There are three sides to every story, they say, and there are probably more to most college basketball games we watch over the course of the season. But Tulane’s visit to the Barclays Center was a pretty simple case of not a lot going in favor of the Green Wave, even before they stepped into the NYC limits.
Tulane, despite a gaudy looking 9-2 record, doesn’t take care of the basketball very well (306th turnover rate coming in), doesn’t shoot particularly well from the outside, and is coming off a game before Christmas on the other side of the country (Seattle). The first two things played directly into the strengths of St. John’s defense (fourth nationally in adjusted efficiency coming in), and the result was a Red Storm 82-57 rout, led by 24 points from Sir’Dominic Pointer and 21 more from D’Angelo Harrison, as they head into Big East play Wednesday with an 11-1 record and a well-deserved national ranking:
Here are my thoughts from the Brooklyn Hoops Winter Festival, where the early start kept the crowd numbers down a little:
1) You see the St. John’s experience on defense – Steve Lavin actually mixed it up Sunday, going 1-3-1 (looking more like the Louisville model than the standard Beilein one), but it really didn’t matter what they were in, their athleticism, communication, and having someone like Chris Obekpa to protect the rim means it’s going to be tough to score on the Red Storm this season. Villanova, Xavier, and Georgetown are all in the top 25 nationally in offensive efficiency (with Creighton and Providence also in the top 55), so they will be tested, but that’s what should carry them this season.
2) Tulane seems like a classic big-conference overrated squad – You can understand why coach Ed Conroy would want to go light in non-conference with a team that posted exactly one winning conference record in its final 17 years in Conference USA (remember the awesome Metro conference?), and now having to jump to the American thanks to football. But, as with TCU who somehow got ranked this month, the record means next to nothing. Give Tulane credit for playing Washington tough, and it is probably on its way to being better, but it would be a surprise if they finished in the top half of the American (even an American which has some weak teams this season is is currently five spots behind the Big East in eighth according to KenPom). One freshman having a good season for Tulane is center Dylan Osetkowski, whose brother we know well as Columbia’s starting center.
3) Can St. John’s shoot the ball consistently enough? – When its defense is creating turnovers like it did today, the Red Storm will be pretty much unstoppable, even against most Big East teams. But outside of Harrison, who will hit outside shots for St. John’s when it needs them? Rysheed Jordan (who was a top 20 national recruit two years ago) seems to be the next answer, but even with the Red Storm’s success, he hasn’t really broken out yet. To get to the next level, Jordan will probably have to be the guy to take pressure off of Harrison. But maybe with the defense Pointer, Obekpa, and Phil Greene bring to the table, they won’t need to score as much. Scoring seems out of fashion these days anyway, doesn’t it?