Providence finished the regular season in 4th place and finished the last 10 games of the season 5-5. St. John’s finished the regular season in 5th place and finished 8-2 in their last 10 games of the season. Providence and St. John’s were then scheduled to meet in the Quarterfinals of the Big East Tournament. If this sounds familiar, its because that’s what happened last season.
The only thing that’s different this year from the above is that St. John’s finished their last 10 games at 7-3 instead of 8-2. Oh and the little matter of Providence splitting the season series with St. John’s last season instead of being swept – rather handily at that – like they were this season.
The Friars and Red Storm will tip off at 2:30pm on Thursday for the second straight season in the 4/5 game of the Big East Tournament. This is now the third time in the history of the Big East Tournament that these two teams will square off with Providence as the 4 seed and St. John’s as the 5 seed. Providence won both prior occurrences.
I released a poll on this site on February 26 and the poll question was, “What team do you most want Providence to avoid in their first Big East Tournament game?” The answer given by 157 of the 177 voters (88.7%): St. John’s.
Providence has not looked good both times they have played the Red Storm this season. In the first meeting at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center on January 14th St. John’s shot Providence out of the building. The Red Storm made a season-high (at the time) 10 3-pointers and shot 51% from the field en route to the 83-70 win. The 58.8% 3-point % is still their best shooting percentage from beyond the arc on the season. Providence shot just 28.6% from downtown and 39.7% overall.
The second meeting was a little over two weeks later on January 31st at Madison Square Garden. Providence got into a double-digit first half hole, something they have been doing of late as well, before Kris Dunn and LaDontae Henton tried to will the Friars back. The run fell short as the Red Storm went on a 10-0 after Henton cut the margin to 2 with a pair of made free throws at the 6:54 mark of the second half. From there it was mostly basket-trading until the final buzzer sounded on a 77-65 St. John’s victory.
Thursday’s game will be interesting to watch because Ed Cooley and his coaching staff will have had 4 days to prep and practice to try and figure out a way to slow down St. John’s. Chris Obekpa and Jamal Branch missed the Red Storm’s season finale against Villanova on March 7th. Zach Braziller of the NY Post reported on Twitter that Steve Lavin is “hopeful” that Obekpa and Branch will be back in the lineup for Thursday’s game.
Providence certainly hurt their draw by losing at home against Butler and missing out on the 2 seed but getting revenge on St. John’s from the two prior losses this season won’t hurt the Friars and their fans, even if it means they have to lock horns with Villanova on Friday night in the semifinals. I’ll have a full game notes & preview post up on Wednesday with my prediction but I look for this game to be very entertaining with 3 All-Big East First Teamers and the co-Defensive Players of the Year on the floor Thursday afternoon. Starting strong, or at least not starting super slow will be a key for the Friars.
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