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Seton Hall aims to hand St. John's their sixth straight Big East loss

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Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sport

2013-14 St. John's Red Storm (10-8, 0-5; KenPom: 78, RPI: 99)

In the midst of a five-game Big East losing streak, St. John's (10-8, 0-5) hosts a rejuvenated Seton Hall (11-7, 2-3) at Carnesecca Arena on Thursday night. The game marks the 90th all-time meeting between the two schools, with St. John's leading the series 55-34.

Led by junior guard D`Angelo Harrison (18.2 ppg, 4.2 rpg), St. John's came up just short in their last three Big East contests before shutting down Dartmouth 69-55 in a tune-up on Saturday. The three losses, Villanova, at DePaul, and Providence in 2OT, came in a span of six days, a schedule that has been questioned by Seton Hall head coach Kevin Willard post-Georgetown.

"That's something the league needs to get a grip on," Willard told Gary Cohen and Dave Popkin on 970 AM post-Georgetown. "You can't have someone coming from Nebraska back to New York and then playing one day after [against] someone who had six days off (referring to St. John's vs. Providence). The league is tremendous and the league is great, but we've got to sit down this summer, for the betterment of the league you can't do that to teams."

Outside of some tough scheduling, statistical analysis from John Templeton at NYC Buckets indicates that a perpetually scrambled Red Storm lineup may be a cause for concern while Rumble in the Garden adds that St. John's defense has not been up to par, either.

After finishing last season ranked 32nd in adjusted defensive efficiency, St. John's has posted a 73rd-best AdjD that has taken a hit (only 7th in Big East) when analyzing Big East conference games only. Additionally, St. John's ranks last in the conference in defending against offensive rebounds and FTA/FGA. While Rumble in the Garden hints at St. John's block percentage turning into a liability, it still ranks first nationally (22.8%) thanks to the nation's most frequent blocker: Chris Obekpa.

As suggested by NYC Buckets' analysis of St. John's lineups, head coach Steve Lavin operates with an eight-man rotation that doesn't include God`sgift Achiuwa (9.8 mpg) or Max Hooper (9.5 mpg). Seven players in Lavin's rotation average at least 20 mpg.

Contrasting with Creighton, just 19.6% (319th) of the Red Storm's total points come from 3-pointers, a stat that ranks last in the Big East. D'Angelo Harrison (34/93, 36.5%) and Phil Greene IV (15/37, 40.5%) are St. John's most dangerous outside shooters, but Max Hooper, who has played just 161 minutes, has made and attempted the second most three-pointers on the team (17/44, 38.6%). That's one Hooper 3-ball attempt every 3.5 minutes of action. Outside of Harrison, Greene, and Hooper, the rest of St. John's shoots 26% (20/77) from long range. Harrison became St. John's all-time three-point leader after hitting 5-of-6 against Youngstown State in December.

The Red Storm rank close to the bottom third (t-215th) in the country in team assists per game, with just two players, Rysheed Jordan (2.6), Sir'Dominic Pointer (2), averaging above two assists per game. As a result, St. John's ranks 265th nationally and last in the Big East in assists per field goals made (A/FGM). The Red Storm's 1.8 A:TO ratio is rated higher than Seton Hall's 1.07 A:TO. Coincidentally, St. John's has assisted on 223 made shots while Seton Hall has turned the ball over 223 times on the season.

In St. John's front court, a trio of 6-9 forwards man the paint: sophomore JaKarr Sampson (11.9 ppg, 6.4 rpg), senior Orlando Sanchez (7.4 ppg, 5.2 rpg), and sophomore Chris Obekpa (3.2 ppg, 5 rpg, 3.8 bpg). Senior God'sgift Achiuwa (9.8 mpg), who comes off the bench, has seen the court less than one-third as frequently as last season (29.9 mpg).

Perhaps a link between St. John's faltering defense and the start of the Big East season is Chris Obekpa. While he is certainly one of the nation's top blockers, his fifteen blocks over five Big East games (3 bpg), is about 1.5 bpg less than his average during non-conference play. The difference may be due to tougher competition, but combined with the potential deficiencies that come with a block-happy team and Obekpa's limited offensive capabilities, this may be another source of the Red Storm's woes.

Chris Obekpa isn't the only Johnnie struggling on the offensive end. Overall, St. John's has the 249th best effective field goal percentage (47.6) and the 256th best two-point field goal percentage (46.5). In the Big East, both numbers, respectively, have dropped and rank last in the conference: 42%, 40%. If compared nationally, both numbers would rank in the bottom ten. For reference, New Hampshire: 41.9 eFG% (346th), Abilene Christian: 39.5 2-pt FG%, (347th). To their credit, St. John's has excelled in offensive turnover percentage (how frequently they turn the ball over) and offensive rebounding percentage, ranking third in the Big East in both categories.


Picked fifth in the preseason coaches poll and touted as one of the most talented and athletic teams in the Big East, St. John's has failed to live up to their billing so far. A decent 6-3 St. John's start that included several shaky wins was capped off by a close loss to Syracuse in December, followed by three more wins. The Red Storm's 0-5 start to Big East play has included just one game, an 84-83 double overtime loss to Providence last Thursday, at 5602-seater Carnesecca Arena.

Seton Hall played St. John's just once last season, a 71-67 loss at Madison Square Garden, and is 6-4 against their cross-river rival over the last ten meetings. St. John's leads the all-time series 55-34 and is 2-1 in recent contests against Seton Hall at Carnesecca Arena, while Kevin Willard is 2-1 against St. John's during his tenure in South Orange.

With injuries hopefully in Seton Hall's past, the Pirates enter their second game with a lineup near 100%. Outside of Gene Teague and Aaron Geramipoor still regaining their fitness levels, Seton Hall's depth is left untouched for the second game in a row. The Pirates upset Georgetown 67-57 on Saturday at Verizon Center after a short turnaround for the Hoyas following their trip to Xavier three days prior.

Last ten meetings between Seton Hall and St. John's:

Jan. 27th, 2013, St. John's, 71, SETON HALL 67, New York, N.Y.
Feb. 14th, 2012, SETON HALL 94, St. John's 64, Newark, N.J.
March 3, 2011, SETON HALL 84, St. John's 70, Newark, N.J.
Feb. 17, 2010, SETON HALL 59, St. John's 50, Queens, N.Y.
Feb. 22, 2009, St. John's 70, SETON HALL 65, Queens, N.Y.
Feb. 5, 2009, SETON HALL 91, St. John's 81, Newark, N.J.
March 1, 2008, St. John's 65, SETON HALL 62, Queens, N.Y.
Jan. 11, 2007, SETON HALL 79, St. John's 63, East Rutherford, N.J.
Feb. 21, 2006, St. John's 58, SETON HALL 47, New York, N.Y.
Jan. 4, 2006, SETON HALL 69, St. John's 61 (ot), East Rutherford, N.J.

KenPom says: No. 78 St. John's - 72, No. 103 Seton Hall - 66 (29%)

Projected St. John's starters:

6-4 Fr., G - Rysheed Jordan

6-2 Jr., G - Phil Greene

6-4 Jr., G - D'Angelo Harrison

6-9 Sr., F - Orlando Sanchez

6-9 So., F - JaKarr Sampson

When: Thursday, 7pm

TV: CBS Sports Network (DirecTV Ch. 221, Fios Ch. 94, Time Warner Ch. 467, Cablevision Ch. 143, 412 and 793, Comcast Ch. 732 and 854 (HD))

Radio: 970 AM