The first meeting between St. John's and Xavier at Carnesecca Arena in early January was closer than expected and came down to a Federico Mussini technical foul that ended the Johnnies' momentum.
Now, the scene will shift for the second match-up as the Red Storm will travel to Cincinnati [PREVIEW] to play a team that will be at full strength after missing point guard Edmond Sumner at the beginning of conference play.
We spoke with Caleb Childers of Banners on the Parkway (Thanks Caleb!) for an update on the Musketeers and a preview of Wednesday night's showdown.
1. Xavier is cruising along at 19-2 but they did trip up at home against Georgetown. How has that loss helped them bounce back against Providence and company?
Sometimes getting your butt kicked is what a team needs. Xavier looked sharp against Providence and has been clicking recently. I do have to say, Georgetown played better that night then they had all season, so the loss didn't sting as bad as it could have.
One thing that does worry me is how Xavier played against St. John's last time around. They absolutely fell apart down the stretch. A performance like that on Wednesday night and Xavier could have their third loss of the season.
2. James Farr continues to have a break out season. What has changed and what has he improved on in his senior year?
James Farr has been phenomenal this season. I think two things have went into his rise this season. First, he's been paired up nicely with Jalen Reynolds and the two have caused havoc on other teams. Usually Reynolds is in foul trouble, but when the two are on the court together they out-rebound everyone on the court.
Second, has simply been his role on the team. Matt Stainbrook was the big man last year, and having him off the court has really made room for James and his game. Crazy enough, James Farr is a senior who honestly should have been a redshirt Junior. He only played 40 minutes his freshman year. The idea of having him an extra year drives everyone nuts. It's great to see him play this well in his senior year.
3. What is the potential of Xavier in March? Sweet 16? Elite 8? Final Four? And why?
I am completely drinking the kool aid right now! I think Xavier is a potential Final Four team, and here's my unscientific reason why: Every time I see a bracket projection I look at Xavier being a 1 or 2 seed, and I see who they would play and realize that Xavier can totally beat the vast majority of teams in their way.
I realize that has no scientific data to back up our tournament odds, but this Xavier team is so talented and deep, and I think it could be the first ever Xavier team to make the Final Four.
4. Size, balance, depth, experience. They play like a complete team. Is there any major weakness that you have seen in conference play?
The wheels really fell off in the Georgetown game, but I think part of the Big East is having tough games every week. Xavier has a deep lineup and Edmond Sumner has been a strong point guard. I think our biggest weakness is 3-point defense.
Both of our losses came to teams who shot incredibly well from behind the arc, and it was frustrating to see Xavier have no response to that. Overall, we play a great 1-3-1 zone defense that really clogs up the middle and makes it hard on our opponents, but 3 point defense has really been a struggle.
5. Score prediction for the game?
St. John's is just not that great of a team this year, so I see Xavier playing stronger then last time and winning, 77-65.