Friday, February 08, 2008


February 9, 2008

The Provience Friars travel to New York City to take on the St. John's Redstorm in a Big East conference showdown Saturday afternoon. Just one game seperates the two teams in the conference standings and that one game could be the deciding factor between participation in the Big East Conference Tournament or staying home in March.

St. John's has come back to life a bit with wins over South Florida and Rutgers in the last week. Although those wins do not really mean a whole lot, since they were the two teams below SJU in the standings, they both did come on the road and has put St. John's in position to challenge for a spot in the conference's Garden Party next month.

The most impressive item out of their two wins was that the victory against Rutgers came without the services of their best player, Anthony Mason Jr, who missed the contest with an ankle injury.

Against Rutgers, St. John's was not pretty, winning 52-45, but they hunkered down on defense, hit the boards hard and scrapped their way to a win. They have players who are athletic and strong, just not overly skilled on offense. After being beaten badly in their previous three games, they have turned things around and now have a chance to pick up more steam at home.

Providence needed a 2nd half rally to save, at least momentarily, their season. While dropping four consecutive games to drop to 3-6 in the Big East, pressure was mounting as fans were getting louder and louder with their 'Fire Welsh' chants in reference to PC head coach Tim Welsh. In 10 seasons as the Friars' head coach, Welsh has no wins in the NCAA Tournament. This was the year they hoped would change that, but a preseason injury to Sharaud Curry has limited the point guard to just 8 minutes all season and he is officially out for the year.

Without Curry, PC has been VERY inconsistent offensively. They rely on the perimeter shooting touch of Dwain Williams, Brian McKenzie and Jeff Xavier for most of their offense. Geoff McDermott battles a sore knee to play the forward spot and the effecient Randall Hanke makes good of his opportunities, but he has a tendency to be pushed around the post too often.

With the lack of a true point guard, the Friars are not able to consistently distribute the ball to make scoring easier for their players. They will pressure St. John's with their outside shooting and if Weyinmi Efejuku can give Tim Welsh what he is looking for in terms of consistent effort, the Friars should have too many offensive options for SJU.

The Redstorm was effective packing it in against the poor shooting Scarlet Knights on Wednesday, but that strategy will be hard to execute against a better shooting Providence club. Freshman Justin Burrell is an athletic forward who faces an interesting battle against McDermott. Larry Wright has had a disappointing season as a sophomore for the 'Storm, but he is capable of scoring, if Mason Jr. is out or limited because of his ankle, they will need Wright to provide some scoring punch, otherwise, it will be very tough for SJU to score points, even against a defense that allows a lot of them.

With Mason being an unknown, I have to side with the deeper and better shooting Friars in this one.

NBE Blogger Prediction: Providence 67 St. John's 58



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