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Syracuse vs. St. John's Basketball Preview: Q&A With Rumble in the Garden

One of our old Big East pals comes back to their house of horrors, the Carrier Dome, tomorrow.

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St. John's might never have been our most important, best or biggest rival, but they'll always hold a special place for me. My last game on campus in 2010, sitting in the floor seats, my roommates and I watched the Orange (led by Wes Johnson) trounce the Red Storm en route to a Big East regular season championship. Their 15-3 record was a sight to behold, and goddammit that team should've won it all. The win over St. John's was the last SU hoops contest I've seen in-person. Cue your #disloyalidiot comments...

Below, Troy Mauriello (who you should follow on Twitter) from SB Nation's St. John's blog Rumble in the Garden (@RumbleSBN), stops by to chat all about Red Storm hoops. Join us below, and check out our responses there as well:

St. John's looked pretty good going 1-1 vs. Minnesota and Gonzaga, respectively, a week ago. What did Red Storm fans take from those performances?

The Johnnies essentially played according to the expectations that a lot of people surrounding the team had for them last week, including myself. They took care of business in what I felt was a must-win game against a talented, likely fellow bubble team in Minnesota before giving the 10th-best team in the nation a close game on Friday.

It seems like what we saw in those two games from the Red Storm pretty much followed suit with what we've been seeing from them for the past few years. They looked like a top 25 team for stretches, but also looked like a division II team (especially offensively) for stretches.

And while it was certainly a positive that they stayed in the game with Gonzaga Friday night, at some part they will have to start winning games like that if they want to seriously be considered for the tournament. Maybe they can start with a victory Saturday night.

The key to the Red Storm's game appears to be rebounds, but is there another factor that may not be as apparent on the stat sheet?

Well starting with rebounding, one unlikely player who has certainly helped the Red Storm in that department is guard D'Angelo Harrison. He's leading the team, and is actually top 50 in the nation, with just over 9 rebounds per game so far on the year. His previous career-high mark for rebounds was just under 5 per game, which was set last year.

With St. John's dealing with a depleted frontcourt at this stage in the season, Harrison's contributions on the glass have probably been one of the biggest factors for the team's relative success so far.

And obviously, the defensive presence of both Chris Obekpa and Sir'Dominic Pointer has been huge so far this season. They are averaging 3.8 and 1.7 blocks per game, respectively and most of the shots that they don't get to they alter in some way.

Thus far, it looks like the D'Angelo Harrison and Rysheed Jordan show for you guys. Anyone else worth worrying about on the squad?

The two guys who I just noted, Obekpa and Pointer have each played well, especially on the defensive end, as has guard Phil Greene IV, who is averaging a career-high 10.7 points per game so far.

And also worth noting, although Jordan's 16 points per game looks very intriguing, he really has not performed up to expectations this year so far. In their two NIT games he turned the ball over 15 times and recorded just 4 assists, not exactly the kind of stats that you'd want to see from your point guard.

Overall, Jordan has shown flashes of brilliance this season, much like his entire team as a whole, but they'll need him to step up more in this game and for the future.

The 2-3 zone has given St. John's fits in recent years; what is it about Syracuse's defense that makes it so difficult for those St. John's teams?

I think that it's just more about a lack of shooters on the St. John's roster than anything else when talking about that. For the last two years at least, aside from Harrison the Johnnies really have not had a knock-down shooter on their roster. And even Harrison has taken a step back in his three point shooting statistically from last season.

With the lack of shooters on the roster for St. John's, it's no surprise that they've struggled with the zone over the past few seasons.

Which Syracuse player(s) concern you the most when looking at this matchup?

For me, and this may be the obvious choice, but it has to be Rakeem Christmas who scares me the most going into Saturday. Aside from leading the team in scoring, he's also taller and weighs more than any regular player on the St. John's roster. His size will probably give the Red Storm some trouble, and if he can draw Obepka into a few early fouls, then things could really go downhill for the Johnnies.

Aside from Christmas, I believe that Trevor Cooney put up a goose egg and was a total non-factor in the meeting between these two teams last year, and I wouldn't count on that happening again.

We can agree on the basic concept of "F&$k Georgetown," right?

Of course, that may literally be the only thing that these two fan bases can agree upon, but at least we have that right?

Predictions for Saturday? What goes down at the Dome?

I think the Red Storm make it a game just as they always do, but I just can't let the homer in me fully take over and allow myself to pick them to win. I'm still seeing way too many stagnant stretches from St. John's offensively, and that worries me for this game especially. I'll take Syracuse by 7 after they pull away with a few late free throws.


Thanks again for taking the time out for these, Troy! Be sure to follow him on Twitter, and head over to Rumble in the Garden in case you want to see what St. John's fans talk about in their spare time.