St. John's (8-7, 2-2 Big East) heads back to the midwest to visit #25/24 ranked Marquette (12-4, 1-2 Big East) tonight at 7:00PM Eastern time. The Golden Eagles use each St. John's visit to honor their revered coach Al McGuire, who played at St. John's from 1948-1951 and led the then-Marquette Warriors to the 1977 NCAA National Championship.
For Marquette, the Red Storm game is the first of a three-game homestand where the team hopes to get right with the win column after two bitter defeats to ranked foes. St. John's comes off of a successful trip to Cincinnati, where a well-placed Maurice Harkless tipped in a missed shot at the buzzer for the win.
Can that tip-in be part of a winning streak? Back-to-back road wins for the young squad? Or will the inconsistencies of youth and the frenetic energy of Marquette be the Red Storm's doom?
Mood Music: Jeru tha Damaja, Mental Stamina (video, opens in new window)
Tip Off: 7:00 PM, Eastern
Vs: #25/24 Marquette Golden Eagles (12-3, 2-0 Big East)
Location: Bradley Center, Milwaukee, WI
TV: ESPNU | ESPN3 Radio: Bloomberg 1130 | Sirius: 94 | XM Radio: 190
Opposition blog/ message board: Cracked Sidewalks | Anonymous Eagle | Paint Touches | MU Scoop (message board)
Pomeroy page ($)
Storm Warnings: St. John's
The Red Storm comes off of a dramatic win against the Bearcats, one that found them struggling to shoot, struggling to hang on to the ball, and struggling to keep the Bearcats' four-guard lineup off of the glass on both ends. Luckily, the Bearcats were also enamored with their jump shots - whether deep or mid range - and that kept the Johnnies within striking range.
Yes, the Storm pulled out the win and held the Bearcats down for most of the second half, but three issues have to bother the Red Storm - the slow starts, the defensive rebounding, and the high turnover rate all game. The Storm were often bothered driving into the paint.
Additionally, the Bearcats had 5 turnovers all game. For a team that's most successful with pressure defense, that number is curious.
The diametrically opposed "glass" responses to Saturday's win
Glass half-empty: There's a lot that didn't work, and a better team won't settle for poor, quickly-jacked jump shots. Maurice Harkless was bottled up and bothered once again, delivering an inefficient performance. The turnovers weren't bad ideas - that was a team disrupting the normal offense. The team gave up many second chances to the Bearcats, but they chose to take jumpers. Others won't be as contact averse. Can the Johnnies win like this?
Glass half-full: The Red Storm were adept in finding ways to goad Cincy into poor shots and pulling out the win without transition baskets. Moe Harkless keeps battling, even when the shots aren't falling, and D`Angelo Harrison is an on-court leader. Did you see Sir`Dominic Pointer's game of rebounding and little things? And Amir Garrett getting more comfortable, hitting a three, and uncorking a dunk?
Storm Warnings: Marquette
The Golden Eagles come off of a pair of disheartening losses, where one half was very good, and the other half was their defensive deficiencies writ large. Syracuse bombed the Golden Eagles for the first half from all over the court, pounding them into early submission at the Dome. Georgetown looked to be knocked out, but Jason Clark slashed and slithered his way to a victory in the last 13 minutes last Wednesday.
Golden Eagle Strength: Stars who get buckets. The Golden Eagles are led by guard Darius Johnson-Odom and forward Jae Crowder, two very efficient players who score inside and out, and are excellent in transition. Crowder can hit the trailing three or bang inside. Both pass and draw a solid amount of fouls to pace the Marquette squad.
Golden Eagle Strength: Chaoticness. Marquette plays at a fast pace - 71.2 possessions per game so far in three Big East games. They will look to run and wear out the Red Storm; and they add some high-energy, often handsy defense to cause turnovers. They're fifth in the Big East in turnovers forced, taking the ball away 22.9% of opponents' possessions; Moe Harkless and Phil Greene will have to be more careful with their drives.
Golden Eagle Weakness: Containment + interior scoring. Marquette struggles to contain slashers, and has allowed teams to shoot just under 55% inside the arc. Their three-point defense is solid, but they're not keeping teams outside that arc. The Eagles draw fouls... and foul a lot. They love pressure, thievery, transition baskets. In previous years, the offensive flow has been able to cover up the defensive deficiencies. This year, they force turnovers, but teams are finding their teammates for baskets and stealing the ball right back from Marquette.
Golden Eagle Weakness: Chaoticness. The flip side to chaos is iffy ballhandling - they've turned the ball over on 21% of their possessions - and giving up fouls. Marquette games are physical contact affairs, with the Golden Eagles allowing a 41.7% free throw rate.
The Five Points, or, Keys to the Game
Be careful. Can the Johnnies clear enough space before driving into the active, waiting hands of supporting guards Junior Cadougan and Vander Blue? The Red Storm have to be careful about where they pass and where they dribble.
Convert inside the arc. The Golden Eagles have been permissive inside the arc, possibly due to their overplaying on defense and inability to provide help defense fast enough. But St. John's still has to convert their shots at the rim and close to the basket.
Rebound. Marquette gets some strong work on the offensive glass from big (BIG) man Davante Gardner and Jae Crowder. Moe Harkless and God`sgift Achiuwa have to identify their men and grab the rebounds... or keep them out of position where they can easily put the ball back on the rim.
Defend in transition. With both teams hungry to run, the game could get chaotic. But the Red Storm have to have transition balance - always having a man ready to get back on defense. Smart shots, and recognition of the Golden Eagle break will help frustrate the Golden Eagles.
Keep the Harkless and Harrison active. Even when they're not converting their shots, Harkless and Harrison are the focal points on offense, the players that St. John's needs to create offensive chances. Marquette will attempt to make their touches difficult ones, far from their effective spaces on the court. St. John's has to find them and get them in position to score - preferably attacking the basket, instead of shooting outside jumpers.
Prediction: St. John's faces an even more pesky attacking defense, and two road wins is a bit much to ask for. 80-66, Marquette.