When Villanova and St. John’s converge at Madison Square Garden Wednesday night in the second round of the Big East Tournament, both will be looking for a win, however, each team’s motivation will likely be coming from different places. While it appears as though the Wildcats have safely locked up an NCAA Tournament bid regardless of what happens against the Red Storm, another victory would leave them feeling very comfortable on Selection Sunday. St. John’s on the other hand, with their 8-10 conference record and 16-14 record overall, likely need to win the Big East Tournament in order to earn a bid of their own, which is highly improbable. Revenge, therefore, may be their motivating factor after losing to Villanova in overtime back in January, 98-86, in a game that featured some impressive individual performances.
The Wildcats’ Freshman point guard, Ryan Arcidiacono, drained seven three-point baskets en-route to a season-high 32 points that night, while Sophomore forward JayVaughn Pinkston contributed a season-high of his own, scoring 26 points while shooting over 50 percent from the floor. For the Red Storm, Sophomore guard D’Angelo Harrison nailed six threes, finishing with 36 points.
A huge offensive threat for St. John’s, Harrison will not be participating Wednesday night after he was suspended for the rest of the season two weeks ago due to “conduct detrimental to the team.” With Harrison out, the Red Storm’s offense will most likely run through 6’2 Sophomore guard Phil Greene, who scored 15 points the first time the two teams met, and the extremely talented JaKarr Sampson, who was named Big East Rookie of the Year earlier this week. Even though Sampson scored only 2 points on 1 of 6 shooting against the ‘Cats in January, he developed rapidly as the season progressed, ending the year averaging close to 15 points a game to lead all Big East Freshmen. He is also St. John’s’ leading rebounder, averaging 6.6 per game, and could cause problems on Wednesday night for head coach Jay Wright and the Wildcats.
The main reason Villanova beat the Red Storm in January, aside from Arcidiacono heating up from beyond the arc, was the adjustments that Jay Wright made at halftime. While the first half of the game featured an up-tempo offense from both sides, Wright chose to slow it down in the second half and run his offense through his Sophomore star, JayVaughn Pinkston. St. John’s didn’t have anyone capable of guarding him either inside or out, and that should be the case this time around as well. Pinkston ranks fourth in the country in fouls drawn per 40 minutes, averaging 7.8, and it was his bruising low-post play that contributed to five Red Storm players fouling out the first time the two teams met. He has continued to develop since the beginning of the season, and is now able to find teammates on the perimeter for open three-point shots once he is double-teamed on the low post, which has helped the entire Wildcat offense.
If Pinkston plays well, and with D’Angelo Harrison missing from the Red Storm lineup, Villanova should win the game. With Selection Sunday just four days away, Jay Wright and the Wildcats would like to be comfortably waiting for their name to appear on the NCAA Tournament bracket, rather than anxiously waiting to see if it will appear. After tonight, the former should be the case.Tags: Big East Tournament, Jay Wright, JayVaughn Pinkston, March Madness, NCAA, Ryan Arcidiacono, St. John's, Villanova