The last time St. John's and Marquette met was January 24, when both teams weathered a blizzard to meet at Carneseca Arena after the game originally scheduled for Madison Square Garden the night before was pushed back.
Big East Tournament Pregame
Big East Tournament Pregame
The Golden Eagles won that day, 78-73. And Steve Wojciechowski's squad won in Milwaukee as well. However, the Red Storm has a chance at revenge Wednesday night at 9:30 in the first round of the Big East Tournament at Madison Square Garden. And this time, they have Yankuba Sima to help.
Since we last met - St. John's
The Johnnies have lost every game except one since January 24. The win came against DePaul on February 17. Although St. John's has struggled the entire year, they came into January 24's matchup on a low note. Chris Mullin's team entered the game coming off back to back twenty-point losses to Georgetown and Butler.
The team has used six different starting lineups since the Marquette game, with every player on the active roster having a chance to start since January 24. Federico Mussini has struggled down the stretch, missing shots and playing fewer minutes. The losses have compounded, and the effort has waned at times on defense.
This season has not been a complete loss in terms of development, though. The Johnnies have been able to find out about what this team and players for the future is about as Chris Mullin and his staff work on pulling in top-tier recruits in the next couple of years.
One player that was not on most people's radars before the season is Malik Ellison. The 6'6" freshman from New Jersey has been a pleasant surprise for the Johnnies, coming on strong in the last couple of games with his assists and ability to draw free throw attempts. He has started seven of the team's 11 games since the last Marquette matchup.
In consecutive games against Villanova and Creighton, he scored 11 points and dished out 5 and 4 assists respectively.
Also, Ellison plays solid defense. On February 21, he held Isaiah Whitehead to 1-12 from the field. Ellison may be the surprise of the season to go with the future building blocks of Yankuba Sima, Kassoum Yakwe and Federico Mussini.
Kassoum Yakwe, the one constant in the starting lineup since getting his first start against Marquette in Milwaukee, was named on Sunday to the Big East all-freshman team. On the season, he averaged 7.1 points and 5.5 rebounds. He joins another player in this game, Henry Ellenson, who also earned this honor (along with first team all-Big East and likely Rookie of the Year).
Yankuba Sima has rejoined the starting lineup and has been more active in looking for his shot in the past two games as well.
Since we last met - Marquette
The story of Marquette's year has been inconsistency starting with an opening day loss to Belmont. (Belmont, however, is a very good team, one that lost to Austin Peay in the final of the Ohio Valley Conference Championship). Marquette added resume-building wins against LSU and Wisconsin in the non-conference slate of their schedule.
Conference play is a perfect example of their inconsistent play. The team finished 8-10 in conference play and 19-12 overall, going 6-8 in conference since playing St. John's. As of a few weeks ago, many experts considered Marquette on the bubble, but now it seems very unlikely they get in to the Tournament unless they win the Big East Tournament. There haven't been bad losses (except against Creighton, another team that's hopeful to get into the NIT), but the Golden Eagles needed some high-level wins after losing to Belmont, Georgetown and DePaul.
The starting lineup and rotation have remained mostly the same, but freshman point guard Traci Carter, a 6'0" teammate of Malik Ellison in high school, have taken a starting role from Duane Wilson.
If Steve Wojciechowski's team is going to make a run in the Big East Tournament, the run will be predicated on one of the best front courts in the Big East, boasting a pair of 6'11 players in Henry Ellenson and Luke Fischer.
Ellenson, as a freshman, was selected first team Big East and all freshman team. He averaged 16.8 points and 9.8 rebounds per game. The junior Fischer averaged 12.2 points and 6.2 rebounds.
Although it is more likely that Marquette will not make the NCAA tournament, they may play with a great sense of urgency because if they make a deep run their resume - and likelihood of playing in the NIT and further developing their squad - will improve.