The MSG Holiday Festival was played at Madison Square Garden this Monday and Tuesday, December 20th and 21st. I made the trip up to watch some college basketball and report on the tournament, and acquired a press pass at the Garden for the Championship Round. The 4 team tournament featured the hometown St. John’s Red Storm, the Northwestern Wildcats, the Davidson Wildcats, and the St. Francis Terriers. St. John’s went 2-0 to win the Holiday Festival on their home floor, defeating Davidson on Monday and Northwestern in the final game of the tournament on Tuesday.
St. John’s played completely different games on Monday and Tuesday to capture the championship. On Monday, St. John’s played a very sloppy first half, turning the ball over and playing stagnant offense. The Storm was simply outplayed and outhustled in the first half, and should have been down 8-10 points at half. However, St. John’s finished the half down only 3 points after a late run in the final minutes. In the second half, St. John’s improved its field goal percentage, reduced its turnovers, and rebounded much more effectively, which led to the Red Storm’s 31-25 rebounding advantage. St. John’s defeated Davidson 62-57, in a game that could have been won by Davidson without a late 1st half run to keep St. John’s within striking distance.
In the final game of the tournament, against Northwestern, St. John’s displayed its potential for the first time this season. DJ Kennedy, Justin Burrell, Justin Brownlee, and Dwight Hardy put on a dominant performance against a then-undefeated Northwestern team. In a first half that featured efficient passing and shooting, with each team’s field goal percentage above 50%, Northwestern led by 3 at half. In the second half, St. John’s only improved its field goal percentage, as the Storm finished with a FG percentage of 59.6%. Northwestern went cold in the second half, as the Wildcats finished 40.3% from the field. St. John’s also controlled the glass, with a 32-26 advantage.
St. John’s now posts a 7-3 record heading into its first Big East conference game against West Virginia. St. John’s has only Duke and UCLA remaining on the non-conference schedule. Moving forward, St. John’s needs to have an impressive Big East conference season, and needs to beat either Duke or UCLA to make up for its bad losses to St. Bonaventure and Fordham.
Northwestern has an 8-1 record, and has Mt. Saint Mary’s this Thursday, December 23rd, to finish its non-conference season. Without a legitimate non-conference win, but with a good win-loss record, Northwestern simply needs to play .500 or better in the Big Ten, which some claim is the best conference in the country, with 2 or 3 wins over ranked teams, in order to qualify for the NCAA tournament.
Davidson posts a 5-5 record, and will look to earn an NCAA tournament bid with a Southern Conference Championship. Major competitors for the title will be The College of Charleston and Chattanooga. St. Francis (NY) hopes to win the Northeast Conference, and the Terriers have an early share of the conference lead with a 2-0 record in-conference.
Feel free to contact me for more information on my trip to the MSG Holiday Festival.