It's Senior Night for Anthony Mason Jr., walk-on John Taubeneck, and the student managers at Carnesecca, as the team hosts the surprise Marquette Golden Eagles. Obviously, they didn't think the Eagles would be very good, or they wouldn't have hosted them on-campus. Because the last game against them at the Garden was a straight-up, backcountry azz-whoopin.
But they are good. The NCAA Tournament is a very real possibility for the Eagles. St. John's should expect them to come out with purpose at little old Carnesecca Arena. They will look to break down the defense and kick the ball out to their team of capable catch and shoot 3-point gunners - they shoot 41.3% from the three, fourth in the nation (and 42% in conference, by the way).
The Red Storm will have to defend them closely on the perimeter, cover breakdowns in the paint, and try to use their size on the small but gritty boys from Milwaukee.
St. John's hope to continue their spoiler ways and hopefully, cobble together enough wins to see a postseason berth. Marquette, in particular, has mastered the close loss - against Florida State, against NC State, at West Virginia, against Villanova twice by a total of 4 points, against Syracuse by 5... and against DePaul by 1.
Is it possible for the Red Storm to keep up their winning ways? Sure.
Is it feasible?
Ask after the upcoming stretch of games against the better teams in the league, Marquette (at home), Pittsburgh (at home), and Syracuse (in the Carrier Dome). Here's hoping the Mase of old comes out to play - the dunking athlete who can hit a few jump shots. Mason, at his best, could make this game closer; at the very least, expect his defense to bother either Butler or Hayward on the defensive end.
And hopefully Taubeneck will see some court time early... or late. But the more important thing is winning this game.
Excellent Three Point Shooting: The Golden Eagles shoot 42% from the three in the Big East - best in the conference and 7th in the nation.
Defending Without Height: With a high rate of steals (11% of opposing possessions), excellent defense of the three-pointer (first in the league with 30.6% shooting allowed), and adequate defensive rebounding by Jimmy Butler and Lazar Hayward, Marquette plays enough defense to be ranked 7th in the league on defensive efficiency allowed. The team also doesn't allow a high free throw rate (28.1% of opponents' shot attempts).
Turnovers: The Golden Eagles turn over the ball 14.6% of the time, one of the best rates in the Big East.
Defending in the Paint: When the Golden Eagles let teams into the paint, they are allowing 52.7% shooting from inside the arc.
Rebounding Without Height: Marquette's lack of height is acutely felt on the offensive rebounding end, where they struggle to gather their own misses (31% of offensive rebounds).
Two-Point Shooting: The team isn't terrible at scoring overall, but a 2-point shooting percentage of 44.3% means they should probably stick to the threes - and they generally do, taking 38% of their shots from outside the arc.
NY Post: Mason the man for St. John's
Cracked Sidewalks: Warriors invade Queens
Marquette Scoop: Preview - St. John's
Keys to the Game
Everything You Didn't Do Against Cornell And More. The Golden Eagles are going to shoot three-pointers. And they are going to drive the lane and kick the ball out. That offense worked very well for the Cornell Big Red, and Marquette is more athletic, though they lack a 7-footer in the post. St. John's has to stay with their man and remember that a defended (and unfouled) 2-pointer might be a better bet than an open three-pointer; the Eagles can't get wide open looks.
Sharp Focus. Buzz Williams will have his Marquette team focused on the prize. They have stopped growing their hair as a sign of solidarity/ motivational technique, but Buzz has the team sharp and prepared to take advantage of weaknesses. Last year, he had the Red Storm well-scouted and beat the piss out of the team; St. John's has to stay focused, aware, and find ways of getting into their sets without turning the ball over or giving up runouts.
Get To The Rebounds. The Golden Eagles are small, and do not rebound their offensive misses well. St. John's has to make sure Marquette gets very few offensive rebounds, and to get some second chance points themselves.
Draw Them Into The Post. The Johnnies need to work from the outside in. The Eagles defend the three-pointer very well, but when faced with an interior threat, can leave shooters open (as seen against Cincinnati on Sunday afternoon). St. John's enjoys a slight height advantage in the paint, and needs to use it.
Don't Send Shooters to the Line. At the very least, St. John's has to make the Golden Eagles work for their points. No foolish fouls on jump shooters. This team will knock them down.