New York Colleges: w2w4

W2W4: St. John's at Marquette

March, 7, 2014
Here's what to watch for when St. John's (19-11, 9-8 Big East) plays Marquette (17-13, 9-8 Big East) on Saturday at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee, Wisc.

Tip-off is at noon, and you can watch the game on Fox Sports 1.

Selection Saturday: Yes, we're still a week away from the NCAA tournament bracket being revealed, but this game will go a long way toward determining whether St. John's makes it.

A victory over Marquette would give St. John's 20 wins in the regular season, an above-.500 record in conference play, and a tie for third place with fellow bubble teams Xavier and Providence (if Providence loses at Creighton on Saturday). The Red Storm would face one of those two teams in the Big East quarterfinals, in what could amount to an NCAA tournament play-in game.

A loss to Marquette relegates St. John's to a .500 record in conference, and either sixth place or a tie for sixth with Georgetown. If the Hoyas win at Villanova on Saturday, the Red Storm would have to play a first-round Big East game and then face Creighton in the quarterfinals. Either way, they would have to advance all the way to the Big East championship game to even sniff an at-large bid.

St. John's will be back at full strength, with the return of Rysheed Jordan. The question is, will Jordan start and how will he play in the wake of his family tragedy? He has been a huge part of the team's success down the stretch, scoring in double figures in seven of his past 10 games.

Big battle: It has been a roller coaster of a season for St. John's center Chris Obekpa. He was a major factor defensively in November and early December, disappeared for a stretch in January, and has re-emerged with several excellent performances the past few weeks.

Obekpa is not leading the country in blocked shots per game, as he did last year as a freshman (4.0). But he is among the top 15 -- currently 12th (3.1).

Coach Steve Lavin could really use another big performance from Obekpa on Saturday. Marquette senior forward Davante Gardner, the team's leading scorer (14.9 ppg), is a handful inside to say the least -- 6-foot-8, 290 pounds. If Obekpa can contain Gardner, that'll go a long way toward securing a victory.

Obekpa was very good in the first meeting of these teams -- a 74-59 St. John's victory at Madison Square Garden on Feb. 1 -- with seven points, seven rebounds and seven blocked shots. Gardner had only 10 points and three rebounds. But Obekpa must avoid foul trouble -- he had four fouls in that game and played only 21 minutes.

The Golden Eagles: Marquette has the same conference record as St. John's but a slimmer chance of getting into the NCAA tournament at this point. Its RPI ranking (68) is slightly worse than St. John's (62), its BPI ranking (69) is significantly worse than St. John's (48), and it is 0-7 against top-25 opponents. (St. John's is 1-5.)

The Golden Eagles had a golden opportunity to boost their stock with a win at fellow bubble resident Providence on Tuesday but lost a heartbreaker in double overtime, 81-80. St. John's is listed as the sixth team on the outside looking in, according to the latest edition of's Bracketology, published Thursday. Marquette is not even listed among the first eight, which is as far as ESPN expert Joe Lunardi goes.

Two other players average in double figures, in addition to Gardner -- 6-7 senior forward Jamil Wilson (11.8 ppg, team-high 5.9 rpg) and 6-3 junior guard Todd Mayo (10.7 ppg).

Marquette is better on defense than offense -- 88th in Division I in defensive field-goal percentage (41.8) but only 181st in offensive field-goal percentage (44.1). In the first meeting, Marquette had a 21-10 edge on the offensive glass, but St. John's was plus-11 on blocked shots (12-1). D'Angelo Harrison scored 27 points, shooting 6-for-11 from beyond the arc.

W2W4: St. John's vs. DePaul

March, 1, 2014
Here's what to watch for when St. John's (18-11, 8-8 Big East) plays DePaul (11-18, 3-13 Big East) on Sunday at Madison Square Garden.

Tip-off is at noon, and you can watch the game on the CBS Sports Network (with the legendary Marv Albert behind the mic.)

SHORTHANDED: St. John's will be without starting point guard Rysheed Jordan, who will sit after attending his aunt's funeral in Philadelphia on Friday. (Click here to read more.)

Jamal Branch will probably start in Jordan's place and get extended minutes. Branch has only played 13.6 minutes per game this season, but when given a longer look has had some good performances -- most recently his 10-point, five-assist, four-rebound effort against Butler two weeks ago.

St. John's should be able to handle DePaul without Jordan, but next weekend's game at Marquette is another story. Coach Steve Lavin sounded optimistic Saturday that Jordan would be ready to play against Marquette, but we'll see. The Red Storm probably need to win both games to have a legitimate chance of receiving an NCAA tournament at-large bid.

SENIOR DAY: St. John's may have the most diverse group of graduating players in the country this year. Forward Orlando Sanchez (Nagua, Dominican Republic), forward God'sgift Achiuwa (Port Harcourt, R.S., Nigeria) and swingman Marc-Antoine Bourgault (Saint-Malo, France) will be honored before Sunday's game, which is St. John's regular-season home finale (although they still have the Big East tournament).

None of the three have spent a full four years at St. John's, and Sanchez (7.2 ppg, 5.1 rpg) is the only one who has been a major contributor this season. But all three spoke fondly of their time in the program on Saturday.

Achiuwa also said he really likes the way the team has bounced back from a very disappointing loss to Xavier on Tuesday.

"I think based on the practices we've had after that loss to Xavier, we've come back to the gym fired up, and guys are ready to come back to their winning ways," Achiuwa said. "Our practices have been great, and we're back to where we want to be mentally."

THE BLUE DEMONS: DePaul had lost 10 straight games after its 77-75 home win over St. John's on Jan. 14, but then beat Seton Hall by five at home on Sunday. It was also very competitive in its previous game, a 96-94 overtime loss at home to Marquette.

Fortunately for St. John's, DePaul's leading scorer and rebounder, Cleveland Melvin (16.7 ppg, 6.4 rpg) is no longer with the program. Melvin had 16 points, seven rebounds and six blocked shots in that win over the Red Storm in January.

Brandon Young is now the main man for the Blue Demons. The 6-foot-4 senior guard is averaging 15.7 points per game. And fellow guard Billy Garrett Jr. is coming on strong. The 6-foot-5 freshman is up to 12.4 points per game, the best scoring average of any freshman in the conference. Garrett Jr. poured in 26 points, including five 3-pointers, in that loss to Marquette.

DePaul is 293rd in Division I (out of 345) in turnovers per game (13.9), 302nd in points allowed per game (75.7) and 328th in field-goal percentage defense (47.9). Yuck.

W2W4: St. John's vs. Xavier

February, 25, 2014
Update: Rysheed Jordan will play, but will come off the bench.

Here's what to watch for when St. John's (18-10, 8-7 Big East) plays Xavier (18-9, 8-6 Big East) on Tuesday at Madison Square Garden.

Tipoff is at 7 p.m., and you can watch the game on Fox Sports 1.

SELECTION SHOWDOWN: Creighton and Villanova are the only two locks to make the NCAA tournament out of the Big East. As of Monday's edition of Bracketology, Xavier, St. John's and Providence would be three of the final eight teams to earn at-large bids, and Georgetown would be among the first eight teams on the outside looking in.

Every game is critical from this point forward. And Xavier already has an edge on St. John's, thanks to a 70-60 win in Cincinnati on Dec. 31. A sweep of the Red Storm would give the Musketeers a big edge come Selection Sunday, if both teams are on the bubble.

St. John's is 5-2 at the Garden this season, with both losses coming several weeks ago to top-10 teams (Syracuse and Villanova). The Red Storm have had two days to get over the disappointing loss at Villanova on Saturday. Let's see how they respond in the early going against the Musketeers.

ONE UP, ONE DOWN? St. John's forward Orlando Sanchez is expected to play after missing Saturday's game to be with his wife and newborn daughter. But guard Rysheed Jordan may not play after the tragic death of a relative over the weekend. (Click here to read more.)

Sanchez will help; he remains the team's second-leading rebounder (5.2 RPG) despite coming off the bench in recent games. But losing Jordan could really hurt. He has made a huge difference the past few weeks, scoring in double figures in six of the team's past nine games.

If Jordan can't go, Jamal Branch should get a lot of his minutes. Branch isn't as good a scorer, but he might be an even better passer and is capable of a big performance.

THE MUSKETEERS: Xavier opened its inaugural Big East season 5-1 but is just 3-5 since and still has games left against Creighton and Villanova (both at home). The Musketeers were blown out at Georgetown 74-52 on Saturday.

Three players score in double figures, led by Semaj Christon; the 6-foot-3 sophomore guard is averaging 16.5 points per game. Junior forward Justin Martin (11.4 PPG) and junior center Matt Stainbrook (11.0 PPG) are the others. Stainbrook, standing 6-10, also leads the team in rebounding (8.3 RPG).

Xavier is 29th in Division I in field goal percentage (47.6), 36th in assists per game (15.4) and 26th in rebound margin (plus-5.6). But it is 300th (out of 345) in turnover margin (minus-2.0).

W2W4: St. John's vs. Butler

February, 18, 2014
Here's what to watch for when St. John's (17-9, 7-6 Big East) plays Butler (12-13, 2-11 Big East) on Tuesday at Madison Square Garden.

Tip-off is at 9 p.m., and you can watch the game on Fox Sports 1.

LETDOWN ALERT: St. John's is on a major roll right now -- the Red Storm have won five in a row, eight of nine, and entered Joe Lunardi's projected NCAA tournament field for the first time since the preseason on Monday.

They are coming off their best performance of the season -- an 82-60 pummeling of Georgetown on Sunday -- but a loss to Butler would be a major setback.

St. John's won by 17 at Hinkle Fieldhouse on Jan. 25, but had just one day to prepare for the Bulldogs this time around. Coach Steve Lavin must have his Red Storm fired up, because Butler is tough, despite being tied for last place in the conference with DePaul. The first few minutes will be telling.

[+] EnlargeRasheed Jordan
Anthony Gruppuso/USA TODAY Sports Rysheed Jordan made a career-high 24 points vs. Georgetown on Sunday.
SUPER SHEED: St. John's freshman guard Rysheed Jordan is blossoming before our eyes. After a disappointing start, he's now been in double figures in five of the team's past seven games, capped off by a career-high 24 points against Georgetown.

That stretch began at Butler, where Jordan scored 16 points, shooting 7-for-11 from the field. And in the increase in Jordan's confidence in recent games has been palpable. He no longer hesitates to pull the trigger on his jump shot, penetrates when the opportunity arises, and can finish with either hand. And his 1.7-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio ranks him 11th in the Big East.

Let's see what Jordan -- the Big East Rookie of the Week three of the past four weeks -- does next. He has played a lot of minutes the past two games (33 against Seton Hall, 35 against Georgetown) with Jamal Branch out due to oral surgery. Branch practiced Monday and will be available Tuesday night.

THE BULLDOGS: Butler's first season in the Big East could look very different if the Bulldogs had been able to pull out a few more close games. Six of their games have gone to overtime, and they are 2-4 in those games. They've had 10 games decided by five points or less or in overtime, going 4-6, and have lost four more games where the margin was five points or less with under two minutes remaining. Ouch.

Butler has lost four in a row, but last Thursday the Bulldogs came up just short of an upset against No. 11 Creighton. They led 63-61 with less than a minute left, before national player of the year favorite Doug McDermott drained a 3-pointer to put the Bluejays back on top for good.

Two players average in double figures for Butler -- 6-foot-6 sophomore guard Kellen Dunham (16.8 ppg, 36.6 3-point percentage) and 6-foot-6 senior forward Khyle Marshall (14.6 ppg, 52.8 field-goal percentage). Kameron Woods, a 6-foot-9 junior forward, averages 8.0 points and a team-high 9.1 rebounds.

The Bulldogs are 96th in Division I (out of 345) in scoring defense (67.3 ppg), but not very good in field-goal defense -- 250th (45.0 percent). They are very good in 3-point defense -- 42nd (31.0 percent) -- but St. John's does not rely heavily on the 3-point shot.

Butler isn't particularly strong offensively, either -- 228th in scoring (69.8 ppg), and 238th in field-goal percentage (43.2). But the Bulldogs handle the ball well, ranked 19th in turnovers per game (10.2).

W2W4: St. John's vs. Creighton

February, 9, 2014
Here's what to watch for when St. John's (14-9, 4-6 Big East) plays Creighton (19-3, 9-1 Big East) on Sunday at Madison Square Garden.

Tip-off is at 7 p.m., and you can watch the game on Fox Sports 1.

OPPORTUNITY KNOCKS, AGAIN: St. John's has won five of six, and gotten itself back on the periphery of the NCAA Tournament picture. The Red Storm will need to win most of their games down the stretch to garner any consideration for an at-large bid, but a signature victory would really help.

They're 0-4 against ranked opponents this season, with two more chances left -- this one, and a game at Villanova on Feb. 22.

St. John's nearly knocked off Creighton just 12 days ago in Omaha, losing by three. And the Bluejays could be tired, after having to play DePaul on Friday night before traveling to New York. It's the biggest game of the season, but will a big crowd show up for this rare Sunday night game at the Garden? That remains to be seen.

THAT'S MORE LIKE IT: Chris Obekpa has emerged from his midseason funk to become a difference-maker for St. John's again, and he could be the big difference Sunday. Obekpa has had three strong games in a row, starting with his 11 points and five rebounds in the first matchup against Creighton.

The Red Storm dared national player of the year candidate Greg McDermott to beat them in that first meeting, choosing to focus on bottling up his teammates instead. McDermott did just that, pouring in a season-high 39 points, including the game-winning 3-pointer in the final seconds.

St. John's may take a different approach this time around, and Obekpa is the kind of player who could give McDermott trouble with his quickness and shot-blocking ability, whether he's guarding McDermott man-to-man or coming over to help. Obekpa has 10 blocks in the past two games. Let's see how much havoc he can wreak on Sunday.

THE BLUEJAYS: Creighton has won four games in a row since its lone Big East loss, at Providence (81-68) on Jan. 18. The Bluejays are tied for first place in the conference with No. 6 Villanova, and they thumped the Wildcats 96-68 in Philadelphia on Jan. 20.

McDermott, the 6-foot-8, 225-pound senior, is second in the country in scoring, averaging 25.3 points per game (plus 7.2 rebounds). He shoots nearly 50 percent from the field (49.6), and nearly 90 percent from the foul line (89.7). And he's not too shabby from 3-point range, either (42.6).

Ethan Wragge, a 6-foot-7 senior swingman, is the only other Bluejay who averages in double figures (11.9 ppg). Wragge averages 7.4 3-point attempts per game, and makes 50 percent. He buried nine treys (out of 14) in that blowout win at Villanova.

As a team, Creighton leads Division I in 3-point makes per game (10.8) and 3-point percentage (42.5). It also leads the nation in assists per game (18.1), is 12th in overall field-goal percentage (49.2), and 21st in scoring average (81.2). But the Bluejays are 347th (out of 351) in blocked shots per game (1.6), and 326th in steals (4.6).

St. John's remains No. 1 in blocked shots (8.3).

W2W4: St. John's vs. Marquette

January, 31, 2014
Here's what to watch for when St. John's (12-9, 2-6 Big East) plays Marquette (12-9, 4-4 Big East) on Saturday at Madison Square Garden.

Tipoff is at 12:30 p.m. ET, and you can watch the game on Fox Sports 1:

SUPER SATURDAY: Super Bowl XLVIII is the big game in town this weekend. But the Garden will host three basketball games on Saturday.

St. John's-Marquette is the first game of an afternoon college doubleheader, with a nonconference matchup between No. 7 Michigan State and Georgetown to follow. The New York Knicks will host the Miami Heat at 8:30 p.m. ET to wrap up an extraordinary day of hoops at the World's Most Famous Arena.

The Red Storm are coming off a gut-wrenching 63-60 loss at No. 20 Creighton on Tuesday. After an 0-5 start in the Big East, St. John's is trying to finish the first half of conference play at 3-6, as opposed to 2-7. That could make a big difference as this team tries to resurrect its NCAA tournament hopes.

Coach Steve Lavin has predicted the Red Storm will jell by February. Well, Saturday is the first day of the month. The doubleheader should draw a good crowd, but will it energize the home team?

NOW OR NEVER? Rysheed Jordan, the preseason Big East Rookie of the Year, finally won his first Rookie of the Week award.

The highly touted freshman has reached double digits in only seven games this season, but that includes the past two games. Jordan scored 16 points in St. John's win at Butler on Saturday, and 11 in the loss at Creighton.

D'Angelo Harrison has delivered all season, and Jakarr Sampson has had some big games of late. But if Jordan can elevate his game to another level in February, becoming a third consistent double-figure scorer, that would make the Red Storm a much more formidable team.

THE GOLDEN EAGLES: Marquette was picked to finish at the top of the Big East in the conference's preseason coaches poll, but is currently in fifth place. The Golden Eagles have alternated wins and losses since conference play began. They're coming off an 11-point home win over Providence on Thursday. Prior to that, they played three consecutive overtime games -- a loss at Butler, a win at Georgetown, and a loss versus No. 9 Villanova.

Just two players average in double figures -- 6-foot-8 senior forward Davante Gardner (14.9 PPG, 6.2 RPG) and 6-foot-7 senior forward Jamil Wilson (11.8 PPG, 5.3 RPG). Todd Mayo, a 6-foot-3 junior guard, chips in 9.6 PPG.

Marquette's strength is defense. The Golden Eagles are 32nd in Division I in field goal percentage defense (39.6), and 48th in points allowed per game (64.8). But offensively, they're 324th (out of 345) in 3-point field goals per game (4.5).

St. John's

W2W4: St. John's vs. Seton Hall

January, 23, 2014
Here's what to watch for when St. John's (10-8, 0-5 Big East) plays Seton Hall (11-7, 2-3 Big East) on Thursday at Carnesecca Arena.

Tipoff is at 7 p.m., and you can watch the game on CBS Sports Network.

LAST CALL? This is St. John's final home game in January, and final game of the season at Carnesecca Arena. If the Red Storm are going to turn things around, this is their best chance to start doing it.

The spring semester began Wednesday, so the students should be back in the building, which could help.

A hot start would help, too. St. John's fell behind 14-2 in its last Big East game against Providence one week ago. The Red Storm have dug themselves early holes in several games this season.

M.I.A.: St. John's still leads the country in blocked shots per game (8.8), but Chris Obekpa has looked out of sorts in recent games -- a step slow, even lethargic at times. In the past five games, he has more fouls (14) than blocked shots (11). In the team's win over Dartmouth last Saturday, he fouled out in just 12 minutes, with zero points, three rebounds, two blocks and three turnovers.

Obekpa can be a game-changer off the bench when he's motivated -- we saw it several times last season, and early this season as well. He's capable of several blocks per game, and inspires his teammates with his defense, too. St. John's desperately needs that presence right now.

THE PIRATES: Seton Hall is coming off a 10-point win at Georgetown last Saturday -- although the Hoyas were missing two starters, Jabril Trawick and Joshua Smith. The Pirates went 9-4 against a relatively weak nonconference schedule, including losses to Fairleigh Dickinson, St. Peter's and Mercer. They opened Big East play with a double-overtime win at Providence, followed by losses versus Creighton (by 13), versus Villanova (by 16) and at Marquette (by one).

Four players average in double figures, led by 6-foot-2 sophomore guard Sterling Gibbs (15.3 ppg, 4.4 apg), in his first year after transferring from Texas. The others are 6-foot-6 senior guard swingman Fuquan Edwin (12.6 ppg, 3.2 spg), 6-foot-7 senior swingman Brian Oliver (12.4 ppg, 45.3 3P%), and 6-foot-9 senior center Gene Teague (10.7 ppg, 9.4 rpg).

Seton Hall is 26th in Division I in free throw attempts per game (27.9), and tied for 52nd in free throw percentage (73.4) -- and St. John's has a habit of putting teams on the foul line frequently. The Pirates are also tied for 43rd in 3-point field goals per game (7.9), and tied for 88th in 3-point percentage (36.6). They're not very good on defense, though -- ranked 218th in points allowed per game (71.4), 152nd in field-goal percentage defense (43.0), and 292nd in 3-point field-goal percentage defense (37.0).

W2W4: St. John's vs. Dartmouth

January, 18, 2014
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.

W2W4: St. John's vs. Providence

January, 16, 2014
Here's what to watch for when St. John's (9-7, 0-4 Big East) plays Providence (11-5, 1-2 Big East) on Thursday at Carnesecca Arena.

Tipoff is at 7 p.m., and you can watch the game on Fox Sports 1.

IT'S NOW OR NEVER: Steve Lavin keeps predicting this St. John's team will jell by February. But the NCAA tournament may be out of reach by then.

The Red Storm are off to their worst start in conference play since 2003-04, when they finished 6-21 overall and 1-15 in the Big East.

The latest edition of's Bracketology was released Thursday. The last team to make the NCAA field of 68 was Minnesota, which is 13-4 overall, 2-2 in the Big Ten, with an RPI of 34. St. John's has an RPI of 72.

If the Red Storm can't beat Providence on Thursday and Seton Hall next Thursday on their home floor, forget about the Big Dance.

Will they play with the appropriate sense of urgency? We'll soon find out.

REALIGNMENT? Lavin played an unusual lineup down the stretch in Tuesday's loss at DePaul, going with reserves God'sgift Achiuwa and Max Hooper alongside starters D'Angelo Harrison, Rysheed Jordan and Orlando Sanchez.

JaKarr Sampson, the team's second-leading scorer, was on the bench along with others often on the floor in the final minutes, such as Sir'Dominic Pointer.

Sampson has struggled of late, and Pointer picked up a technical foul early in the second half. Still, there's an argument to be made for having your best players on the court at crunch time.

Lavin is clearly still searching for chemistry and combinations that work. If Thursday night's game is a tight one, will we see Sampson and Pointer or Achiuwa and Hooper again -- or others?

THE FRIARS: Providence is coming off an 18-point home win over Georgetown eight days ago. Before that, the Friars lost at home to Seton Hall (by one in double overtime) and at No. 6 Villanova (by 30) to open conference play. They went 10-3 in nonconference play, including wins over Boston College, Vanderbilt and La Salle and losses to No. 13 Kentucky (by 14), No. 16 UMass (by two in overtime) and Maryland (by four).

Bryce Cotton, a 6-foot-1 senior guard, is the second-leading scorer in the Big East at 20.2 points per game. He is also averaging a team-high 5.7 assists. Three other players average in double figures: 6-9 sophomore forward Tyler Harris (13.1 PPG, 5.1 RPG), 6-9 senior forward Kadeem Batts (12.6 PPG, 6.7 RPG) and 6-6 junior forward LaDontae Henton (12.5 PPG, 7.3 RPG). This team has size and strength, and it'll be a battle on the boards.

Providence is ranked 303rd in Division I (out of 351) in offensive field goal percentage (41.3), but the Friars are No. 1 in the country in free throw percentage (79.7). This St. John's team has been prone to foul trouble, allowing opponents to get into the bonus early in halves. That would be a big mistake against Providence.

St. John's

W2W4: St. John's vs. San Francisco

December, 18, 2013
Here's what to watch for when St. John's (6-3) plays San Francisco (6-4) on Wednesday at Carnesecca Arena.

Tipoff is scheduled for 8 p.m., and you can watch the game on Fox Sports 1.

HANGOVER? St. John's is looking to rebound after coming up just short against No. 2 Syracuse on Sunday at Madison Square Garden.

Have the Red Storm recovered? Or will the disappointment linger, affecting their ability to get up for a lesser opponent?

It's easy to be distracted this time of year, with the semester ending and Christmas a week away. But St. John's can't afford a slip-up. (And the Red Storm lost at San Francisco last December 81-65.) In the latest edition of ESPN's Bracketology, published Monday, the Red Storm are not projected to be in the NCAA tournament field of 68, nor even among the next eight teams.

St. John's needs to come out of the gates fast -- something the team has failed to do repeatedly this season.

ENCORE? Freshman Rysheed Jordan is coming off his best game of the season by far. Jordan had 13 points, six rebounds and three assists in 31 minutes against Syracuse.

He shot just 2-for-8 from the field and is shooting only 25.5 percent on the season, but Jordan drove the ball effectively, drew contact and drained all nine of his free throw attempts. His confidence should be bolstered, and he should continue to be more aggressive.

Let's see if Jordan can build on that performance. Coach Steve Lavin was counting on him being a difference-maker this season.

THE DONS: San Francisco was picked to finish fourth in the 10-team West Coast Conference in the preseason coaches' poll. Following a two-week layoff, USF routed Nicholls State at home Saturday 77-48.

Its three other wins against Division I opponents were over Cleveland State, Montana and Vermont. Its four losses were to Nevada, Idaho State, No. 13 Oregon and Illinois State.

The Dons, coached by former Kansas star Rex Walters, are led by 6-foot-7 senior forward Cole Dickerson, who leads the team in scoring (15.4 PPG) and rebounding (8.2 RPG). Dickerson shoots 52.8 percent from the field and 43.6 percent from beyond the arc.

But San Francisco lost senior point guard Cody Doolin, the team's second-leading scorer, after just four games when Doolin left the team for personal reasons.

San Francisco is a strong offensive team -- ranked 23rd in the country in scoring (84.4 PPG), 20th in field goal percentage (49.7) and tied for 33rd in 3-point field goals per game (8.2). But the Dons are tied for 303rd (out of 351 Division I schools) in free throw percentage (64.2).

On defense, the Dons are 304th in field goal percentage allowed (47.2) and 313th in 3-point field goal percentage allowed (38.6). Expect a high-scoring affair in Queens on Wednesday night.

W2W4: Maryland vs. Iowa

April, 2, 2013
Here are three things to watch for when Maryland (25-12, 8-10 ACC) plays Iowa (24-12, 9-9 Big Ten) on Tuesday at Madison Square Garden.

Tipoff will be at approximately 9:30 p.m., and you can watch the game on ESPN2.

TRADITIONAL POWERS: These two programs are accustomed to being in the NCAA tournament, not the NIT. They have a combined 46 appearances in the Big Dance (Maryland 24, Iowa 22) and five appearances in the Final Four (Iowa three, Maryland two). Maryland won the national championship in 2002.

But Maryland and Iowa have fallen on hard times of late. The Terrapins haven't been to the NCAA tournament since 2010; the Hawkeyes haven't been there since 2006. Maryland coach Mark Turgeon (second year) and Iowa coach Fran McCaffery (third year) are both in the process of restoring their teams to national prominence.

Maryland is a No. 2 seed in this tournament, while Iowa is a No. 3 seed. The teams have met twice before, in 1984 and 1999. Maryland won both games.

THE TERRAPINS: Maryland, picked to finish sixth in the ACC in the preseason, ended up in seventh, under .500 in the conference. But the Terps upset No. 2 Duke in the ACC tournament quarterfinals before losing to North Carolina by three in the semis, and then knocked off Niagra, Denver and Alabama (in Tuscaloosa) to earn a trip to New York.

(Incidentally, Maryland also opened their season in New York, with a 72-69 loss to Kentucky, in the first-ever college basketball game at the Barclays Center.)

Two players average in double figures -- 6-foot-5 sophomore swingman Dez Wells (13.2 ppg) and 7-1 sophomore center Alex Len (11.8 ppg, 7.8 rpg).

The Terrapins are one of the best rebounding teams in the country -- ranked fourth in the country in rebound margin (+8.7 per game). But they are one of the worst teams in the country when it comes to turnovers -- 338th (out of 345) in Division I in turnover margin (-4.2 per game).

THE HAWKEYES: Iowa, picked to finish seventh in the Big Ten in the preseason, ended up in sixth place. The Hawkeyes were a game better than Illinois and Minnesota in the standings, but both those teams made the NCAA tournament. Iowa had its bubble burst on Selection Sunday, but beat Indiana State, Stony Brook and Virginia (in Charlottesville) to earn a trip to New York.

Two players average in double figures -- 6-foot-6 junior forward Roy Devyn Marble (15.1 ppg) and 6-8 sophomore forward Aaron White (12.9 ppg).

The Hawkeyes are also a good rebounding team -- ranked 38th in the country in rebound margin (plus-5 per game). They're also one of the best defensive teams in the country -- ranked 18th in defensive field-goal percentage (38.8). But they're not particularly good on offense -- 219th in offensive field-goal percentage (42.4) and 269th in 3-point percentage (30.9).

W2W4: LIU Brooklyn vs. James Madison

March, 19, 2013

Here are three things to watch for when LIU Brooklyn (20-13, 12-6 NEC) plays James Madison (20-14, 11-7 CAA) on Wednesday at Dayton Arena in Dayton, Ohio.

Tip-off is at 6:40 p.m., and you can watch the game on TruTV.

PRIME TIME: The bad news is, these teams were viewed among the weakest four automatic qualifiers in this year's NCAA tournament by the selection committee -- hence, they have to play an extra game just for the right to enter the main bracket of 64 teams. The winner will be a No. 16 seed, and will play East region No. 1 seed Indiana on Friday, also in Dayton.

James MadisonLIU BrooklynThe good news is, these two teams will play in front of the entire country Wednesday night, in a stand-alone NCAA tournament game. That's fantastic publicity for both schools.

Don't be surprised if LIU Brooklyn takes an early lead. The Blackbirds should be more comfortable, playing in their third consecutive NCAA tourney. The Dukes haven't been to the Big Dance since 1994. And they will be missing a key player at the start (see below).

HALF EMPTY: James Madison has suspended starting forward Rayshawn Goins for the first half of Wednesday's game, after Goins was arrested over the weekend.

Goins, a 6-foot-6, 265-pound senior, is the Dukes' leading scorer (12.7 ppg) and rebounder (7.4 rpg).

Other players will have to step up in Goins' absence. Three others average in double figures -- 6-6 senior guard A.J. Davis (12.1 ppg), 6-4 senior guard Devon Moore (11.6 ppg) and 6-7 senior forward Andrey Semenov (10 ppg).

The Dukes, who finished fourth in the Colonial Athletic Association but upset top seed Northeastern in the CAA championship game, aren't a particularly strong offensive team -- 234th in Division I in scoring (65.2 ppg). They're better defensively, including 60th in blocked shots per game (4.5) and 61st in steals per game (7.9).

RUN AND GUN: LIU, on the other hand, is the No. 5 scoring team in the country (79.5 ppg), and No. 2 in free throw attempts per game (26.0). The Blackbirds will look to push the pace as much as they can.

You'll enjoy watching 6-foot junior point guard Jason Brickman, the leading assist man in the country, averaging 8.5 per game. Jamal Olasewere, a 6-7 senior forward and the Northeast Conference Player of the Year, leads the team in scoring (18.9 ppg) and rebounding (8.5 rpg). And 5-10 senior guard C.J. Garner averages 16.1 points per game, and averaged 28 points per game in the NEC tournament.

LIU finished tied for second in the NEC in the regular season this year -- as opposed to the past two seasons, when the Blackbirds won both the regular season and tournament championships. But they got the job done in March, and now have a great opportunity to secure the first NCAA tournament win in school history.

W2W4: Iona vs. Manhattan

March, 11, 2013
Here are three things to watch for when Iona (19-13, 11-7 MAAC) plays Manhattan (14-17, 9-9 MAAC) on Monday night in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference championship game.

Tip-off is at 9 p.m. at the MassMutual Center in Springfield, Mass., and you can watch the game on ESPN2.

SURPRISE! The No. 4 seed in the MAAC tourney faces the the No. 6 seed, with a coveted NCAA tournament berth on the line. Iona knocked off No. 5 seed Canisius (by four) and No. 1 seed Niagra (by six) to reach the title game. Manhattan topped No. 3 seed Loyola (by three) and No. 7 seed Fairfield (by 18) to get there.

These two teams are archrivals -- the two campuses are separated by just nine miles. But this is the first time they've met in the conference championship game.

Iona and Manhattan split their season series this year, each victorious on its home floor. Iona won 78-70 on Jan. 6, and Manhattan won 74-73 in double overtime on Feb. 15.

THE GAELS: Iona, under third-year coach Tim Cluess, is on the verge of its second consecutive Big Dance. The Gaels made it as an at-large team a year ago, but lost to BYU in a play-in game in Dayton, 78-72. Iona had a 25-point lead in the first half; BYU's comeback was the biggest in NCAA tournament history.

Senior guard Lamont "Momo" Jones was named the MAAC Player of the Year and is the second-leading scorer in all of Division I (23.3 ppg). Junior guard Sean Armand is second on the team in scoring (16.9 ppg) and a lethal 3-point shooter -- he attempts 8.1 treys per game, and makes 41.3 percent. Sophomore forward David Laury averages a double-double (13.2 ppg, 10.6 rpg).

Iona likes to push the pace, to say the least. The Gaels are second in the country in scoring (81.3 ppg) and fourth in free-throw percentage (77.6). But they are among the worst defensive teams in Division I -- 331st (out of 345) in scoring defense (76.2 ppg) and 276th in defensive field-goal percentage (45.0).

THE JASPERS: Manhattan, under second-year coach Steve Masiello -- a Rick Pitino protégé -- is seeking its first Big Dance bid since 2004. The Jaspers were picked to finish second to Loyola in the preseason -- one spot ahead of Iona -- but they lost leading scorer George Beamon to injury after just four games. They started the season 5-14, but have now won eight of their last 10.

Junior forward Rhamel Brown is Manhattan's current leading scorer and rebounder (11.5 ppg, 7.3 rpg). He is also ninth in the country in blocked shots per game (3.0) and was named the MAAC's Defensive Player of the Year. Junior guard Michael Alvarado is second on the team in scoring (8.2 ppg), and sophomore forward Emmy Andujar does a little bit of everything (8.1 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 2.5 apg).

You'd be hard-pressed to find two teams with more contrasting styles. Manhattan is 334th in Division I in scoring offense (58.3 ppg) and 287th in offensive field-goal percentage (40.8). But the Jaspers are 43rd in scoring defense (60.8 ppg) and 74th in field-goal percentage defense (40.6).

W2W4: St. John's vs. South Florida

February, 20, 2013
Here are three things to watch for when St. John's (15-10, 7-6 Big East) plays South Florida (10-15, 1-12 Big East) on Wednesday at Carnesecca Arena.

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

WELCOME BACK: St. John's coach Steve Lavin will make his return to the bench after missing the team's past two games following the death of his father. Lavin should get an extra-warm reception from the crowd, and his team should be energized by his return as well.

The Red Storm will not, however, have guard Jamal Branch in the lineup. Lavin said Tuesday that Branch -- who has missed the past three games with a knee injury -- feels he is making progress, but still experiences pain when he cuts or does any lateral movement. "Is it another week, is it two weeks, is it wait 'til next year? We just don't really know," Lavin said. "We won't play him until he can go at full speed."

Branch is a key piece. He was third on the team in scoring at the time of his injury and is arguably the team's best ball-handler and passer.

HIGH STAKES: Every game is important down the stretch, but a loss to last-place South Florida at home could torpedo St. John's chances of making the NCAA Tournament. The Red Storm are currently the No. 3 team on the outside looking in, according to Joe Lunardi, ESPN's resident bracketologist.

Three of the Red Storm's final four regular-season games are against teams currently in the Top 25: No. 20 Pittsburgh, No. 25 Notre Dame and No. 17 Marquette. Two of those three games are at home, so St. John's has good opportunities to pick up more quality wins. But first it must take care of business against South Florida.

This is the final game of the season at Carnesecca Arena. The team's remaining two home games, versus Pitt and Marquette, will be played at Madison Square Garden.

THE BULLS: South Florida has lost eight games in a row, and 12 of its past 13. But its one conference win came against Georgetown (19-4, 9-3) -- which is currently tied for second place -- 61-58 at home on Jan. 19.

The Bulls are led by 6-foot-9 junior forward Victor Rudd, who averages a team-high 11.2 points and 6.9 rebounds per game, and 6-8 senior forward Toarlyn Fitzpatrick (10.4 ppg, 5.2 rpg).

South Florida is one of the worst offensive teams in the country -- 328th in Division I (out of 347 schools) in points per game (59.2), and 332nd in field-goal percentage (38.9).

But the Bulls are pretty tough on defense -- 81st in scoring defense (62.6 ppg) and 42nd in 3-point field goal defense (30.4 percent). And they're 21st in turnovers per game (11.2). St. John's is 26th (11.4).

W2W4: St. John's at Rutgers

January, 23, 2013
Here are three things to watch for when St. John's (11-7, 3-3 Big East) faces Rutgers (12-5, 3-3 Big East) on Wednesday at the Rutgers Athletic Center in Piscataway, N.J.

Tipoff is at 7:30 p.m., and you can watch the game locally on SNY.

TOO CLOSE FOR COMFORT: These two teams met at Madison Square Garden two weeks ago, with Rutgers pulling out a 58-56 win. Last season, Rutgers defeated St. John's 61-58 at the RAC. Two years ago, these teams also played twice -- St. John's won both, 58-56 at Carnesecca Arena, and 65-63 at Madison Square Garden in the Big East tournament. This game will likely go down to the wire.

It's also a critical game standings-wise, with St. John's and Rutgers among five teams tied for sixth in the Big East. The latest edition of's Bracketology has seven Big East teams making the NCAA Tournament, with the Red Storm and Scarlet Knights looking to climb into that group.

St. John's has won two in a row, 67-63 versus Notre Dame and 71-62 at DePaul. Rutgers is coming off a 69-66 loss at Notre Dame.

FRESH PRINCE: St. John's forward Jakarr Sampson was just named the Big East rookie of the week for the fourth time this season. Sampson is second on the team in scoring (13.6 ppg) and first in rebounding (6.6 rpg) -- leading all Big East freshmen in both categories. He has scored in double figures in 15 his past 16 games.

Sampson's overall numbers aren't far behind those of Moe Harkless, who averaged 15.3 points and 8.6 rebounds last season, en route to winning the Big East Rookie of the Year award and being selected 15th overall in the NBA draft. But Harkless had some breakout performances, like his 32 points and 13 rebounds against Providence, and his 30-point, 13-rebound effort at Duke. Sampson's season high is 22 points, and he has only reached the 20-point plateau three times. Is he capable of a monster game or two down the stretch, like Harkless? Time will tell.

THE BOTTOM LINE: Rutgers is shooting 74.5 percent as a team from the foul line, ranking 31st in the country. The Scarlet Knights' top two scorers, sophomore guards Eli Carter (16.2 ppg) and Myles Mack (12.9 ppg) are shooting 89.3 and 92.9 percent, respectively.

Meanwhile, St. John's is shooting 62.4 percent from the foul line, ranking 321st out of 347 Division I teams. And the Red Storm made just 15 of 27 free throws in that two-point loss to Rutgers on Jan. 9.

Sometimes the game isn't that complicated. Two evenly matched teams play, and the one that shoots better at the foul line wins. Rutgers clearly has the advantage here.

But there is hope for St. John's. The Red Storm made 12 of 15 from the charity stripe in their upset of Notre Dame eight days ago.