Previewing St. John’s Round Two: This Time We’re Out for Blood


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If I’m a player on the Cincinnati Bearcats basketball team I would have had this game circled on the calendar since January 7th. On that date, the Johnnies or Red Storm or whatever beat UC on a last second tip-in as time expired. This after Jeremiah Davis tied the game with a clutch three from the corner. Air couldn’t escape from 5/3rd fast enough. I’m sure each and every UC player was as pissed off as I was writing the postgame summary and fortunately for all of us we get to see the Bearcats exact some sweet, sweet revenge on St. John’s in their own house tomorrow night.

Looking at the schedule at the beginning of the season and knowing the opponent, I was initially more excited to play St. John’s in the first matchup more than the second. As talented as they are, the Johnnies are extremely green and catching them early seemed like a better option than when they would theoretically gel later in the season. Upon first glance this seems to be true. Since starting the year 7 – 7 and dropping games to such teams as Northeastern University, St. John’s has played markedly better of late. While the Johnnies are figuring out quickly that there is no easy out in the Big East, they have beaten West Virginia and played extremely tough in losses to Duke and Syracuse. The Johnnies are definitely one of the more spastic teams in the Big East (randomly getting stomped by South Florida, for instance) but Cincinnati could be catching them on a good night. Let’s hope that doesn’t happen.

Key Numbers

Like I said, it’s important for the Bearcats to play St. John’s when they are off their game. In ten wins this year, the Johnnies are averaging 73 points per game and in their thirteen losses, they are averaging 10 points less (63). Their offense is all over the board but the one constant for St. John’s is that they don’t move the ball well, ranking last in the Big East in assists. For a team like Cincinnati that lives and dies off of points from turnovers and a suffocating press, this will be key tomorrow night. In addition, the Johnnies are still struggling rebounding the ball particularly on the defensive end of the floor. While the Bearcats have been stinking up the joint in this field lately, grabbing extra possessions for the offense will obviously only help UC score points.

Players to Watch

– Jaquon Parker/Dion Dixon: Head coach Mick Cronin emphasized the need for the UC guards to step up their game as the Bearcats head into the final three weeks of the regular season. No two players need to do so more than Jaquon Parker and Dion Dixon. On the surface Dixon has been scoring points at a pretty solid clip in the past few games but he has been taking far too many errant shots and his shooting percentage has suffered because of it dropping from the mid-to-high 30’s to around 25%. As a senior, he needs to make better decisions on the floor. In addition to Dion’s struggles, Parker’s shooting efficiency has tanked since opening up Big East play. Even if Jaquon isn’t scoring I’d like to see him contribute by being more aggressive on rebounds like Sean Kilpatrick. Otherwise he’s just another warm body out there.

– Harkless/Harrison: This duo has been tearing it up for St. John’s all season. The problem for teams is that they don’t know how to match-up with Harkless in particular. While he is listed as a forward, he plays more like a really, really tall guard similar to how UC’s coaches have described Shaq Thomas. Harkless can grab rebounds and attack the rim with ease. UC big men have been slow to react to quicker forwards and the Bearcat guards will have trouble containing Harrison.

– Justin Jackson: St. John’s games are built for players like JJ who can spark life into the Bearcats when the offense hits a lull. He played his best game of his career against DePaul and has hopefully figured out how to not be a foul-magnet. If he can carry even a tenth of the production from last Saturday into tomorrow night, the Bearcats could be sitting pretty when the final horn sounds.

Final Thoughts and Prediction

The Bearcats played a very ugly game last Saturday against DePaul but you can’t really be too picky since it was UC’s first win in four games. Despite playing poorly maybe, just maybe, that victory will jumpstart this team to buckle down and string a few wins together. Cincinnati should have an added focus going into this game considering the way the Johnnies beat them a month ago. But games between these two teams always seem to play out in the stangest of fashions so it’s really anyone’s guess as to what will happen tomorrow night. Still, I’ll take UC by the slimmest of margins.

Cincinnati: 61

St. John’s: 60