St. John's at St. Mary's -- a preview

New St. John's coach Steve Lavin has already posted several wins on the recruiting front. Tonight (well, tomorrow morning, technically), he finally coaches his first real game at the school, as St. John's takes on St. Mary's in Moraga, Calif.

Game time is 2 a.m. ET, and it will air on ESPN as part of the 24-hour College Hoops Tip-Off Marathon.

In case you missed it, here are links to my three-part St. John's season preview, which ran last week on ESPNNewYork.com.

  • Part I: A look at this year's team

  • Part II: A look at the coaching staff

  • Part III: A look at the future

    As for tonight's game -- Lavin will likely go with the same starting lineup he used in the team's lone exhibition game, a 100-42 drubbing of NAIA school Westmont College on Nov. 6. That would be four seniors -- point guard Malik Boothe, shooting guard Dwight Hardy, swingman D.J. Kennedy and forward/center Justin Brownlee -- along with the team's lone freshman, forward Dwayne Polee.

    Lavin said after that game he'd like to generally use an eight-man rotation this season -- sometimes dropping down to seven men, sometimes expanding to nine. Senior guard Paris Horne and senior forward Sean Evans -- both starters last season -- should see some playing time, along with sophomore guard Malik Stith.

    Senior forward Justin Burrell was just cleared to resume practicing on Friday after recovering from a broken hand -- he will likely get some playing time eventually as well.

    St. Mary's, coached by Randy Bennett, went 28-6 last season and made it all the way to the Sweet Sixteen in the NCAA Tournament as a No. 10 seed, upsetting Villanova in the process. The Gaels lost leading scorer Omar Samhan, but return three other starters from last year's team, including their second- and third-leading scorers, guards Mickey McConnell and Matthew Dellavedova.

    St. Mary's is 1-0 on the young season after drilling the College of Idaho out of the NAIA, 86-42, on Friday night. The Gaels were picked to finish third in the West Coast Conference this season, behind Gonzaga and Loyola Marymount, by Blue Ribbon.

    St. John's likely will try to push the tempo in this game -- Lavin has been stressing that to his team in the preseason, encouraging them to look for fast-break opportunities in the first six seconds of the shot clock.

    On defense, you can expect St. John's to employ full-court pressure at times, if not throughout the game -- looking to force turnovers and, again, increase the tempo.

    I'll be wide awake and watching, starting at 2 a.m. ET. I'll post a Rapid Reaction column to the blog after the final whistle. And then I'll be chatting with fans Tuesday at 1 p.m. ET, as we break down the St. John's season opener together.

    Enjoy the game, everyone.