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Saturday, January 18, 2014
W2W4: St. John's vs. Dartmouth

By Kieran Darcy

Here's what to watch for when St. John's (9-8, 0-5 Big East) plays Dartmouth (7-7, 0-1 Ivy League) on Saturday at Carnesecca Arena.

Tipoff is at 6 p.m., and you can watch the game on Fox Sports 1.

NO-WIN SITUATION: A victory against Dartmouth doesn't count in the Big East standings, and won't satisfy a disgruntled fan base. There's very little to gain here.

Last week, prior to St. John's loss to Villanova, coach Steve Lavin said that if his team beat Dartmouth and finished its non-conference slate at 10-3, that would be "progress." But the Red Storm's only win against a major conference opponent was versus Georgia Tech, which is 10-7 overall, 1-3 in the ACC, and with an RPI of 124.

A loss to Dartmouth, on the other hand, could trigger a total meltdown. And don't be surprised if it's close. The Big Green have had a week off, while the Red Storm will be playing their third game in six days -- and they could be flat after a demoralizing double-overtime loss to Providence on Thursday.

EIGHT IS ENOUGH: Lavin continues to tinker with different lineups and combinations -- he used his ninth different starting five (in 17 games) in the loss to Providence. It's time (way past time, in fact) to establish a regular rotation.

No offense to God'sgift Achiuwa, who performed admirably against the Friars, but Chris Obekpa is younger, more talented, and should be playing ahead of him. And Rysheed Jordan should have been in the game in overtime instead of Max Hooper.

How about a regular starting lineup of D'Angelo Harrison, Jordan, and either Jamal Branch or Phil Greene in the backcourt, with JaKarr Sampson and Orlando Sanchez up front? Then bring Sir'Dominic Pointer, Obekpa and either Branch or Greene off the bench.

An eight-man rotation, with defined roles for each player, could lead to much-improved chemistry. Save Achiuwa and Hooper for special situations, like foul trouble or last-second shots.

THE BIG GREEN: Dartmouth, picked to finish tied for sixth with Cornell in the eight-team Ivy League in the conference's preseason media poll, lost at league favorite Harvard by 16 last Saturday. Prior to that, it lost to Vermont (by nine) and Hartford (by 12) to open 2014. Two of its seven wins this season came against non-Division I opponents. But it did hang tough at Illinois on Dec. 10, losing by just seven.

Six-foot-nine junior center Gabas Maldunas leads the team in both scoring and rebounding (11.6 ppg, 8.5 rpg). Two other players average in double figures: 6-foot-7 sophomore forward Connor Boehm (11.0 ppg, 5.7 rpg) and 5-foot-11 sophomore guard Alex Mitola (10.6 ppg, 2.8 apg).

The Big Green shoot the basketball very well -- they're ranked 49th in Division I in offensive field goal percentage, at 47.6 percent. (Both Maldunas and Boehm shoot better than 54 percent.) They're also 20th in rebound margin, outboarding opponents by an average of 7.4 per game. But they're only 217th in points per game (70.6), and 331st (out of 351) in free throw attempts per game (18.1). Expect Dartmouth to try to slow down the pace of this game as much as possible.