Wednesday, February 24, 2021
Tuesday, February 23, 2021
Traveling to face the No. 8 team in the country coming off the worst loss of the year with your season on life support is not the ideal recipe for success.
But maybe St. John’s would play loose, the way it did during its six weeks of success spanning most of 2021. Maybe it could frustrate Villanova the way it did three weeks ago.
The Wildcats ran the Red Storm out of Finneran Pavilion, 81-58, in a game that was never remotely competitive Tuesday night.
The Wildcats jumped out to a 20-9 start. They shot 50 percent from the floor, hit six 3-pointers and eventually took a 42-25 lead into the break. St. John’s, (14-10, 8-9 Big East) on the other hand, shot just 26.7 percent from the field and 2-of-13 from three in the first period.
The final numbers weren’t much prettier for the Johnnies, ending the game shooting just 36.2 percent from the field and 3-of-23 from deep, and for most of the night, the product on the floor didn’t even look that efficient. Even at the line, where St. John’s entered with the second-best percentage in the conference, the Red Storm went just 13-of-21.
St. John’s 58 points were the fewest it has mustered this season.
My takeaways from the loss:
Champagnie’s slow starts
Julian Champagnie has been one of the best players in the conference, and maybe the country, this season, but he’s been plagued by slow starts at times. Tuesday was representative of those struggles, as the sophomore missed his first six shots and didn’t hit his first field goal until the final minute of the opening frame.
Champagnie finished with a team-high 16 points and seven rebounds, but shot just 5-of-18 from the field, including 0-of-6 from deep.
Bench woes continue
Entering Saturday’s contest with DePaul, St. John’s had the highest scoring bench in the conference. On Tuesday, the Red Storm reserves managed just 25 points, with 10 coming from Isaih Moore.
Marcellus Earlington, who was instrumental in the Johnnies’ success, has just four total points in his last two games.
Guards Rasheem Dunn and Posh Alexander are what make St. John’s go, both offensively and defensively. Their struggles the last two games – each finished with just four points Tuesday – directly influenced the team’s as a whole.
Greg Williams, Jr. scored just five points, but looked as healthy as he has since injuring his back in January. He said prior to the game however that he’s never quite sure how the injury will hold up.
Meanwhile, Alexander exited Tuesday’s contest with about three minutes remaining with a finger injury. The freshman looked to be in immense pain as he left the court and is one of two players – along with Champagnie – that the Red Storm flat out cannot afford to lose.
In just four days, NCAA Tournament hopes have dwindled to danger of failing to even qualify for the NIT. At this point, any postseason experience would be beneficial for a team that should return all but one of its contributors from this season in Dunn.
The Red Storm desperately needs to come out of its eight-day layoff with a sense of urgency against Providence and Seton Hall before the Big East Tournament. As it stands, 2020-21 is in dire risk of becoming a lost year.
It was once thought St. John’s might try to fill this eight-day layoff with a non-conference game in hopes of boosting its tournament resume. With those hopes dashed, it’s now up to coach Mike Anderson to use this time to refocus his team and hope that Williams and Alexander can heal up.
The Red Storm return to Carnesecca Arena to host Providence on March 3 at 7 p.m. in desperate need of a win.
Monday, February 22, 2021
Sunday, February 21, 2021
In the 40 days between St. John’s 18-point loss to Creighton and its showdown with lowly DePaul on Saturday, the Red Storm made believers out of everyone.
In 40 minutes Saturday night, it all came crashing down.
The six-game winning streak, the upsets of Villanova and UConn, beating Xavier for the first time in six years, the emergence of bona fide stars in Julian Champagnie and Posh Alexander, the prediction of cleaning up at the Big East postseason awards, all a heartbreaking footnote of a likely lost season.
On the bubble and in firm control of their own destiny, the Johnnies laid an egg at home Saturday, getting outplayed and out-toughed by the perennial basement-dwelling Blue Demons. DePaul not only downed the Red Storm, 88-83; it shot 63 percent from the field, it outscored St. John’s laughably in the paint, 58-18, and off the bench, 49-32.
The Red Storm shot just 33.8 percent from the field. It attempted 33 3-pointers and made just 12. Champagnie filled it up with 29 points, but was just 9-of-22 from the field. Alexander was uncharacteristically quiet, finishing with five points on 2-of-9 shooting. Fifth-year senior Rasheem Dunn, who has been so instrumental to the Johnnies’ recent success, had his worst game in a St. John’s uniform, scoring seven points on an ugly 1-of-10 shooting and committing six turnovers in the loss. Greg Williams, Jr. is still injured, he scored just three points, and Marcellus Earlington, who put up 16 points and nine rebounds to help down Xavier on Tuesday, was scoreless.
DePaul senior guard Charlie Moore returned from injury and came off the bench to score 24 points, grab six rebounds and notch eight assists. Moore is a nice player with a lot of experience, but what he was able to accomplish against the normally-stout defense of Alexander and Dunn is inexcusable.
“We always talk about our defense and how our defense has come along,” St. John’s coach Mike Anderson said after the loss. “But I thought tonight, our defense was nonexistent, and not like we have been playing.”
Now St. John’s has the unenviable task of traveling to play No. 10 Villanova on Tuesday. The Wildcats haven’t forgotten their loss to the Red Storm on February 3, and can smell blood in the water.
“It’s upsetting, but we’re not going to lay down,” Champagnie said. “We have to battle, and that’s it. You’ve got to move on. Next game, we play Villanova on the road, which we have to win now, regardless. We are not going to sit here and cry about it.”
The sophomore is saying the right things, but executing those sentiments is a completely different issue. St. John’s has shown the ability to bounce back after a tough loss, like it did in defeating Xavier a week after falling to Butler, but this type of loss in this stage of the season is more likely to take the wind out of a team’s sails than it is to springboard it.
The silver lining is that St. John’s only fell eight spots to 76 in the NET rankings, while DePaul moved up enough to qualify the loss as Quad 3 instead of Quad 4. There’s still a pulse, albeit a faint one. Maybe the Red Storm upsets Villanova a second time, then handles Providence and Seton Hall, makes a little noise in the Big East Tournament and gets some help from outside teams. Maybe the Johnnies win the conference tournament outright. Stranger things have happened.
But more than likely, St. John’s target now falls to the NIT. Postseason experience is good. Dunn is the only contributor that’s set to graduate, Champagnie should return as a junior next year looking to impress NBA scouts, and Alexander figures to take another step in his second year. The rest of the supporting cast probably returns. Year three of a coach’s tenure is usually the bench mark for its trajectory, and 2021-22 will surely be an NCAA Tournament or bust mindset for the Red Storm.
But man, what could’ve been.
Saturday, February 20, 2021
Friday, February 19, 2021
Thursday, February 18, 2021
VCU is at the top of the conference. The Rams edged St. Bonaventure last Friday to move into first place. Davidson and UMass are just behind in the standings, and are set to return to action after a pause in activity. St. Bonaventure and Saint Louis round out the leaders. The Bonnies, as noted, fell from the top by virtue of their loss at VCU. On a hot streak of late, Saint Louis is rounding into top form and making its move. The regular season is set to end in just 17 days, so there could be a shuffling in the final standings. For now, it will be interesting to see how contenders such as Davidson and UMass will react to their time off, as well as scheduling changes down the road leading up to postseason play.
Efficiency Margins and Records (courtesy of KenPom)
1) Saint Louis (+14, 4-2)
T-2) St. Bonaventure (+12, 8-3)
T-2) Davidson (+12, 6-2)
4) UMass (+11, 6-2)
T-5) VCU (+7, 9-2)
T-5) Richmond (+7, 4-3)
T-7) Dayton (+3, 7-6)
T-7) Duquesne (+3, 6-5)
9) Rhode Island (+2, 7-8)
10) George Mason (-1, 5-6)
11) George Washington (-2, 2-3)
12) La Salle (-11, 5-9)
13) Saint Joseph’s (-18, 0-9)
14) Fordham (-24, 2-11)
Offensive Efficiency Leaders
1) Davidson (109)
2) Richmond (108)
T-3) Saint Louis and St. Bonaventure (107)
5) Dayton (103)
A significant pause in activity naturally saw no change for the top two. Saint Louis is playing well on the offensive end, but that is not the main reason for its recent success (see below). St. Bonaventure and Dayton are holding steady, with a few teams, specifically UMass and VCU, on their heels threatening to enter the top five.
Defensive Efficiency Leaders
1) UMass (90)
2) VCU (93)
3) Saint Louis (94)
4) Duquesne and St. Bonaventure (95)
It’s the defense. The coaching cliche of offense selling tickets while defense wins ballgames is holding true in the case of Saint Louis. In each of their six conference games, the Billikens have posted an efficiency of 100, a good number, or better on offense. The defense is another story. In their two losses, Travis Ford’s conference favorites have yielded over 100 on the defensive end. In the four wins, the defensive efficiency failed to reach triple digits. The breakdown by opponent with the Saint Louis offensive and defensive efficiency in each game:
Dayton (L) 100 vs. 107
La Salle (L) 103 vs. 112
St. Bonaventure (W) 109 vs. 92
Rhode Island (W) 100 vs. 90
Fordham (W) 113 vs. 67
La Salle (W) 122 vs. 89
The offense has been on track. Now the defense is taking it to another level. A continued effort on that end will make Saint Louis a tough out come tournament time.
1) Saint Joseph’s and UMass (71 possessions per game)
3) VCU (70)
4) Rhode Island and La Salle (69)
Fordham, Davidson, Dayton and St. Bonaventure (all 65 possessions per game)
Not a very big change, given there were several teams in the conference pausing. VCU has been rolling along, and is very comfortable with an uptempo game. The Rams’ conference-leading 34 percent defensive turnover rate creates offensive transition opportunities. On the opposite side of the spectrum, it may not seem much by the math, but the 65-possession tempo is decidedly pedestrian compared to the low seventies.
The Past Week
February 12: VCU 67, St. Bonaventure 64
The visiting Bonnies battled back from a 12- point second-half deficit. A long-distance 3-point attempt by Dominick Welch rimmed out and sent Mark Schmidt’s team home on the losing side of the ledger. For VCU, it was the regular formula, a 44 percent offensive rebound percentage and 22 percent defensive turnover rate, plus a 22-point outing from Bones Hyland.
February 13: Saint Louis 68, Fordham 40
The Billikens won their third straight, dominating Fordham at Rose Hill Gym. Saint Louis held the Rams to a 67 offensive efficiency and just 17 first half points. Travis Ford’s group enjoyed a 55-26 rebounding edge, with 19 coming on the offensive end.
February 14: Richmond 90, St. Mary’s (MD) 49
On Valentine’s Day, the host Spiders showed no heart in rolling over St. Mary’s. It was Richmond’s first game in almost three weeks. Leading in every statistical category, Richmond excelled in 3-point shooting (16-of-33) and defensive turnover rate (32 percent).
February 16: Saint Louis 78, La Salle 57
The winning streak continued, as Saint Louis avenged an earlier loss at La Salle by posting an outstanding 122 offensive efficiency. Javonte Perkins (19 points) and Jordan Goodwin (16) paced a balanced attack. Goodwin also added 15 rebounds and eight assists, both game-highs.
Rhode Island 91, Dayton 89 (2OT)
Fatts Russell shot 4-of-17 from the field, but the senior guard virtually willed the Rams to a senior night victory, scoring 20 points, grabbing five rebounds and handing out seven assists in 45 minutes. The win snapped a four-game losing streak for the Rams. Freshman Zimi Nwokeji led the Flyers with 29 points and nine rebounds, earning KenPom game MVP honors.
February 17: VCU 68, Richmond 56
The host Rams earned their sixth straight victory by virtue of a late run. Richmond committed just six turnovers, but was beaten on the boards by a 44-27 count. Mike Rhoades’ Rams got 20 points, 12 rebounds and six assists — all game pace-setting numbers — from Bones Hyland.
On the Schedule
February 18: Southern Virginia at DavidsonFebruary 19: Saint Louis at Dayton
February 20: La Salle at Saint Joseph’s
George Mason at VCU
Duquesne at Richmond
February 21: Rhode Island at George Washington
Davidson at St. Bonaventure
February 23: Fordham at Richmond
Saint Louis at VCU
February 24: Davidson at George Mason
UMass at Saint Joseph’s
Davidson is following Richmond’s model. Bob McKillop’s Wildcats will exit their pause by playing a non-Division I opponent. Davidson hosts Southern Virginia on Thursday in its first game since late January.
At the eleventh hour, Wednesday afternoon word came that St. Bonaventure at George Mason, scheduled for Thursday afternoon, was cancelled due to a winter storm set to hit the Washington, D.C. area.
Bones Hyland, VCU
Jordan Goodwin, Saint Louis
Jalen Crutcher, Dayton
Grant Golden, Richmond
Javonte Perkins, Saint Louis
Tempo: 68 possessions per game
Home wins: 40 of 70 (.571)
Close wins: 14 of 71 (19.7%
Blowouts: 13 of 71 (18.3%)
There is a disparity in home wins (70) and blowouts and close wins (71). That is due to Dayton having played George Washington on a neutral site at George Mason.
Home teams are starting to use their advantage. The home court is up to a 57 percent win total as opposed to just barely over 50 earlier this season. Chalk it up to just being familiar with your home turf and not having to travel.