Red Storm’s record looks impressive at 11-1, both positively and negatively, with St. John’s beating Florida State in the non-conference finale, but the competition…isn’t great. According to KenPom, the non-conference schedule ranks him 330th out of 330 eligible teams.
Villanova and the rest of the conference schedule will prove to be an even tougher test. But despite a schedule with struggling teams like Merrimack and Syracuse, Red Storm got the chance to experiment with some pretty unconventional approaches to winning high-level games.
Can Janice, who doesn’t shoot threes and shoots threes but shoots poorly, amass enough runouts and upsets to be the Big East’s top-half team? But Villanova are hungry to beat the record after a string of challenging games and their own unorthodox style.
Who: St. John’s Red Storm (11-1, 1-0 Big East) vs Villanova Wildcats (6-5, 0-0 Big East)
when: Wednesday, December 21, 2022 at 6:30 PM
where: Finneran Pavilion, Villanova, Pennsylvania
tv set: FS1
Odds: Villanova, -3.5
history: Tomorrow’s game will be the 128th meeting between the teams and is Red Storm’s most frequent opponent.
Since the Big East’s revolution, nothing has been more constant than Villanova. In terms of basketball dominance, it’s as stable as death and taxes. Perhaps tired of his dominance at the college level, former coach Jay Wright handed the keys to the Wildcat Kingdom to former assistant Kyle Neptune, who had enjoyed a solid season at Fordham the previous year.
It’s easy to say that Villanova’s plan didn’t work out.
The team went 6-5, losing to Temple and Portland halfway through. But underlying the record is the following fact.
- The schedule was difficult, so
- There is a big change in the backcourt,
- And Villanova’s style relies heavily on their ability to take and make 3-pointers, while other teams miss 3-pointers.
Three’s take worked well. I had a hard time making it.
Villanova takes more than half of his shots from outside the arc and generally plays the now familiar 5 out style. They play slowly and carefully, like to hold onto the ball and find shots on the perimeter. None of the regulars are afraid to shoot open threes.
However, 3 of the regular customers are below 30%. Not good.
Defensively, Villanova is much more forgiving than last season’s version of what he played in the Final Four, being able to shoot 51% in the arc and 36% from deep. As usual, there’s no size or interior presence to block shots, but three-point his shooter can get a clean look this season. Or maybe the shooter is a mix of “focused” and “lucky”.
Still, Villanova appears to be finding some rhythm with over 33% of his shots over the arc in his last four games. Star freshman Cam Whitmore joins the on-court roster. In his four games, the Wildcats have won four, starting with a W against a very good Oklahoma team. Villanova starts off with just how well Caleb Daniels can handle the pressure at that point, but the 6’7″ cam His Whitmore is clearly a game changer for the Wildcats. He has a professional future. A high level athlete.
Point guard Caleb Daniels stepped up from last year’s reserves to a major role in playmaking and shooting. He’s consistent, providing secondary deep rebounds, some assists, and within the arc he’s shooting over 50%. He’s willing and able to pull up or reach the rim for mid-range jumpers.
Daniels will be joined by Chris Arcidiacano following in his brother’s footsteps. His young Arcidiacono is not a very keen shooter, making almost all his shots from beyond the arc. He attempted 8 inside the arc and 31 from deep. Guards Mark Armstrong and Jordan Longino also spend time in the backcourt. Both take shots inside the arc and seem to find range on jump shots. Armstrong, who has started in the last four games, recently won the Big East’s Freshman of the Week award.
Up front, Cam Whitmore is joined by tall Brandon Slater, who plays more as a 6’8 winger than a true forward, taking most of his shots out of the deep. He’s a better rebounder this season than he’s been in years past, but he’s still not quite what you’d expect from a 6’8 player. From the free throw line he shoots 91%.
Eric Dixon is an inside stalwart, but he too tends to play on the outside looking for perimeter shots. He’s been incredibly consistent in his scoring prowess this season, posting his double-digit numbers in all 11 games. Dixon is a foul-drawing threat in the paint.
Destructive backcourt play. Red Storm needs to find a way to make the Wildcats shoot those nasty 3-pointers instead of walking into the clean and cute 3s that everyone knows will drop. Easier said than done, Mr. and Mrs. Johnny can’t play a game where they trade threes for his two-pointers. Posh Alexander and André his steals from Curbero, for example, aren’t enough to make up for his 15 3-pointers.
Increase the pace of the game. Villanova wants to play a controlled game and keep Johnnies at half court. For Redstorm to be successful offensively, he needs to be able to attack in 10-15 seconds first on the shot clock.
I own a glass St. John’s may miss a few shots, but given their size advantage and certain players’ hunger for putbacks, if they’re playing hard and aggressive on the offensive grass, they’ll likely miss a few shots like David Jones or Joel Soriano. There should be opportunities for
St. John’s makes it exciting, but we find out that Vilanova is still very much alive, despite rumors, close 72-68.