The Big East Tournament is one of the most unique and special events in intercollegiate athletics. Over the years many of unforgettable memories have been created. Some of the best examples include the 2006 Syracuse run (gag), Kemba Walker's heroics in 2011, and St. John's winning the first tournament in the Garden. Just ask coach Chris Mullin about his Big East Tournament memories, and he'll think fondly to the glory days early in the league.
"What I really remember is '83 was the first time it came [to Madison Square Garden]. We were fortunate enough to win it and I guess it went well because it hasn't left since. It's a special place to play here and it's a great site for the Big East Tournament."
St. John's will have an opportunity to produce more magical memories. The first task is beating the Golden Eagles from Marquette. Steve Wojciechowski's team isn't easy to defeat. This Golden Eagles team has played Villanova and Xavier very tight. They have also swept Providence, topped Wisconsin and LSU.
But not mentioned is that they almost slipped up to St. John's twice. The Johnnies have lost to Marquette by a total of 11 points.
So what I'm saying is there is a chance.
Who: (#10 seed) St. John's Red Storm (8-23) vs (#7 seed) Marquette Golden Eagles (19-12)
Where: Madison Square Garden, New York, NY
When: Wednesday, March 9th, 9:30 PM
TV: Fox Sports 1 or Fox Sports Go (Gus Johnson and Bill Raftery on the call)
Audio: 540 ESPN
Tickets: You can purchase tickets for the Big East Tournament First Round here. You can purchase tickets for as low as $9.00!
Twitter: As always, follow @rumbleSBN and @StJohnsBBall for updates.
Last Meeting: The Red Storm fell to Marquette at home by a score of 78-73.
Fun Fact: Marquette has never won a Big East Tournament. They first started competing in the Big East during the 2005-2006 season. Bonus points if you comment the head coach of that 2005-06 Golden Eagles team.
Scouting the Golden Eagles
Marquette heads to New York feeling confident. Finishing 7th in the Big East means that they draw lowly St. John's in the first round of the Big East Tournament. They finished the regular season 19-12 and 8-10 in Big East play behind the performances of superb freshman.
Marquette's superstar is freshman phenom, Henry Ellenson. This big man recently claimed a few accolades and honors from the Big East conference. Ellenson was named to the All-Big East First Team and the Big East All-Freshman team.
This recognition was certainly well deserved. Ellenson is currently averaging 17 points, 10 rebounds, and 2 assists per contest. He is a ferocious rebounder who seems to have magnetic attraction to the basketball. He can use his wide-frame to box out opponents and secure rebounds.
His skills have not only attracted the attention of the Big East, but also NBA scouts. Most experts believe Ellenson will be a lottery pick for the upcoming NBA Draft. Some experts have even compared Henry Ellenson to NBA All-Star, Kevin Love. Kassoum Yakwe and Yankuba Sima must focus on keeping Ellenson in check.
Another fantastic Marquette freshman is guard Haanif Cheatham. Listed at 6-foot-5, Cheatham has also been on the receiving end of some Big East honors. Just like his teammate, Cheatham was named to the Big East All-Freshman team. This is because he is averaging 12 points and 2 assists per contest, while shooting 86% from the free-throw line. His main weakness is he turns the ball over 3 times per game. If he can keep turnovers down and continue to shoot 49% from the field, Cheatham will turn the heads of many college basketball fans across the nation.
How to expose Marquette
Stop freshman phenom, Henry Ellenson: As mentioned above, Henry Ellenson is one of the best basketball players in the Big East and the nation. Keeping him off the glass, limiting his fantastic outlet passing, and reducing his scoring production is crucial.
Ellenson is coming off a 29 point and 8 rebound performance against Butler. He got the the free-throw line 11 times against Butler converting 9 times. He comes to New York with momentum and determination to grab some wins to push Marquette into the big dance.
Yankuba Sima and Kassoum Yakwe and the team need to get Ellenson out of his comfort zone - and away from the basket, where he is less effective - or else Marquette will advance to to play Xavier in the next round of the Big East Tournament.
Value the basketball: Once again the Johnnies' opponent seems to have an advantage when it comes to the turnover battle. Obviously, St. John's struggles with holding onto the basketball and this is because they lack true ball-handlers. The Red Storm will enter the postseason averaging 15 turnovers per contest. Marquette records a steal about 8 times a game, and the swiping is often completed by Traci Carter. Marquette also turns the ball over 15 times per game, so limiting Red Storm turnovers and maximizing Marquette turnovers is crucial.
Sima needs to play well: In St. John's two meetings with Marquette this season, Yankuba Sima was not suited up. His presence is huge for the Johnnies who have to fight the Golden Eagles big men. Luke Fischer and Henry Ellenson are tremendous basketball players, and having another big man around should help the Red Storm slow down Marquette's bigs. Head coach Chris Mullin believes so, saying "another big is important to have against Marquette."
Yankuba Sima is averaging about 8 points, 6 rebounds, and 2.5 blocks per contest. Getting him scoring, rebounding, and blocking shots is a huge key to St. John's attack plan against Marquette.
Looking ahead to this contest, I truly believe St. John's has a better shot than most think. Putting two solid halves together and playing with energy should do the trick. Throw out any stat or talking point, my gut is telling me it should be closer than expected. Not only is St. John's going to compete, but at one point they will turn the corner and top Marquette.
KenPom Prediction: 77-68 Marquette
Final Prediction: 80-76 St. John's
Comment your questions, thoughts, and predictions below!