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St. John’s Red Storm over Gonzaga Bulldogs in NCAA Tourney

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This game will take place on Thursday, March 17th at 9:45 pm est in Denver, Colorado.

In their last matchup, the St John’s Red Storm were taken down by the Syracuse Orange, 79-73. This was a very close game as Syracuse took the lead at the 2 minute mark and never looked back. Leading the St John’s Red Storm was Dwight Hardy with 22 points and 4 rebounds. Forward Justin Brownlee chipped in with 15 points, 7 rebounds, and 4 assists. St John’s has had a surprisingly great season but Syracuse is just a little bit more established.

In Gonzaga’s last matchup, they won their 9th consecutive game by defeating St. Mary’s 75-63 and winning the West Coast Conference Tournament title. The Gonzaga Bulldogs had 4 players in double figures and averaged 49% from the field, 44.4% from 3 point range, and 80.8% from the line. Overall, they beat their opponent in every statistical category and were the better team.

This will be an interesting matchup. The Bulldogs are on a high after winning their conference tournament and have won 9 consecutive games while St. John’s is having a breakout season in beating some of the top teams that the NCAA has to offer.

Crushing Blow To the Johnnie’s

Guard D.J. Kennedy will be out for the entire NCAA tournament. He tore his right ACL in St John’s last game against Syracuse. Injuries are always bad but this is poor timing for an up and coming Red Storm team. Gonzaga definitely gets a break off of St. Johns misfortunes. Kennedy averages 10.4 points, 5.6 rebounds, 2 assists, and 1.8 steals per game. Kennedy had scored in double figures in his previous 7 games. This is a big blow for St. John’s.

Leader of the Pack

For St John’s the leader of their team is clearly Bronx native Dwight Hardy. This senior averages 18 points and 3 rebounds per game. Hardy is a good free throw shooter in case this game is close, which I think it will be. Hardy is also capable from behind the arc at 35.1%. Hardy came up big in a tough defeat to Syracuse with 22 points and 4 rebounds. In order for St. John’s to win this game, Dwight Hardy must have a good game.

Big Wins Over Big Teams

St. John’s has put away some highly rated teams this season and some in convincing fashion. They”ve beaten Duke by 15 (and the game wasn’t even that close), Villanova by 13, Pittsburgh by 1, Connecticut by 17, West Virginia by 10, Notre Dame by 18, and Georgetown by 3. That’s a very convincing resume. Not only did they beat these elite teams but they blew them out. How many other teams in the country can say they that they beat a list of teams like this and by such a large margain? I don’t think anyone can.

The question is “Will losing D.J. Kennedy make such a large impact that it ruins St John’s chemistry and leaves a very sour note to a great season”?

Gonzaga Is Well Balanced On the Defensive and Offensive Ends

Gonzaga rates highly in a lot of different offensive and defensive categories. On the offensive end the Bulldogs rank 23rd in points (76.7), 10th in assists (47.9), 16th in free throw shooting (75.9%), and 58th in rebounding (37.4).

On the defensive end, they allow 65.1 points for a point difference of +11.6 per game. The Bulldogs are also 23rd in field goal percentage allowed (39.8) and 30th in rebounds allowed (27.9). The competition is not nearly as good as what St John’s faces but those are some overwhelming numbers.

The Bulldogs staff also distributes the time played between players fairly evenly. Almost everyone on the team plays. A total of 10 players play 13.6 minutes per game or more. Teams like this who rely heavily on scoring like to keep their players fresh, substituting regularly.

Sacre is Sacred

Center Robert Sacre who stands at 7 feet and 260 pounds will be a major problem for St John’s. This big space eater is also an accurate and productive scorer. Sacre averages 12.5 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 1.9 blocks per game. He also shoots  49% from the field and can knock his free throws down, shooting 82.9%. In his last 5 games, Sacre is averaging 13.8 points and 5 rebounds. He had 4 blocks in the conference title game against St. Mary’s and proposes a problem for the Red Storm. He will be needed because leading scorer Stephen Gray (13.8 points per game) has been inconsistent. Gray had a 15 point performance against St Mary’s but scored in single digits in 4 consecutive games prior to that. Gray needs to get back on track. St John’s is no pushover.

Outcome of the Game

This will be a close game. St John’s will have to find a way to make up for the loss of D.J. Kennedy and that will be tough against a team like Gonzaga. I give the Red Storm a major coaching edge with Steve Lavin and they’ve managed to pull out a lot of games that they weren’t expected to. The linesmakers don’t think that they’ll pull this game out, making them a 1.5 point favorite. I say that St John’s finds a way to cover and expect Dwight Hardy to come up big in this spot.

Pick: St John’s -1.5