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Villanova travels up I-95 for a Wednesday night matchup against St. John’s at Madison Square Garden | Villanova vs. St. John’s Preview

Written by on January 24, 2024

Villanova travels about two hours on I-95 North for a Wednesday night battle against St. John’s at Madison Square Garden. For the second time this season, the Wildcats and the Red Storm match up in Big East conference play. The Red Storm won the first round, but Villanova looks for revenge in an arena where they have played very well over the years.

The Wildcats have lost back-to-back games for the first time since December 5th. However, Villanova played a tough game against #1 UConn at the Wells Fargo Center on Saturday, where they lost by just one point.

The Red Storm’s Struggles + All-Time Series Info

Since Villanova and St. John’s first meeting in early January, the Red Storm are just 1-3, including three-straight losses to #22 Creighton, Seton Hall, and #17 Marquette. The losses to Creighton and Marquette were just by one point. St. John’s is 12-7 overall and 4-4 against Big East competition. They average almost 78 points per game.

The Wildcats lead the all-time series against St. John’s, 66-65.

Bamba’s Recent Success

TJ Bamba comes into this game against St. John’s as one of Villanova’s most efficient recent players. The Bronx native scored 15 points against the Huskies, and he shot 8-14 with 23 points against the Red Storm on January 6th at the Finneran Pavilion. Bamba has stepped up recently and is making a lot of improvements offensively, especially from behind the arc.

The Main Matchup

Once again, all eyes will be on the matchup in the paint between Eric Dixon and Joel Soriano. Soriano dominated in the first game between these two rivals, but Dixon was still able to score 14 points. Dixon averages 15 points per game for Villanova. Soriano, who averages 16 points and 9.7 rebounds per game as St. John’s best player, recorded 20 points and eight rebounds against Villanova in their first matchup. Villanova must defend better in the paint against St. John’s, which was an area of struggle during the most previous matchup.

Full Court Press and Inbounding | Last Meeting between these two teams

The Wildcats also struggled with inbounding against St. John’s. The Red Storm and Coach Rick Pitino used a full court press against Villanova that led to a lot of bad passes and poor offensive possessions. Since that game, Villanova has improved against the full court press, but they have not seen it as much as in that loss to the Red Storm. Villanova won the turnover battle in the first game, but they still had 11 turnovers against St. John’s defense.

In addition to Soriano, Villanova struggled to contain Brady Dunlap and Daniss Jenkins. Dunlap and Jenkins combined for 33 points and five rebounds against the Wildcats. The Red Storm also converted 44% of their three-point attempts against Villanova. Overall, the Wildcats’ defense must play better against St. John’s in this second matchup. Villanova’s offense did a decent job against St. John’s, but the defense must improve this time around.

My Thoughts

Luckily for Villanova, the Red Storm are really scuffling heading into this matchup. They have lost three straight games. Although two of their losses were close games against ranked opponents, St. John’s offense has not looked the same since that game against Villanova. St. John’s has been inconsistent from behind the arc in recent contests, and they are shooting just 70% as a team from the charity stripe. That could play a large role in this game late, especially with St. John’s losing two of their last three games by just one point. The Red Storm also average almost 12 turnovers per game.

After a great effort against #1 UConn, I think Villanova has the advantage in this game. They play well at Madison Square Garden and are 2-1 at The Garden since Coach Neptune took over as head coach. It’s no secret that the Wildcats must defend better and improve with inbounding against the Red Storm, but I believe that Coach Neptune will have Villanova ready for more full court press and overall pressure from St. John’s. This game will most likely be close late, but I trust Villanova’s free throw shooting more than St. John’s. I also think the Wildcats will come out with a lot of energy from that close game against UConn.

WXVU Live Coverage from MSG

WXVU will have live coverage of Villanova vs. St. John’s beginning at 8pm with the pregame show. Tipoff is scheduled for 8:30pm from Madison Square Garden in New York.