Saturday, February 22, 2014
When: 1:30 pm Eastern
RPI: St. John's: 48 | Villanova: 4
KenPom: St. John's: 30 | Villanova: 7
The Wells Fargo Center (Capacity: 19,500)
Where: Philadelphia, PA
TV: Fox Sports 1
Radio: 1210 WPHT
Odds: Villanova -XX | O/U: XX
St. John's actually owns the edge in the series, 59-48. But this includes some seriously dominant stretches, including 6 straight wins for the Storm in 1985 and 1986. And from 1927-1962, they went 16-2. But what matters most is that Villanova has won 10 of the last 11 meetings, including earlier this year, when the 'Cats went to MSG and handed St. John's their only home conference loss in regulation, 74-67.
The Johnnies, as Jon Rothstein is always apt to say, are one of the most talented teams in the Big East, if not the most talented. After starting out 0-5 in conference play, they seemed doomed to an NIT bid at best. But since a double-overtime loss to Providence, they have now won nine of 10, with the lone loss coming in Omaha to Creighton by three measly points, as Dirk McDirkmott hit a game-winning three in the closing seconds. With a 4th-place sitting in the Big East, their resume now boasts three single-digit losses to top-11 teams, as well as a win against Creighton.
On February 10, Joe Lunardi's bracket had them in the "Next 4 Out" Section. Just 10 days later, they've moved past the "First 4 Out" and "Last 4 In" and are now a legitimate 11-seed with a chance for more key victories down the stretch.
With their length and athleticism, they can stay in any game, and use turnovers and fastbreaks to get on huge runs, like the 20-0 run they went on against Butler earlier in the week. D'Angelo Harrison, a swift-cutting guard, averages nearly 19 points per game, and Jakarr Sampson chips in 12.7 and six boards. They are another deep team, just like VIllanova, and seven different players average 20 minutes per game.
But the X-factor for the Red Storm is Chris Obekpa. He is a dominant presence inside, averaging 3.2 blocks per game, and blocked seven shots against Marquette earlier this month. However, Obekpa is out for a week or two with an ankle injury, and will not suit up.
Steve Lavin is a Republican member of the Montana Legislature. He was elected to House District 8, which represents the Kalispell, Montana area, and is also a member of the Montana Highway Patrol. Wait, whoops, wrong guy. Silly Wikipedia.
Steve Lavin is actually a native of the West Coast, born and raised in San Francisco. He spent five seasons as an assistant coach at UCLA, where he helped the Bruins to a national championship. Two years later, after a scandal, he became the head coach. He was fired in 2003, and was an ESPN analyst before taking the St. John's job in 2010. His 2011-12 recruiting class was 3rd in the nation, and his 2012-13 class was 8th.
Oh, and he didn't wear a tie in the last matchup against Nova. Shame on him.
The current commisioner of the NYPD, Raymond Kelly, is a Johnnie, as is William Casey, former director of the CIA. ESPN broadcaster Brian Kenny earned his degree at St. John's, and Seattle Sounders midfielder Shalrie Joseph played soccer in Queens. There's even a few other famous Red Storm grads that have two first names, but I'm not gonna list them all.
Many baseball players came through wearing a St. John's uniform, however, including Rich Aurilia, John Franco, Craig Hansen, and Frank Viola.