This Saturday Villanova will make it’s first trip of the year up to Madison Square Garden, the home of the Big East Tournament. As you may have read already, you too can head to the tournament by participating in a social media contest. But that’s still a few months out, and now it’s time to focus on the Big East’s New York residents, St. John’s.
The Johnnies have been hard to pin down this year. They’ve been all over the map with good wins and terrible losses. It’s the kind of team that doesn’t scare you, but you still don’t want to play them. While the final scores of the last few meetings have been double-digit Nova wins, many fans will remember them as being much closer than the final score would suggest. The #3 Wildcats will be favorites to win the game, but here’s 3 things to keep in mind heading into the weekend.
Don’t let their 8-10 record fool you, St. John’s can be good
This isn’t a bad team, and it would be a mistake to assume an easy win despite their losing record and current three game losing streak. It’s not that St. John’s is a bad team, they’re actually pretty talented. But they’re young (4th least experienced team in the country per KenPom), and with inexperience comes inconsistency. It’s the only way you can describe a team good enough to beat #13 Butler, the lone team Villanova has lost to this season, and yet somehow lose to Delaware State, ranked 332nd by KenPom.
Even though Nova Nation usually shows up in droves anytime we play in NYC, this is still a home court advantage for the Red Storm. Now with a pair of talented freshman and a “run and gun” tempo, this is the type of team that could surprise the Wildcats with an upset.
The Youth Movement
As mentioned earlier, St. John’s is a very young team. Of their eleven players, eight are freshmen and sophomores with just one senior. So it’s no surprise that the team’s leading scorers are a pair of freshman, Marcus LoVett and Shamorie Ponds. Both are averaging over 17 points and 3 assists per game.
LoVett is the better shooter of the two, going 47% from the field, 43% from behind the arc, and 84% from the line. Ponds is more of a “do it all” guard. He leads the team in steals and despite being just 6’1”, he’s second on the team in rebounds averaging over 5 per game. These two are the future of the Red Storm, and their best hope at upsetting the Wildcats.
Villanova Owns NYC
It’s no secret that New York City has been Villanova’s home away from home in recent history. In the last two seasons the Wildcats have gone 14-1 at MSG and the Barclays Center, the lone loss coming in last year’s Big East Tournament Championship game to Seton Hall. Even that was a blessing in disguise as many players credited the loss to increasing the team’s focus for their Championship run.
But it’s been a while since the Cats fell to the team that’s supposed to own the Big Apple. Villanova has won 8 straight meetings with the Red Storm, the last loss coming at the Pavilion in 2011. The Cats haven’t lost to St. John’s at MSG since 2002, and should be favorites to keep that streak alive on Saturday.