21 Butler Bulldogs and losing their #24 national ranking, PC looks to get back on track on center stage at MSG. A major key for this Friars squad is getting off to a quick start. As of late, they’ve found themselves climbing back into games come the second half because of slow starts. This past week, the Friars had to put on a second half clinic led by Kris Dunn and LaDontae Henton to come back and beat Seton Hall. Outscoring the Pirates 50-29 in the second allowed them to secure the victory but things weren’t so easy against a battle tested Butler team. Seeing second half deficits as large 16 points, the Friars fought back to cut the lead down to just 1 but couldn’t finish the job. If Providence wants to get that elusive win against the Red Storm, they have to come out guns blazing with a ton of energy. Relying on a second half push won’t do the job in the Big East Tournament especially against a St. John’s team already playing on their home court. Kris Dunn needs to continue to play big. He’s been Mr. Reliable as of late for the Friars and they need him to take control of this game from the get-go. LaDontae Henton is the team’s leading scorer and against St. John’s on Thursday, he needs to do just that; score. Coming off just 8 points against Butler, he’ll have to get back to his normal form and provide that scoring punch that Ed Cooley and his Friars need. PC is going to need a solid performance from role players like Tyler Harris, Carson Desrosiers, and freshmen Ben Bentil. If those guys can play big on the glass and tough down low, they’ll put the Friars in a nice position to win.
Led by the scariest man in all of college basketball (D’Angelo Harrison, pictured above), the Red Storm come into the Big East Tournament following a loss to the all-powerful Villanova Wildcats. Before that loss however, St. John’s had rattled off four straight wins in convincing fashion. Being completely healthy for the first time since the beginning of the season, the Red Storm represent a dangerous dark horse for the rest of the Big East. Beating a team three times in one season is a tough thing to do however. Staying out of foul trouble is of extreme importance for Steve Lavin and his squad. The Red Storm play a solid six players and that’s about it. Depth is not their strong suit. If this team gets hot and goes on a run though look out; they’re tough to slow down. You can count on Harrison to get his share of points, but the Red Storm will look at Rysheed Jordan, Sir’Dominic Pointer, and Phil Greene to contribute in a consistent way Thursday. If St. John’s can get all around production from their lineup, they’ll be a difficult team for anyone to beat.
For outsiders, this is a great matchup early on in the Big East Tournament. For St. John’s and Friar fans alike however, this is one that’ll give you stomach cramps. Beating a team three times in one season is quite the difficult feat, while on the other hand the Red Storm seem to be unbeatable from a Friar’s standpoint. Look for PC to try to get St. John’s into early foul trouble and make them test their questionable depth. St. John’s will try come out firing and looking to run against this all to familiar Providence lineup. This will be a great test for both teams entering tournament play. If you tune in to watch this game you won’t be disappointed.
P.S. I’ll take the Cooley-Dunn combo and bet the house. Go Friars