On Saturday afternoon, unranked St. John’s will play ninth-ranked Villanova. The Red Storm are hoping to defeat their second ranked opponent this season and extend their current winning streak to seven games.
The Red Storm and Wildcats will be facing each other for the second time this season. In the previous meeting, the Wildcats traveled to Madison Square Garden, New York, NY, to play the Red Storm.
On Jan. 11, the then eighth-ranked Wildcats defeated the unranked Red Storm 74-67. Junior Wildcats’ forward JayVaughn Pinkston scored 15 points to lead the team.
The Red Storm’s leading scorer was Junior guard D’Angelo Harrison with 22 points. The Jan. 11 meeting was competitive for the majority of the game, but the Wildcats outscored the Red Storm 43-34 in the second half.
The Wildcats (23-3 Overall, 12-3 Big East Conference) are a near lock to make a March Madness appearance.
According to Joe Lunardi of ESPN.com, he listed the Wildcats in his latest Bracketology, Thursday, as the third seed in the East region. It appeared to be nearly impossible for the Wildcats to fail to make the Field of 68.
Unlike the Wildcats, the Red Storm (18-9 Overall, 8-6 Big East) are not a March Madness appearance.
According to Lundari’s latest Bracketology, the Red Storm are ‘On The Bubble’ and listed as garnering one of the last four First Round byes. A victory against the Wildcats would enhance the Red Storm’s chances of making the Field of 68.
There are three keys in Saturday’s Red Storm-Wildcats meeting at Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia, Pa.
- Personal Fouls: Personal fouls are always vital in close games because they lead to additional free throw opportunities. In their first meeting, the Red Storm committed 30 fouls compared to the Wildcats’ 21. This led to the Wildcats attempting 16 more free throws than the Red Storm; 40-26. The fewer fouls a team commits, the fewer chances the opposing team will have to shoot free throws. In a close game, every personal foul is even more detrimental because it can lead to more free throw attempts for the opposing team.
- Villanova’s Three-Point Shooting: In their previous meeting, the Wildcats made only five of their 16 three-point attempts. Their struggles from three-point range allowed the Red Storm to have an opportunity to pull off the upset. The Wildcats are typically much better from three-point land. According to NCAA team statistics, the Wildcats average nine three-pointers made per game, seventh-best, and make 36.2 percent of their three-point attempts, 97th-best. The Red Storm rank 101st in three-point defense at 32.9 percent. Three-point defense is especially essential for the Red Storm because they rank 315th in three-pointers made per game at 4.7.
- Chris Obekpa’s Availability: The Red Storm rank first in total blocks, 207, and blocks per game, 7.7, because of Obekpa. At six-feet, nine-inches tall and 240 pounds, according to ESPN.com, he is lethal on the defensive end. His size and strength makes opponents think twice about trying to shoot over him. He also does a very good job of assisting on defense and swatting or altering the opponent’s shot attempt. This has led to him averaging 4.9 rebounds and 3.2 blocks in 20.5 minutes per game. He is also efficient on the offensive end. Obekpa does not shoot that often, but when he does he makes a high percentage of his shot attempts. He is shooting 62.3 percent from the field, which has led to him averaging 4.2 points per game. It is unknown if Obekpa will play on Saturday. On Monday, Terrence Payne of NBCSports.com reported that Obekpa would miss 10-14 days due to an ankle injury. Obekpa’s injury may not cause him to miss as much time as initially anticipated. Zach Braziller of the New York Post tweeted on Friday, “Lavin said he wouldn’t “rule out” possibility of Chris Obekpa playing Saturday…” Obekpa’s superb shot blocking ability has the ability to alter the Wildcats’ offensive game plan.
A Red Storm victory on Saturday would help them have a better opportunity of earning a spot in the Field of 68. Every game at this point in the season is essential to making a March Madness appearance and the Red Storm could really use a victory on Saturday.
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