St. John’s -after a mixed non-conference showing- will kickstart Big East play at Carnesecca Arena, on Thursday.
"One thing I have learned in my short [coaching] stint is that you just never really know with these young guys.” Said Chris Mullin after a victory at Syracuse. “In the NBA when you play 82 games, there is going to be a few stinkers; that is for sure ... For our team, it's the youth and experience. We've had some really good games already and we've had some stinkers.”
As always, it should be interesting to see which Red Storm team shows up against Butler.
Who: St. John’s Red Storm (6-7) vs #13 Butler Bulldogs (11-1)
What: Big East Conference opener
Where: Carnesecca Arena, Queens, NY
When: Thursday, December 29th, 7:00 PM
TV: Fox Sports 1 or Fox Sports Go
Audio: St. John’s TV All-Access will provide free audio for the contest. That station can be found by clicking here. Also live game audio can be found on 970 WNYM.
Tickets: Secure your seat for St. John’s-Butler by clicking here.
Fun Fact: Hinkle Fieldhouse was one of the first buildings erected at Butler University.
Butler has been one of college basketball’s surprise teams. Prior to the season, few expected these Bulldogs to enter conference play with only one blemish.
So far, Butler has knocked off two top ten opponents. The first coming in Las Vegas against the 8th ranked Arizona Wildcats. Just weeks later Butler upset the 9th ranked Indiana Hoosiers in the Crossroads Classic. In addition, Butler picked up a nice road victory at Utah, knocking down the Utes by a 68-59 score. The 22nd ranked Cincinnati Bearcats have also fallen at the hands of the Bulldogs this season.
Butler’s lone loss came at Indiana State. The Sycamores topped the Bulldogs by a 72-71 score.
One reason for the fast start has been Butler’s incredibly effective offensive attack. KenPom ranks the Bulldogs 17th nationally in offensive efficiency. Butler excels because they take high-percentage shots, and they value the basketball. Although they don’t create many second-chance opportunities, as a unit Butler shots very well from the field.
Butler has impressed on the defensive end as well. They have the 31st most efficient defense nationally according to KenPom. The Bulldogs man defense does a nice job limiting opponents from three-point territory, and in general forces other teams to take uncomfortable shots. They also do a great job forcing turnovers.
Overall, Butler is a half-court based team that is simply sound on both sides of the ball. It should be intriguing to see how St. John’s fares against formidable conference foes like the Bulldogs.
Bulldogs to watch
Kelan Martin: This junior forward is currently Butler’s leading scorer. So far this season he is averaging about 19 points, 5 rebounds, and 1 assist per game. Martin has made the most of his opportunity as Butler’s team leader.
Tyler Lewis: Currently a senior, Lewis is a huge distributor that makes the Bulldogs offense function. He averages just about 5 assists per game, and has a penchant for finding open teammates.
Andrew Chrabascz: The Rhode Island native has been a consistent threat throughout his collegiate career at Butler. Currently as a senior, Chrabascz is averaging almost 13 points, 5 rebounds, and 3 assists per game, while shooting 48% from the field.
Keys to game
Three-point shooting: This narrative remains the same for St. John’s and likely will for the whole season, the Johnnies must hit enough three-point shots to win. Against Syracuse, the Red Storm shot 29 three-point shots and converted on just about 42% of those. The key to success this year is to keep firing and making shots from deep.
Attack the basket: Butler has somewhat failed to keep opponents away from the charity-stripe. St. John’s can pick up easy points at the line if they attack the hoop forcefully.
Rebound: St. John’s averages about 39 total rebounds per game. Butler averages only 31 total rebounds per game. The Red Storm need to assert themselves as the aggressor and that happens by capping defensive stops with rebounds, and getting multiple looks at the hoop on offense.
Even with this one coming on the road, this contest is Butler’s to lose. They are the superior over St. John’s, but the Johnnies have just enough talent to upset a Butler team with their guard down.
KenPom Projection: 78-71 Butler (75% chance of victory)