Duke (20-5) vs St. John's (12-13)
New York, N.Y. - Madison Square Garden
TV: ESPN / Tip: 7:00 PM EST
Program Vitals Conference: Big East Nickname: Red Storm Colors: Red and White Head Coach: Norm Roberts (5th season) Career Record at St. John's: 60-77
Projected Starters: 1 D.J. Kennedy (6-6, 210, So.) – 12.6 ppg, 6.8 rpg 5 Sean Evans (6-8, 250, So.) – 9.4 ppg, 6.6 rpg 24 Justin Burrell (6-8, 240, So.) – 9.4 ppg, 4.5 rpg 23 Paris Horne (6-3, 185, So.) – 15.0 ppg, 3.1 rpg 3 Malik Boothe (5-9, 180, Jr.) – 7.3 ppg, 4.6 apg Key Reserves: 10 Quincy Roberts (6-5, 190, Fr.) – 5.7 ppg, 2.8 rpg 55 Rob Thomas (6-6, 225, So.) – 6.2 ppg, 3.4 rpg 15 Dele Coker (6-10, 260, So.) – 2.8 ppg, 2.7 rpg 12 TyShwan Edmondson (6-4, 170, Fr.) - 1.5 ppg
Storylines For St. John's:
How They Got Here:
After winning 18 of their first 19 games the Blue Devils have gone just 2-4 over the last six including back to back losses to North Carolina and Boston College. Due to their late season slump, Duke has gone from being ranked as the nation's top team and a lock for an overall top seed in the NCAA Tournament to a projected third or fourth seed.
Meanwhile the Red Storm are in the middle of a rebuilding project under head coach Norm Roberts. The Red Storm are currently one game under .500 on the season, but sport a 9-3 out of conference mark. Each of those three OOC losses occurred to ACC teams as the Storm fell to Boston College by 12, Virginia Tech by 14, and Miami by 14.
This will be the 18th meeting between the two programs and the 11th straight season of at least one matchup. Duke owns a 12-5 overall series lead. The last time the Blue Devils fell to SJU was in 2003 when Marcus Hatten scored 29 points to lead the Storm back from an 11 point deficit with just four minutes to go.
After playing just two games, St. John's senior combo forward Anthony Mason Jr. was lost for the season in the third game with a foot injury. He will miss the rest of the season.
The Bright Lights and Big City:
As is the case each season, Duke is once again heading back to Madison Square Garden where the program holds a 22-14 all time record including a 17-6 mark under Coach K. Coach K's teams have won nine of the previous ten contests at the famous arena including victories over Southern Illinois and Michigan in the 2K Sports Classic benefiting Coaches vs. Cancer earlier this season.
Meanwhile, St.John's won't be impressed by playing at MSG. The program has played 632 times at the World's Most Famous Arena and owns a 381-251 all time mark there (60%).
The last time the two teams played at MSG, Duke pulled away late - winning 67-50. In 2005 another low scoring affair saw the Blue Devils come away with a 58-47 win. Perhaps the series most memorable game was played in 1999 when a junior guard named Bootsy Thornton burst onto the national scene by dropping 40 on Duke before the Blue Devils pulled away in overtime, 92-88.
Watch Out For...: Sophomore guard Paris Horne who has stepped up his game in his second season - leading the team in points. The 6'3 scorer is even better in games played at MSG averaging16.1 ppg on 50.6 percent shooting from the field (45-for-89) and a 35.9 percent mark from the perimeter. He has been named to the Big East and Metropolitan Basketball Writers Association's (MBWA) Honor Rolls twice this season.
Another scoring worry for Duke will be second year forward Sean Evans - another multiple time MBWA honoree. The 6'8, 250lbs Evans has been extremely consistent over the last eight games, averaging 9.1 points and 7.6 rebounds per night while shooting a respectable 46.0% from the field. Evans' 6.6 rebounds per game on the season are good enough for second on the team and 18th in the Big East.
A deep post rotation is anchored by Justin Burrell (who will be wearing a protective mask) who returns after a great freshman season in which he averaged just under 11 points and six rebounds per game to take all-Big East rookie honors as well as second team NABC All-District team citations. This year Burrell is hitting for 9.4 points and 4.5 boards per game.
Point Guard Slot Steady For Red Storm
After missing nine games with an injured thumb, point guard Malik Boothe has reclaimed the starting point guard spot and is playing well entering the game with the Blue Devils - who have struggled to slow down most any floor general in recent weeks. Boothe is averaging 7.3 points and 4.6 assists while playing nearly 33 minutes per game for the Red Storm.
At this point nothing should be surprising for Blue Devil supporters. Head coach Mike Krzyzewski's team has gone from being talked about as one of the nation's elite teams to being on the other end of such conversations. While there is certainly no shame in taking some lumps in ACC play, the worry is that Duke is once again appearing to run out of gas as the season drags on. Given the preseason proclamations of different workout routines aimed at keeping fresh legs into March, such a swoon leads to harder questions being asked about this team's ability to sustain their high level of play early on. All that being said, Duke should win this game. A third straight loss would be almost unfathomable and could really send this tailspin into a something that the team can't recover from with games against Wake Forest and Maryland looming. Look for Coach K to make some kind of shakeup either in the rotation or the lineup as he looks to get his group refocused and look for his team to respond to the adversity in a big way...
St. John's 58