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Tuesday, March 19, 2013
W2W4: St. John's at Saint Joseph's

By Kieran Darcy

Here are three things to watch for when St. John's (16-15, 8-10 Big East) plays Saint Joseph's (18-13, 8-8 Atlantic 10) on Tuesday at Hagan Arena in Philadelphia.

Tip-off is at 7 p.m., and you can watch the game on ESPNU.

CONSOLATION PRIZE: Both these teams had serious NCAA tournament aspirations this season, but failed to accomplish that goal. St. John's, on the bubble until late-February, lost its final five regular season games and finished in 11th place in the Big East. Saint Joseph's, which returned all five starters and was picked to finish first in the Atlantic 10 in the conference's preseason poll, instead finished tied for eighth.

Thus, these two squads ended up in the National Invitation Tournament. The Hawks are a No. 4 seed, and the Red Storm are a No. 5. The winner will face either No. 1 seed Virginia or No. 8 seed Norfolk State in the second round. (Those two teams play immediately after St. John's and Saint Joseph's, also on ESPNU.)

You never know how motivated teams in the NIT will be, after the disappointment of not making the Big Dance. Keep an eye on the intensity level of each team early. Saint Joseph's obviously has an advantage, playing in its on-campus arena.

These two Catholic schools have played each other 56 times, but it's their first meeting since 1980. St. John's has won 43 of the previous 56 matchups.

NEW TERRITORY: St. John's doesn't have a single player on its roster with postseason experience beyond the Big East tournament. Coach Steve Lavin thinks this NIT berth will pay dividends down the road.

"The only way to grow, mature and move down that path is to pick up experience like playing in the Big East tournament or the NIT," Lavin said Monday. "For us it's just another step on the journey to rebuilding our basketball program."

The Red Storm will again be without leading scorer D'Angelo Harrison (17.8 ppg), who was suspended on March 1 for the rest of the season, for conduct detrimental to the team. St. John's will need a big game from Jakarr Sampson (14.9 ppg), the only other player on the team averaging in double figures.

This could be Sampson's final game in a St. John's uniform. After receiving the Big East Rookie of the Year award last week, Sampson left open the possibility of turning pro after this season.

THE HAWKS: Saint Joseph's is a more experienced team than St. John's. Coach Phil Martelli starts a senior and four juniors. The Hawks also played in the NIT last season. Their last game prior to this one was an 82-79 loss to No. 25 VCU in the Atlantic 10 tournament quarterfinals.

St. Joe's has four players who average in double figures, led by 5-foot-11 senior guard Carl Jones (14.5 ppg) and 6-2 junior guard Langston Galloway (13.7 ppg). Both average at least five 3-point attempts per game -- Galloway is shooting 39 percent from deep, Jones 35.7 percent.

On the interior, 6-8 junior forward Ronald Roberts Jr. averages 11.2 points and a team-high 8.4 rebounds per game. C.J. Aiken, a 6-9 junior center, averages 10.6 points and 2.7 blocked shots per game -- 18th in the country in that category.

As a team, the Hawks are 80th in Division I (out of 345 teams) in defensive field-goal percentage (40.8), and 11th in blocked shots per game (5.7). St. John's is 46th in Division I in defensive field-goal percentage (39.8), and the No. 1 team in the nation in blocked shots per game (7.4).