Virginia Tech is in New York City over the weekend to defend their
Aeropostale Holiday Festival championship. They’ll play two games in Madison
Square Garden, and two wins on a neutral court could give them some momentum
heading into 2009.
This will be a four-team event. Each team will play two games. The winner of
the Virginia Tech-Columbia game will face the winner of the St. John’s-Marist
game for the championship on Sunday. The losers of each game will also play on
Sunday in a consolation game.
Columbia Lions (3-5)
Virginia Tech’s first opponent this weekend will be Columbia. The game will
tip-off at 2pm, and it will be televised by MSGTV. The Lions are 3-5 on the
year, with wins over Fordham, Bryant and Wagner. Here is a quick look at their
As you can see, only one player averages in double figures, and that is point
guard Patrick Foley. However, Foley missed Columbia’s last game with an injury,
and it’s unclear whether or not he’ll play against Virginia Tech on Saturday. If
he doesn’t, the Lions could be in for a long day.
They’ll probably be in for a long day with or without Foley. Though Columbia
does have five players who average between 7.1 and 7.8 points per game, which
indicates balance, they simply don’t have the athletes to compete with a team
like Virginia Tech.
To beat the Hokies, Columbia will have to take care of the basketball, and
they’ll probably have to get hot from the outside. Judging from their first
eight games, that seems like a tall task. The Lions have committed 127 turnovers
through eight games, and they are shooting just 27.3% from three-point range.
Columbia hasn’t played since December 9, so they could be rusty. At any rate,
it will be a bad sign of the Hokies struggle to beat the Lions on Saturday.
Marist Red Foxes (3-6)
Marist is struggling in their first year without point guard Jared Jordan,
who now plays in the NBA Development League. The Red Foxes are getting good play
from their starters, but they don’t have a lot of depth.
Marist has a couple of key players in point guard David Devezin and forward
Ryan Schneider. Despite being undersized for his position, Schneider is a very
good rebounder. However, he’s more of a finesse player offensively. He shoots
37.5% from three-point range, and 24 of his 38 field goals this year have come
from behind the arc.
Schneider and Devezin both play over 30 minutes per game. A third starter,
Javon Parris, plays 29.4 minutes per game. Marist will play nine different
players in this game, but they don’t get much bench production. Their four key
reservists combine to average just 15.8 points per game.
Marist’s biggest weapon is the outside shot. For the season, they are
63-of-172 from three-point range, which is good for 36.6%. That’s an excellent
mark, considering the three-point line has been moved back a foot this year.
Marist will have to matchup with St. John’s in the first round, and it’s
unlikely that they’ll be able to knock off a Big East team that has superior
size and skill. However, if they get hot from the outside they are capable of
pulling the upset.
St. John’s Red Storm (8-1)
St. John’s is 8-1 on the season, with eight wins against lower level teams
such as Long Island, Cornell, Howard, Eastern Michigan, Loyola (IL), St. Francis
(NY), New Jersey Institute of Technology, and Bethune-Cookman. Their one loss
came to Boston College 82-70. Despite their excellent record, their RPI rating
is only #135 because of their very low strength of schedule.
John’s Starting Lineup
St. John’s has a very young basketball team with five sophomore starters.
Anthony Mason, Jr., their senior starter on the wing, was lost for the season
after three games. His experience and leadership will be missed, but despite his
absence the Red Storm are still able to put talent on the court. Every player in
their rotation is either a sophomore or a freshman, so their best days are ahead
St. John’s is a pretty big team that likes to play the rough, physical, Big East style of basketball. The Hokies played the Red Storm in the final game of
this tournament last year, and knocked them off 54-48 in an ugly game. If the
teams meet again this year, it will likely be another low scoring battle.
So far, St. John’s best player has been sophomore wing D.J. Kennedy. Kennedy
is can go inside or outside. He is shooting 37.1% from three-point range this
year. However, he prefers to do his work closer to the basket.
Kennedy and guard Paris Horne are the only legit three-point shooters for the
Red Storm. They are both 37.1% on the year, and they’ve combined to hit 26 of
St. John’s 41 three-pointers thus far. No one else on the team has hit more than
five outside jumpers.
So far, Malik Boothe looks like he has the potential to be a good point guard
for the Red Storm. He is not tall, but he has quickness, he can get to the
basket, and he can distribute the ball. He has 47 assists to just 27 turnovers
through the first nine games of the season. No one will mistake Boothe for an
outside shooter though. He is just 5-of-23 from three-point range on the year.
Some are probably surprised that Norm Roberts is still coaching at St.
John’s. However, he appears to have a solid nucleus of young talent to work with
this year. If the first day’s action goes as expect, the Red Storm will meet
Virginia Tech in the championship game of this tournament for the second year in
a row, and it should be another good game.