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Preview: St. John’s Red Storm vs. #14 Villanova Wildcats

Can the ‘Cats handle the pressure?

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament First Four-Arizona State Sun Devils vs St. John’s Red Storm Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

The #14 Villanova Wildcats will welcome the St. John’s Red Storm to the Finn on Saturday afternoon. The Johnnies are still looking for a marquee win this season but are coming off an absolute boat-racing of Seton Hall - drubbing the Pirates by 21 points on Monday night.

Let’s take a quick look at what we can expect tomorrow.

A Clash of Styles

Brendan already wrote about one of my would-be points - presumably between fact-checking episodes of State of the ‘Nova Nation - so I will just paste his analysis below:

“St. John’s play’s ridiculously fast. Not only is their Adjusted Tempo ranked 4th in the country per KenPom, they also average the 3rd fastest possession length on offense at 14.6 seconds. The Johnnies are all about attacking on both sides of the ball, ranking 15th in Steal% and 16th in Turnover% on defense. They have one game this season with fewer than 71 possessions, and they’ll be looking to turn Saturday’s matchup with Nova into a sprint.

NCAA Basketball: Seton Hall at St. John Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

Meanwhile, Villanova ranks 356th in Adjusted Tempo, the 3rd slowest team in the country. Their average possession length on offense is also in the bottom 10 nationally at a full 20 seconds. They also are one of the best teams in the country at not turning the ball over (11th in Turnover%) and preventing teams from stealing (5th in Steal %). So when we say we’re really going to have a clash of styles, we mean it.”

Brendan hit the nail on the head here. The clash of tempos has been the main talking point in advance of this match-up. From Villanova’s standpoint, recent struggles with both inbounding and breaking the press will need to be overcome quickly. This is a game where Jay will need to be strategic with his substitutions, specifically with who is on the court at the same time. Ball-handling and ball security will be at a premium in this one. Unsurprisingly, we can expect the heaviest possible minutes from Collin Gillespie and Justin Moore.


St. John’s is led by 6’8 junior guard Julian Champagnie, who averages 19.5 points per game. Champagnie is a strong shooter - specifically from mid-range - and, while he doesn’t have the speed that typically gives ‘Nova trouble, he demands attention at the arc and will take his man off the dribble. His strength is shot-creating - if there’s a will, there’s a way.

Champagnie is also a solid rebounder - averaging nearly 7 a game - and a plus defender. He boasts a steal % of 2.5 and block % of 3.5 - both good for Top-20 in the conference.

Keep an Eye on Posh

The Johnnies’ second-leading scorer is 6’0 (generous...) sophomore guard Posh Alexander. Alexander is averaging 15 points a game and leads the team in assists (4.3) and steals (2.6). Alexander was arguably built for Mike Anderson’s system - he’s quick, strong, energetic, and has a solid handle. While he is not a strong outside shooter, he has the speed to get to the rim at will and will gladly take a slow-footed defender off the dribble.

The game tips off at 4:30 pm on FOX.