After a huge win at Providence, the Red Storm have an opportunity to move to .500 in Big East play.
"Getting to .500 would be good.” Remarked center Tariq Owens prior to Sunday’s matchup with Xavier. “Last year we won one game in the conference so being .500 would be a big step. It's something that we can definitely do."
Their chance will come at Madison Square Garden against a slumping Xavier team. Numerous highly touted recruits will be in attendance, including Derrick Walker, Luther Muhammad, Naz Reid, and Moses Brown.
Who: St. John’s Red Storm (10-12, 4-5 Big East) vs #24 Xavier Musketeers (14-6, 4-3 Big East)
What: 13th annual Suits and Sneakers Awareness Week. The St. John’s coaching staff will show their support for Coaches vs. Cancer by wearing white Under Armour sneakers.
Where: Madison Square Garden, New York, NY
When: Sunday, January 29th, 6:00 PM ET
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: Madison Square Garden will be property of St. John’s on Sunday. Prior to the 6:00 PM tip, the St. John’s women will battle the Xavier Musketeers at “The World’s Most Famous Arena”. Tickets will be sold collectively, meaning that you can purchase one seat for both games. Reserve your spot for the doubleheader by clicking here.
Twitter: Follow along on Twitter @rumbleSBN
Fun Fact: Xavier has only missed the NCAA Tournament twice since the 2000-01 season.
Just three weeks ago the Red Storm visited Cincinnati for a bout with Xavier. Sunday, St. John’s will be up against a slightly different Musketeers bunch.
Xavier has taken a turn for the worst since hosting the Johnnies, dropping four of their last five. Amid this tumultuous stretch, senior guard Myles Davis announced his departure from the program, just three games after returning from suspension.
The show must go on for Chris Mack’s team, and the Musketeers will be looking to right the ship starting Sunday in New York.
Last time Xavier played St. John’s, they experienced their greatest offensive output of the season. Their strategy for attacking the Red Storm should remain similar from that contest.
Offensively, the Musketeers prefer attacking the basket and drawing contact, rather than shooting from outside. About 72% of their total points come from the free-throw line or inside the arc. This is ideal because Xavier is not a great three-point shooting team, only collectively shooting 34% from deep. KenPom ranks their offense 30th best in college basketball, and fourth best in the Big East.
What makes Xavier so complete is their ability to score effectively and defend at a high level. This season they have done a great job rebounding and limiting opponents three-point production. As the tallest team in the Big East, Xavier makes boxing out and grabbing defensive rebounds a priority. In addition, the Musketeers have held opponents to 33% from the perimeter. St. John’s values three-point shooting as much as any Big East team, so this doesn’t bode well for the Johnnies.
Musketeers to watch
Trevon Bluiett: This junior guard is one of the Big East’s most explosive players. He currently is the Big East’s second-leading scorer, tallying about 18 points per game. Last time out against Cincinnati, Bluiett dropped 40 points while shooting 9-11 from deep.
Edmond Sumner: Detroit native, Edmond Sumner has been a nice compliment to Bluiett in Xavier’s backcourt. Sumner is averaging about 15 points and 5 assists per contest.
J.P. Macura: Xavier’s x-factor has been J.P. Macura this year. He is averaging 14 points, 4 rebounds, and 2 assists per game, while shooting 42% from the field.
Keys to contest
Production from Darien Williams: It is no secret that frontcourt production makes or breaks games for St. John’s. They are significantly better when multiple big men are effective offensively and defensively. Darien Williams generally is the player that steps up to provide meaningful minutes for Chris Mullin. Once again, he must play well for St. John’s to pull off this upset.
Multiple scorers: Marcus LoVett and Shamorie Ponds clearly lead the way for St. John’s. This talented freshmen duo averages a combined 34 points per contest. As we have seen before, St. John’s needs a third or even a fourth reliable scoring option to win. Bashir Ahmed and Malik Ellison can be those options, but so far they have been very inconsistent assuming those roles. On Sunday, those two players must be a large part in the Red Storm’s offensive output.
Don’t get killed on the glass: Just one game removed from a poor performance on the glass, the Johnnies went into Rhode Island and outrebounded Providence. St. John’s must beat Xavier on the boards, and focus on limiting Xavier’s second chance points.
St. John’s is coming off one of their most impressive performances of the season. Xavier is a reeling team that desperately needs to salvage their once sturdy tournament standing. I’d expect the Musketeers to play with more urgency, and simply attack St. John’s in transition and around the rim.
Rumble Prediction: 85-77 Xavier
KenPom Prediction: 82-76 Xavier (70% chance of victory for Musketeers)