WVU faces toughest test yet in road contest against former Big East foe

West Virginia returns to the spot of one of WVU basketball’s best moments of the 21st century Saturday as the Mountaineers face St. John’s at Madison Square Garden in New York. The game tips OFF at noon and will be broadcast nationally on FS1.

MSG was where the Mountaineers won their last conference tournament championship and their only Big East Tournament championship. WVU beat Georgetown, 60-58, in the 2010 Big East Tournament championship game in MSG in 2010. WVU advanced to its second Final Four that same season.

Saturday, the Mountaineers (7-0) face former conference foe St. John’s from West Virginia’s Big East Conference days. The Red Storm (7-2) fell to Arizona State, 80-67, in the Basketball Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament on Nov. 23 and were upset, 70-68, at home to Vermont on Nov. 10.

St. John’s is led by first-year coach Mike Anderson. Anderson, who was fired by Arkansas after last season, took over for Chris Mullin in April. Mullin, a former star guard for St. John’s in the mid-1980s, led the Red Storm to the NCAA Tournament in his fourth and final season last year. Mullin resigned after last season, citing personal issues.

St. John’s is led in scoring by senior guard Mustapha Heron (15.0 point per game). Sophomore forward Josh Roberts paces the Red Storm rebounding at an 8.7 per game clip. Senior guard Nick Rutherford leads St. John’s, dishing 3.1 assists per contest.

St. John’s doesn’t have the complete roster depth of WVU, but the Mountaineers don’t expect to wear down the Red Storm like they have some of their early opponents. Six St. John’s players average more than 20 minutes a game while five Mountaineers do.

ESPN’s BPI gives St. John’s the slight analytical edge to win the contest, the first time WVU has been under the 50-percent in that category in a game this season.

WVU hopes a true road victory over a team the caliber of St. John’s can be another notch on the Mountaineers eventual NCAA Tournament resume.