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The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Wednesday, March 13, 7 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Madison Square Garden (19,763) -- New York, New York. Television: ESPN2. Home Record: St. John's 12-5, Villanova 12-4. Away Record: St. John's 4-7, Villanova 6-7. Neutral Record: St. John's 0-2, Villanova 1-1. Conference Record: St. John's 8-10, Villanova 10-8. Series Record: St. John's leads, 59-46.
GAMES NOTES: Two of the more storied programs in the Big East will meet up in the second round of the conference tournament at Madison Square Garden when the 10th-seed St. John's Red Storm tangle with the seventh-seed Villanova Wildcats on Wednesday night.
Both of these teams will be members of the 'Catholic 7' that will defect after this season as the league disintegrates.
St. John's is one of the seven charter members of the Big East and one of just four teams to have multiple titles. The most recent came in 2000 for the Red Storm which doesn't have a ton of momentum on its side heading into this tourney. St. John's was considered a fringe NCAA Tournament team near the end of January but with losses in six of its last seven games the Red Storm would likely need to cut down the nets at MSG to get into the field.
Villanova joined the Big East in 1980, its second year in existence, but has managed to secure just a single league title. That one came during the 1995 season for the Wildcats who still have a record above .500 all-time in the league Tournament (32-31). Villanova is sitting on the bubble for the NCAA Tournament field but more than likely got itself in with a win over Georgetown in the regular season finale. However a long run this week couldn't hurt.
Over the last few seasons Villanova has dominated in this conference rivalry with wins in eight of the last nine meetings. That includes a 98-86 win earlier this season. However St. John's still leads the all-time series, 98-86.
A layup as time expired from Marquette's Vander Blue sank St. John's in a 69-67 loss to the Golden Eagles to close out the regular season. Phil Greene IV scored a game-high 20 points for the Red Storm in the loss but the Red Storm managed to go just 2-of-9 from the field in the extra session.
The Red Storm's NCAA Tournament hopes took a huge hit not just from their poor play down the stretch. Leading scorer D.J. Harrison (17.8 ppg) was suspended for the season in early March and has missed the last three games for the Red Storm with all three ending in losses. All-Big East Freshman selections JaKarr Sampson (14.9 ppg, 6.6 rpg) and Chris OBekpa (4.1 bpg), who was one of the best shot blockers in the country, must pick up the slack. Led by Obekpa the Red Storm were a ferocious team in protecting the rim as they held foes to 39.7 percent shooting, while collecting the most blocks in the country (7.5 pg).
JayVaughn Pinkston dropped in 20 points to lead the Wildcats to yet another upset win when they knocked off Georgetown in the regular season finale. The Wildcats forced 23 turnovers from the Hoyas in the contest and limited Big East Player of the Year to 6-of-16 shooting.
Villanova hasn't been a particularly strong scoring team this season (68.2 ppg) primarily because the Wildcats don't play efficiently enough on the offensive end of the court. Villanova is among the four worst teams in the conference in assists (12.4 pg) and field-goal percentage (.416). However they do manage to hold foes to 65.1 points per game on 40.3 percent shooting. Pinkston (12.9 ppg, 4.8 apg) was an All-Big East third-team selection for the Wildcats as the team's leading scorer. Ryan Arcidiacono (12.2 ppg, 3.5 apg) has shown promise for the future as despite some erratic shooting (.358 FG percentage) he still managed to be named to the conference's All-Rookie squad.
The Wildcats have already proven they can hang with the best teams in the conference and without Harrison, the Red Storm won't have enough scoring punch to keep up.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Villanova 71, St. John's 62
03/13 11:12:55 ET
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