One of the best parts about the Big East is the double round robin format. It's always fun to take on an opponent on their court and on ours. Back in January, Xavier survived a scare against St. John's in a game that we all want to forget about. Now the two teams are facing off again, but this time in Cincinnati. To get you ready for the game, we once again talked to our good friend, Carmine Carcieri, over at Rumble in the Garden. Let's see what he had to say.
1.) 0-9 in the Big East so far. What's went wrong for St. John's?
There have been a lot of issues in conference play for the Johnnies but the inexperience up and down the roster has been the main problem. The effort and desire to win is evident every night and the team has had their battles against Xavier, Marquette (twice) and Providence, but ultimately their inability to come up big in the closing minutes and play a full 40 minutes has come back to bite them.
The Red Storm don't have a true shot creator, are lacking a lead guard, their shot selection and ball movement has been streaky and the failure to shoot a solid percentage also is hurting this team's chances of winning a Big East game. The energy and aggressiveness defensively can't make up for the poor offensive production.
But again, this team is young, small and undermanned. Yankuba Sima, who was developing into the team's best player at the start of conference play, has been out with a broken hand and not having Marcus LoVett, who was ruled ineligible before the season, is forcing Federico Mussini to play out of position. The 12-game losing streak is clearly wearing on the players and that has contributed to recent blow out losses to Georgetown, Villanova and Seton Hall.
2.) Which players are getting you hopeful for the 2016-2017 Red Storm team?
I'm really excited to watch Mussini, Kassoum Yakwe and Sima after an offseason of more development. When Mussini plays off the ball next season, he will able to get more shots in rhythm and will have a better chance of getting his shot off smoothy. Yakwe is already a terrific defender but if he works on his offensive game and his free throw motion he has the potential to be a dangerous player in the Big East next season.
And then there's Sima. He's currently out with an injury but he has pro potential because of his size, defensive prowess, shot blocking ability and developing post moves. The Johnnies would likely have at least one win if he was healthy.
3.) How many Big East teams will make the tournament this year? Do you think anyone can sneak in through the conference tourney?
I believe five teams from the Big East will make the Big Dance: Villanova, Xavier, Providence, Seton Hall and Georgetown. Marquette is still a very young team with a lot of ground to make up, Butler is struggling mightily with their only conference wins coming against DePaul (twice) and St. John's and Creighton has trouble winning away from Omaha.
While I think the conference tournament will have some excellent drama, it would be very surprising if a team outside of the Musketeers, Wildcats or Friars win the title.
4.) I think I've seen Steve Lavin on TV more than Gus Johnson. Is it awkward for St. John's fans having him on FS1 all the time?
I give props to Lavin. He is very good at his job and I do enjoy listening to his analysis. I'm sure the majority of the fan base has moved past that era, but there is definitely some fans out there that feel it is a little awkward, especially when he is predicting St. John's to upset Syracuse (which proved to be correct).
5.) Score prediction?
The Musketeers will win, 70-54, and sweep the Johnnies.