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Open game thread: St. John's vs Marquette

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Saturday, February 1, 2014
When: 12:30 PM Eastern
Marquette Golden Eagles (12-9, 4-4 Big East) at St. John's Red Storm (12-9, 2-6 Big East)
Pomeroy Rank: Marquette: 53 | St. John's: 55
Madison Square Garden (Capacity: 19,979)
Where: New York, NY
TV: Fox Sports 1 | Fox Sports Go online
Announcers: Gus Johnson + Bill Raftery
Radio: Bloomberg 1130
Favorite, Spread: St. John's, 2.5


It's a twin bill in the shadow of tomorrow's nearby Superbowl (in MetLife Stadium); Madison Square Garden will join in the Superbowl week festivities for Fox with three Big East teams and one Big Ten squad will play this afternoon. Georgetown and Michigan State follow St. John's and Marquette; both the Red Storm and Golden Eagles are trying to setting on impact lineups and find their way to within striking distance of the Big East crown with a late surge.

Neither team has been as good as expected.

Marquette has been mediocre, currently fifth in the Big East. Buzz Williams' team has a slightly better schedule - the worst losses are New Mexico and Butler in overtime at Hinkle Fieldhouse - with worse creampuffs, like Grambling and struggling IUPUI. The best wins, per KenPom's rankings, have been over George Washington, ranked 35, and Providence, ranked 48.

The Johnnies have been a little bit worse, tied for eighth in the Big East, and having lost to Penn State and DePaul. By KenPom's numbers, the Johnnies' best win was over Butler - ranked 98 - and Columbia, ranked 111.

Marquette has moved a pair of talented freshmen, Deonte Burton and Jajuan Johnson, into the starting lineup. Meanwhile the Eagles are also trying to fit the sharpshooter Jake Thomas - who can hit the three, but is poor inside, and struggles to get his shot/ make an impact - and the pass-first, pass-only point guard Derrick Willson into the rotation.

On the other side, St. John's seems to have settled on a three-guard lineup that includes Jamal Branch and Rysheed Jordan, with Phil Greene IV as a change-of-pace scoring guard.

At home and with newfound confidence - and the hint of an identity as an athletic, pressing bunch (which is what much of the fan base has wanted to see) - can St. John's surge into the middle of the Big East, starting a run that will give them a realistic shot at the NCAA Tournament? The improvement of Rysheed Jordan - who won Big East Rookie of the Week - and solid play by Jakarr Sampson will be huge.

Steve Lavin insisted that his team would peak in February. Given the team's losses on the court, that peak needs to include long winning streaks. It has to start now.

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