Here are three things to watch for in Thursday night's game between St. John's (3-0) and No. 16 Arizona (3-0) at Madison Square Garden, the second semifinal in the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic.
Tip-off will be at approximately 9:30 p.m., following the first semifinal between No. 18 Texas A&M and Mississippi State. Both games will be televised on ESPN2.
GARDEN DEBUT: The six new St. John's players in coach Steve Lavin's seven-man rotation will get their first chance to experience playing in The World's Most Famous Arena -- against a ranked opponent, no less. Lavin said earlier this week that he expects his four freshman and two junior-college transfers to be nervous, at least at the start. "Even as a coach, your first game in the Garden, it’s natural to have butterflies, the heart in your throat."
Lavin tried to prepare his team by showing them film from big wins over Pittsburgh and UConn at Madison Square Garden last season. "We turned the volume up some so they could get a sense of the crowd and a little bit of the flavor of Madison Square Garden," Lavin said. "Also, to get their hearts started -- there's nothing wrong with a little bit of adrenaline."
WARM WELCOME: Lavin will be coaching his third game since returning from a month-long absence following prostate cancer surgery -- but it will be his first back at MSG, and especially with the event being the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic, the roar from the crowd when he is introduced should be huge.
As for his team, it is coming off its best effort of the young season -- an 82-59 dismantling of UMBC on Sunday. Six-foot-eight forward God'sgift Achiuwa is leading the Red Storm in scoring (17.7 ppg) and rebounding (8.3 rpg) through three games. Forward Moe Harkless is averaging 16.7 points per game, and Nurideen Lindsey 16.3 points, along with a team-high 4.7 assists and 3.3 steals.
THE OPPONENT: The Wildcats travel cross-country after home wins over Valparaiso (73-64), Duquesne (67-59) and Ball State (73-63). Arizona coach Sean Miller lost the top two scorers from last year's Elite Eight team -- Derrick Williams (NBA's No. 2 draft pick) and Lamont "MoMo" Jones (transferred to Iona) -- but added four top-100 freshmen, headlined by 6-foot-3 point guard Josiah Turner (the No. 15 high school senior in the country, according to ESPN's rankings.)
Turner played 21 minutes in each of the team's first two games, but was a DNP-Coach's Decision against Ball State. "He's trying to find his way from where he left high school ... on and off the court, making good decisions, working hard every day," Miller said after the game, according to the Tucson Citizen. "Sometimes, especially very, very early in someone's career, if they don't play, it's a feeling they haven't had before."
So far, the Wildcats have been led by 6-foot-3 senior guard Kyle Fogg, who is averaging 14.7 points per game. The game will also be a homecoming for 6-foot-6 junior swingman Kevin Parrom, a Bronx, N.Y., native who is back in the Arizona lineup after suffering a gunshot wound to his right leg during a frightening incident back home in September.