St. John’s head coach Steve Lavin will not be on the sidelines tonight when the Red Storm visit No. 12 Louisville, as he’s with family in northern California making funeral arrangements following the passing of his father, Cap.
Assistant coach Rico Hines, who led the Red Storm on Sunday at No. 6 Syracuse, takes the reins for the second consecutive game and faces the arduous task of not only matching coaching wits with Rick Pitino but getting a young St. John’s team over the hump in what has been a draining six-week stretch.
After winning five straight games the Red Storm have lost two of their last three, with a win over Connecticut sandwiched in between losses at Georgetown and Syracuse. Following tonight’s game St. John’s doesn’t play another game until February 20 against South Florida, which will give this young group much-needed time to not only recuperate physically but also mentally.
Louisville is five days removed from their quintuple-overtime loss at No. 21 Notre Dame, and given their ability to force turnovers St. John’s will need to take better care of the basketball than they did at Syracuse on Sunday (16 turnovers). With players such as D’Angelo Harrison and Jakarr Sampson the Red Storm are skilled enough to rebound, but the question is whether or not they have enough left in the tank emotionally to do so.
St. John’s released the following statement from Lavin on Tuesday:
“We are grateful for the heartfelt encouragement, prayers and support received since our father’s passing. The thoughtful sentiments and caring messages we received via text, Twitter, e-mail and voicemail from friends, current players, former players, colleagues and college basketball fans have helped to give our family an emotional lift during a challenging time in our lives.
“Moving forward, it will now be the inspiring memories of my father that will serve as a catalyst to pursue better ways to navigate the ‘bittersweet miracle that is life’.”
Raphielle also writes for the NBE Basketball Report and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.
GAME OF THE NIGHT: No. 10 West Virginia at No. 6 Kansas, 7:00 p.m.
The last time these two teams got together, West Virginia actually knocked off Kansas in Morgantown. It was the third time in the last three seasons that WVU has beaten KU at home. So there’s some revenge at stake here. But there’s also the whole Big 12 title race, which West Virginia currently leads. If the Mountaineers win tonight, they’ll be up by two games on Kansas with the tie breaker and just seven games left to play. The Jayhawks regular season title streak could be over if that happens.
THIS ONE’S GOOD, TOO: No. 8 Michigan State at No. 18 Purdue, 7:00 p.m.
We think the Spartans are back to their early season form after wins over Maryland (at home), Northwestern, Rutgers and Michigan. If Michigan State really wants to prove something to the college basketball world, they will go into West Lafayette tonight and get a win. Denzel Valentine vs. Raphael Davis will be fun.
FIVE THINGS TO WATCH FOR
- Pitt will pay a visit to No. 12 Miami in a game the Panthers could really use a win in. Pitt hasn’t been the most consistent team in the country and without adding a few quality wins they could be looking at the bubble.
- Duquesne will be paying a visit to No. 19 Dayton, who moved into a tie for first place in the Atlantic 10 thanks to VCU’s loss on Saturday.
- Georgia is right there on the bubble, and they will have a chance to try and push themselves into a better spot when they play at No. 22 Kentucky tonight.
- Creighton probably has to win out to have a shot of making the NCAA tournament, and that includes tonight, when they host No. 5 Xavier.
- No. 7 Virginia will be hosting Virginia Tech, who picked off the Wahoos in Blacksburg earlier this year.
THE REST OF THE TOP 25
- No. 1 Villanova at DePaul, 8:30 p.m.
- No. 25 Wichita State at Drake, 8:00 p.m.
It’s Tuesday, which means that it is once again time for the NBC Sports Player of the Year Power Rankings.
And you’ll be shocked to find out that Oklahoma guard Buddy Hield is still No. 1 in those rankings. By a pretty wide margin.
The rest of the top 10?
They can be found here, at the CBT FaceBook page. Follow that page for the countdown: