--Spread Check: Cards by seven.
--Rumble in the Garden breaks the game down and sees tonight's keys like so:
Keys to the Game
Control! The Cardinals want to hurry opponents into their game - fast, many possessions, loaded with turnovers. St. John’s has to play their game – run when it works, don’t get caught in bad positions, no unguarded Brownlee jumpers with 30 seconds left on the clock.
Ball Protection. The Red Storm have found themselves giving up some unforced turnovers - getting caught in bad position, throwing the ball away, and such. That needs to be minimized against the Cardinals, who will happily take advantage of any Johnny miscues.
Score in the Paint. St. John’s needs to get into a controlled game and work the ball into the paint, whether on the fast break/ transition or in the grind of halfcourt play. If they run, Polee could be a real breakout candidate.
Defend a Hasty Offense. Knowles and Siva will draw defenders in, probe the defense off of a screen, and find an open player for a jumper. And in lieu of that, Knowles will cock back and fire up a shot from anywhere; Kyle Kuric has that range as well.
Clear Their Misses. The Cardinals’ bigs try to get offensive boards with some regularity. They are bigger and quick; St. John’s has to box out well and get those defensive rebounds.
--St. John's is 0-5 all-time at Louisville.
--Dwight Hardy has emerged as the leading scorer for the Red Storm, but tonight will go a long way in deciding whether or not he should be considered an elite Big East guard.
--Hardy says St. John's is heading into tonight's game feeling very confident.
"Now it's like we know we can beat any team on every given night as long as we play our style of basketball," senior guard Dwight Hardy said. "Last year our minds were set like, 'Uh oh, we have another (big) game - let's see how it plays out,' instead of compared to this year when we go into the game knowing we can win the game."
St. John's (11-5, 4-2) is yet to play a team such as Louisville (14-3, 3-1), which uses a full-court press for essentially the entire game. The Cardinals are forcing 17.6 turnovers per game, which places them among the 10 best in Division I. The strategy fuels an offense that shoots 38% on three-pointers and averages 80.7 points.
Hardy began the season as the shooting guard but now starts at the point, in part because senior Malik Boothe was slowed by a hamstring injury. Asked if this could be his first big test, Hardy responded, "It could be."
"I know teams haven't been pressing us so far this season so it will be a big test for me but I think I can handle it well," said Hardy, who is averaging a team-high 15.5 points to go with 2.5 assists. "I'll just take my time and find the open player when they set up their press and I'll be fine."
--As amazing as Saturday's comeback win against Marquette was, Louisville didn't have much time to celebrate it.
--Surprisingly, no one has taken the angle of this being a revenge game for Louisville. The Cardinals were humiliated by St. John's 74-55 a year ago.