A huge perk of being at SB Nation is that we get to bounce things off the other 300+ blogs that also call this place home. The folks over at Rumble In The Garden cover St. John's (and do a damn fine job doing so) and offered to prepare a quick scouting report for us:
St. John's is a veteran-led team in search of a breakthrough. The Johnnies have not defeated a top 10 opponent since knocking off Pittsburgh in 2011 - the last year the Red Storm made the NCAA Tournament, with a team of seniors inherited from the previous coach.
Since then, the Red Storm seem to have been in a constant cycle of high expectations and disappointments - due to a combination of ridiculous bad luck... or a program filled with "issues" of discipline, eligibility and departures.
For the seniors, this year is a chance to finally break through. And put past drama behind them.
St. John's function best when they are able to get out in transition and force an up-and-down breakneck pace game. And that's not because they are great at scoring transition, though they are better in transition then in the half-court. The pace and frenzy serve the Red Storm well because the most impressive skill the Storm have is defensive athleticism - the ability to alter shots with their length and the speed and hops to block shots from behind.
The Red Storm are led by D'Angelo Harrison, a high-volume scorer with a ton of energy. His ability to score or attempt to score at any time in the shot clock at any time in the game makes the Johnnies unpredictable. It seems out-of-control, but his game fits the Johnnies perfectly. He's deeply passionate and intense, bordering on manic, but has learned to channel his energy positively. Without his moxie, his utter fearlessness, the Red Storm often find themselves playing half-court sets that look somewhat aimless.
The other major piece is Chris Obekpa, likely the nations best shot blocker. When he is on the court Obekpa changes the game; opponents find their two-point shooting percentage plummeting and choose to take outside shots. When he's not on the court... well, the Red Storm defense is still finding its way. The team loves to put pressure on guards and funnel them into Obekpa's waiting long arms (and short shorts).
The athletic talents of Rysheed Jordan and Sir'Dominic Pointer are x-factors - as is the shooting of Phil Greene IV, who has been cold to start the season but is Lavin's most trusted guard (despite being less acclaimed). Pointer does a lot of things - hustles for steals, blocks shots, passes, hammers down poster-style dunks, defends power forwards - and is known for his defense. Rysheed Jordan is a one-man attack squad, able to bull into the lane for scores; sometimes he attempts these shots against three or four defenders. Greene, on his good days, gets separation and hits jump shots. Jamal Branch is a point guard who backs up the four-guard lineup, who can be a settling element (the team's antacid?) but can also try passes too fancy for a black tie ball (the team's acid reflux?).
Thanks again to the folks over at Rumble In The Garden. Should be a heck of a game in St. John's backyard!