We have finally made it! We have made it to the greatest month of the year and that’s March. Now while the best month of the year can be heavily debated, for me March is a fantastic month. There is so much optimism this month, the weather is starting to turn around, the Sox are back in Fort Myers, there’s still a chance I lose this beer gut by Memorial Day Weekend (probably not but whatever). On top of all of that since I survived another New England winte my reward is the greatest tournament in all sports, March Madness. I’m so excited for this year’s tournament that I couldn’t wait until March 16th and joined a Jerome pool for the first time. The only thing that could make this month better is if the Friars can make the tournament for school record fourth consecutive season. The Friars (19-11, 9-8) still have some work to do to make this thing happen and its starts this weekend.
The Friars will make the drive down I-95 to the World’s Most Famous Arena Madison Square Garden, where they will face the St. John’s Red Storm. St John’s (13-17, 7-10) are looking for the season sweep of the Friars for the 2nd time in the last 3 seasons, as they defeated the Friars in a track meet at the Dunk, 91-86, earlier in the season. The Red Storm are a very young team but there’s a lot of optimism with the program, as they are much improved this season under second year coach Chris Mullin. The Johnnies are led by their dynamic freshman duo of Shamorie Ponds (17.3 ppg) and Marcus LoVett (16.6 ppg) and have won their last three contests at MSG. One thing I can say for certain about this game is the Friars will have more to play for then St. Johns, as the Friars can secure the 4 seed for the Big East Tournament and put themselves in an extremely favorable position to make the big dance. Be that as it may, St. Johns is a young team that wont care and will play without fear of the Friars. So lets get to it! Here are my keys to the game.
Keys to The Game
- Play to Your Pace– There were two shocking aspects of the Friars first game against St. Johns, the fact the Friars scored 86 points and the fact that the Friars gave up 91 points in a regulation game. I’m not sure if this was done by design by Ed Cooley but the Friars played at an extremely up-tempo pace. It wasn’t like St. Johns forced the Friars to play so quickly either, the Friars gladly obliged to the pace. The Friars thought they could beat SJ in a track meet and got burned by the decision. I still can’t for the life of me wrap my head around the fact the Friars shot 62% from the floor in that game and LOST! The Friars need to get back to what they do best, defend and have longer offensive possessions but at the same time picking their spots when pushing the ball.
- Defend the Three– In the first game the Friars gave up 10 three-pointers, allowing St. John’s to shoot 48% from deep. The Friars can’t let this happen again or they will be in trouble. The Friars have been a great defensive team all year and they have some many versatile players to defend the perimeter. They must have solid rotations throughout the game and not let the Johnnies get good looks from beyond the arch. I expect Cooley to employ Jackson, Lindsey and Diallo to hound St. John’s best perimeter players Ponds and LoVett.
- Win the Turnover Battle or Limit the Turnovers-During this 5 game winning-streak for the Friars they have won the turnover battle 4 of the 5 games. The only game the lost the turnover battle was at Creighton but it was on a margin of only 3 (12 to 9) so it really didn’t hurt the Friars. In the first game the Friars turned the ball over 19 times which is 7 more then their average. The fact the game was up-tempo is what led the Friars to give the ball away so many times and it gave SJ extra possessions, so I guess that’s how they beat us while we shot 62%. Cartwright needs to play within himself, penetrated the d and either kick it off to an open guy from deep or finish at the rim. If the Friars can limit the turnovers or win the turnover battle or both they will be in good shape.
Saturday’s game will mark the second consecutive season the Friars have finished their regular season playing St. John’s at MSG and I think its beneficial. It gives the Friars a nice MSG tune up before the tournament begins next week. It worked last year for the Friars, as they took care of SJ and then beat Butler the following Thursday at MSG. I ultimately do think PC will pull this one out but SJ wont make it easy for the Friars. Ponds and LoVett are a load to handle on offense and the Friar D must be up for the task. These two players are probably going to get theirs but the Friars need to make them really work for it. The Friars will have to gut this one out so bring the Tums Friar fans.
Friars 75 SJ 72
Happy March Everyone!