Plenty of things went wrong against Creighton, but give credit to this inexperienced St. John’s team, they refuse to quit. The amount of talent and energy on this Red Storm team should make opponents nervous because it looks like more upsets are brewing.
Does Chris Mullin and company have another one on tap against No. 16 Xavier? We will have to wait and see, as the Johnnies take the Cintas Center hardwood at 2:30 this Saturday.
Who: St. John’s Red Storm (8-8) vs #16 Xavier Musketeers (12-2)
What: Big East Conference game
Where: Cintas Center, Cincinnati, OH
When: Saturday, January 7th, 2:30 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.
Last Meeting: Xavier squeaked by St. John’s 90-83 last year in Cincinnati.
Chris Mack has been highly successful between two stints at Xavier. He has lead the Musketeers to six NCAA Tournament appearances in the last seven years, and three Sweet Sixteen berths. Now in his eighth season, it is unsurprising to once again see his team excel.
So far this year, Xavier has picked up nice victories against Clemson, Wake Forest, and Utah. Their two losses came in consecutive games, dropping road contents against Baylor and Colorado.
They have been so successful this season because they can score the ball effectively, and also defend at a high level. Bottom-line, they have put together one the Big East’s most complete teams.
Offensively, KenPom ranks them 22nd best in college basketball. They emphasize attacking the basket and scoring from the free-throw line. They also do a real nice job limiting turnovers and getting second-chance opportunities. Three-point shooting has been the main offensive issue for Xavier, as they collectively only shoot 34%.
On the other end of the court, Xavier frustrates teams by forcing bad shoots and checking out to grab rebounds and cap opponents offensive possessions. They also do a good job defending without fouling. Xavier’s opponents only score 18% of their team points at the free-throw line. That is below the national average of 20% per contest.
This Musketeers team should attack St. John’s the same way Creighton did, which means the play of Red Storm big men is absolutely critical.
Musketeers to watch
Edmond Sumner: This Detroit native has not disappointed since being named to the preseason All-Big East First Team. Sumner is averaging 15 points, 5 rebounds, and 5 assists per game. He is also shooting an impressive 50% from the field. Most of his baskets come from within close, as this is evident when you see that he is shooting 29% from three-point territory.
Trevon Bluiett: Alongside Sumner, this junior guard was also a preseason All-Big East First Team selection. Bluiett currently leads the Musketeers in scoring, averaging 18 points per game. He is also Xavier’s main three-point shooter, but is shooting an uninspiring 34% from behind the arc.
J.P. Macura: The x-factor on this Xavier basketball team is J.P. Macura. As a junior, Macura adds a third scorer to the Musketeers backcourt. He average 15 points, 5 rebounds, and 3 assists per contest.
Keys to contest
Get Ahmed going: Bashir Ahmed is a really important part of this St. John’s team, and he really can enhance the Red Storm’s scoring attack. Against Creighton, Ahmed was quiet on the offensive end and he really can’t afford another one of those nights if the Johnnies are going to beat Xavier.
Defending in the paint: Creighton picked St. John’s apart down low, as the usual fear invoking Red Storm rim protectors, were minimized to a virtually ineffective level defensively in the paint. Xavier is a team that loves to drive and attack the hoop forcefully. St. John’s needs to get tough in the lane by blocking and altering shoots.
Getting to the line: Against Creighton, the Johnnies attempted zero first half free-throws. In the second frame they greatly improved upon that, and it showed as their offense was much smoother. Xavier does a nice job keeping opponents off the foul line, but St. John’s must find ways to effectively draw contact.
Xavier is an upper echelon team and they will likely act as one on Saturday. If the Red Storm were to pull off an upset, I wouldn’t be all that surprised. Still, it would be a safe bet picking Xavier to win at home.
KenPom Prediction: 82-68 Xavier (90% chance of victory for Musketeers)
Any comments, questions, or predictions? Start discussing in the comment section below!