Big Fish

Player of the Week

Shamorie Ponds, G, Sophomore, St. John’s Red Storm

Shamorie PondsShamorie PondsWhat a week for Ponds and the Red Storm. For the whole season, St. John’s couldn’t’ catch a break. Chris Mullin’s squad started out conference play 0-11 and lost the season series to three Big East teams very quickly. Ponds was the only spark giving life to this team all season long, but over the last week or so he has been the hottest player in the country.

He went for 31 points in a close loss to Xavier at the end of January, marking the lowest of lows for the team even when Ponds was playing great. Then on Saturday in Madison Square Garden against the fourth ranked Duke Blue Devils, Ponds exploded for a season high 33 points, seven rebounds and sunk four 3-pointers to give St. John’s the improbable win. Topping that performance, he and the Red Storm traveled on the road Wednesday against the top ranked Villanova Wildcats. Ponds did it again, going for 26, five and five and led St. John’s to a 79-75 victory and their first conference win of the season.

If it weren’t for the Red Storm’s horrible start and lackluster chances of getting into the tournament, even with the signature wins, Ponds would have much more recognition and one of the nation’s top players. He is averaging 20.5 points per game, up three from last season, he has one more assist and rebound averaged than a year ago and his defense is fantastic averaging 2.5 steals per contest (tops in the Big East). Somehow, he and his team are rolling and playing on a new level. If they win out the rest of the season, they will finish 7-11 in conference play and still very much outside the realm of making the postseason. However, Ponds has given 100 percent all season and the more they win, the better recognized he will be.

Who’s Hot

Markus Howard, G, Sophomore, Marquette Golden Eagles

Howard led the nation last season in three-point shooting and leads the Big East in scoring this year, but as of recently Marquette was in a funk. They had lost four in a row to the upper echelon of the conference and Howard was ready to end the streak. On Wednesday night, Marquette took down Seton hall 88-85 on the road. Howard led the way with 32 points on 69.2 percent shooting in one of his best games of the year. It is obvious that when Howard is playing well, Marquette is a different animal and can beat anyone like on Wednesday night. His outside shooting is down considerably from last year so it will take a lot more scoring to get Marquette back out of seventh place in the Big East and back in the tourney.

St. John’s Red Storm

This was mostly explained from Shamorie Ponds, but this is a team that was completely left for dead. They had lost 11 games in a row, all in conference, after preseason predictions projected them as a top contender in the Big East under an experienced Chris Mullin. Marcus LoVett went down and they were never the same. Now, Mullin has his team turned around and the confidence levels can’t get any higher after taking down No. 4 and No. 1 in back-to-back games.

Who’s Not

Villanova Wildcats

With every winner comes a loser and this doesn’t happen often to the Wildcats but it just did and in ugly fashion. The Wildcats only lost their second game of the season in a massive upset by the conference winless Red Storm. Their biggest liability of the game was also their usual strength: 3-point shooting. They only shot 24.4 percent as a team from beyond the arc (8-33). Mikal Bridges only scored 11 points on 5-12 shooting and didn’t record a steal, where he ranks near the top in the Big East. For the Wildcats, it’s back to the drawing board for Jay Wright to fix the mistakes and make sure future opponents don’t take advantage of them.

Top 5 Conference Tournament Games We Would Love to See

1. Villanova/Xavier

This is the obvious choice. Two top 10 teams in the country, the two favorites to win the regular season Big East title and both sit at one and two in the conference now. Both are huge favorites to go far in the Big Dance. Always an entertaining matchup.

2. Seton Hall/Creighton

Arguably the two best teams behind the two teams at No. 1. Seton Hall is led by size and power with Angel Delgado and Creighton is speedy and quick in the backcourt. They have already split the season series and one of these two teams is likely to finish second or third in the regular season standings, maybe even right next to each other.

3. Villanova/St. John’s

Villanova handled business in their first matchup with them earlier in the year, but as mentioned fell in a colossal upset Wednesday. It would be interesting how Jay Wright adjusts the game plan in round three. It seems very unlikely he loses to St. John’s twice in the same season.

4. St. John’s/Georgetown

One of the biggest matchups coming into the season was first year coach Patrick Ewing vs Chris Mullin. The two played against each other in college as their coached teams and eventually against each other as stars in the NBA. Now as head coaches at their alma maters, Ewing got the early edge by winning the first two matchups this season. Both are at the bottom of the Big East, but it would be a good matchup for big names.

5. St. John’s/Anyone Else

The way the Red Storm are playing right now and their ability to beat two top five teams in less than a week, they may be able to beat any team right now. It would be a great story to run through the Big East Tournament against all odds.

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