It will be St. John’s basketball unlike ever before.
For two hours Wednesday night, Johnnies fans will get an up-close look at their favorite program in Fox Sports’ annual all-access Big East men’s basketball game (9 p.m., FS1).
St. John’s coach Mike Anderson, along with Xavier’s Sean Miller, will wear live microphones, giving viewers the chance to hear directly from the respective coaches. Fox will take its audience inside the huddle and in the locker room from tipoff through the final whistle with basically no interruptions. There will be no commercials or fill-in time for the announcers, Kevin Kugler and Jim Spanarkel. Just a five-second delay to avoid curse words making it on the air, according to Steve Scheer, a senior coordinating producer for college basketball at Fox. There will be three pictures on the screen: one of the action, and one of each coach.
“It’s going to be interesting. I’ve never done it before. It’s another chapter [in my career],” Anderson told The Post in a phone interview. “Obviously, you’re allowing [people] a chance to see some of the behind-the-scenes [action] as the game goes along. We’ll see what takes place. … I think it gives you another perspective of what does occur in our program.”
The all-access game began in 2016, with St. John’s taking on Seton Hall in women’s basketball. The following year it started with the men. When Anderson took the job at St. John’s in April 2019, he was approached by Scheer, who had known him all the way back to his days as an assistant coach under Nolan Richardson at Arkansas, about one year taking part in it. At league meetings this past year in Ponte Vedra, Fla., Scheer again broached the subject with Anderson after Miller had agreed to it, and he signed off on it after receiving a thorough breakdown.
“We treat it like a heavyweight fight on HBO, for example,” Scheer said. “Where they would go into the corners and cut between the corners, that’s what we do with [the teams]. We’ll start in one huddle and once somebody stops talking or I get bored listening, then we go to the other huddle. We determine from what’s going on in the game, as to whose huddle we go into first, and also who goes into their huddle first.
“As you know, the coaches go on the court and they meet first [with their assistants] before they go into their huddles, and we go into those coaches meetings, too. So Mike Anderson will huddle up with his staff, and our camera and our mic will be right there.”
This showcase is coming at a pivotal point in the season for St. John’s (11-2, 1-1), on the heels of a lopsided, 15-point loss at Villanova. Xavier (10-3, 2-0), ranked 22nd nationally, would be by far the Johnnies’ best win of the season. The Musketeers, led by the dynamic 1-2 backcourt punch of Souley Boum and Colby Jones, feature the nation’s eighth-ranked offense by efficiency, per KenPom. Despite their gaudy 11-2 record, Anderson’s team is still looking for its first quality victory, with nine of its 11 wins coming over Quad 4 opponents and a low NET rating of 89. The Red Storm’s best win thus far is a blowout at home over Big Ten punching bag Nebraska, which is ranked 76th by the NET.
“We want to take care of home court, so from that standpoint I hope to see us come out in a fighting mode, understanding that we’re in a race for a championship,” Anderson said. “It’s early in the year, we’ve got to continue to try to get better — that’s the biggest key. Get more guys playing at a higher level, and be more consistent in how we play.”
It all makes for an intriguing evening in Queens, the chance for St. John’s to pull off a major victory and offer their fans an inside look at how they did it, or lead to further scrutiny for a team that is still searching for its identity as the new year nears.
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