The Battle of the Catholic Big East Schools Part Deux takes place this Sunday, January 16th as #11 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (14-3, 3-2 Big East) face The St. John’s Red Storm (10-5, 3-2 Big East) at “The World’s most famous arena” aka Madison Square Garden at 12:00 ET. Notre Dame last played Marquette and were upset 79- 57. St John’s fell in their last game to Syracuse 76-59.

The Fighting Irish and the Red Storm last squared off January 8th at the Purcell Pavilion at the Joyce Center. Notre Dame ended St. John’s 5-game winning streak with a 76-61 victory. The Irish were led in scoring by G Ben Hansborough’s 26 points. F Tim Abromaitis also contributed 12 points and nine rebounds to the winning effort. For St. John’s F Justin Brownlee led all scorers with 17 points along with 7 rebounds.

In the loss to Marquette, Hansborough had a terrible game. He was held to nine points (3-of-9 shooting) and had 4 turnovers. He was named Big East Player of the week right after this output ironically.  He will need to play like the best player in the Big East against the Red Storm.

Freshman PG Eric Atkins has started the past 3 games as Notre Dame shuffles its line up with the absence of F Carleton Scott who is lame with a tear in his hamstring. He led all Irish scorers with 15 points against Marquette while averaging just 7 PPG . His previous best was 12 points. He also averages 4 APG. His leadership on the floor and scoring can make the difference against the Red Storm.   

Notre Dame prides itself on defense. They held the St’ John’s backcourt of D.J. Kennedy and Dwight Hardy to 16 points, two assists and six turnovers. Hardy is a dangerous scorer averaging 15.7 PPG who has hurt the Irish in the past. Also, before their breakdown against Marquette, the team was ranked 7th in the Big East in 3-point defense as opponents only shot 31% against them.

The Johnnies should look to improve its guard defense. In their last meeting The Red Storm let up 38 points (on 13 of 26 shooting) and six assists to the Notre Dame backcourt tandem of Hansborough and G Scott Martin. Maybe The Red Storm should employ the zone which Notre Dame seems vulnerable against.

Look for the Johnnies to have a more balanced attack on the offensive side. The only players to score in double figures against Notre Dame were Brownlee and Dwayne Polee II. They also need to finish games stronger as the Red Storm were outscored and outhustled by Syracuse 26-7 in the second half.

I predict the Irish will once again triumph over St. Johns as they will stop them on defense and lead in every major offensive  statistical category including rebounds, FG%, 3PT%, and assists.