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Saturday, February 25, 2012
W2W4: St. John's vs. Notre Dame

By Kieran Darcy

Here are three things to watch for when St. John's (12-16, 5-10 Big East) takes on No. 18 Notre Dame (20-8, 12-3 Big East) on Saturday afternoon at Madison Square Garden.

Tip-off is at noon, and you can watch the game on ESPN2, or via ESPN3.

LAST CHANCE? St. John's comes in hot, having won two in a row, versus UCLA and DePaul. But the Red Storm are 0-10 against Top 25 opponents. This is their final opportunity to defeat a ranked team, at least in the regular season.

"Of course we need one to check beating a ranked team off the list," point guard Phil Greene said Friday. "We're young so that would be a good accomplishment for us and would give us more confidence heading into the Big East tournament."

The Red Storm are currently in sole possession of 11th place in the Big East, but have three teams (Pittsburgh, Villanova, Rutgers) just one game behind them. St. John's plays at Pittsburgh and at Rutgers to wrap up the regular season next week.

TRIPLE THREAT: One of the keys to St. John's last two victories has been the emergence of a third scorer, to complement D'Angelo Harrison and Moe Harkless. Against UCLA, it was Sir'Dominic Pointer (13 points, seven rebounds); against DePaul, it was Amir Garrett (18 points nine rebounds).

At least one of these guys needs to step up again, for St. John's to beat a team as good as Notre Dame.

"At the beginning of the season I was too relaxed and being too passive," Pointer said on Friday. "The coaches told me to be more aggressive and to stay in attack mode by making plays for me and my teammates."

THE OPPONENT: Notre Dame is one of the most pleasant surprises in the country -- picked to finish ninth in the Big East, and that was before they lost their top player, Tim Abromaitis, to a season-ending knee injury in November.

The Fighting Irish were 3-3 to start the Big East season, but have now rattled off nine wins in a row -- a streak that started with their shocking 67-58 win over then-undefeated and No. 1-ranked Syracuse.

"They can shoot the basketball at four spots, including outside the 3-point line," St. John's assistant coach Mike Dunlap said Friday. "They also pass the ball better than anybody in our league and you can see that by their assists count."

(Click here to read more about how Notre Dame has turned things around.)

Notre Dame features a balanced attack, with three players averaging double figures: 6-foot-5 sophomore guard Jerian Grant (13.1 ppg, 4.9 apg), 6-foot-1 sophomore guard Eric Atkins (13 ppg, 4 apg) and 6-foot-9 junior Jack Cooley (12.2 ppg, 9.2 rpg), who is shooting 62.1 percent from the field.

A bunch of guys can knock down 3-pointers, and defending against the trey is one of St. John's weaknesses, so watch out. The Fighting Irish are also third in the country in turnovers, giving the ball up just 10.1 times per game.