"If we play really tough defense,” Chris Mullin said, “smart and tough, and show some resistance and play unselfish on the offensive end, I think we can play with just about anybody.”
These confident comments were remarked by coach Mullin after defeating Seton Hall. “We've shown we can be dangerous to our opponents and we can be dangerous to ourselves. We just have to make sure we are dangerous to our opponents more often."
St. John’s has certainly proven they’re no pushover, and one great example coming from their last meeting with Butler. Just weeks ago, the Bulldogs were upset in Carnesecca Arena. On Wednesday night, St. John’s will once again have an opportunity to blemish Butler’s NCAA Tournament profile.
Who: St. John’s Red Storm (12-14, 6-7 Big East) vs #24 Butler Bulldogs (19-6, 8-5 Big East)
What: Big East Conference game
Where: Hinkle Fieldhouse, Indianapolis, IN
When: Wednesday, February 15th, 8:30 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 570 WMCA.
Told there's a good chance St. John's will have Malik Ellison (thumb) and Darien Williams (ankle) active Wednesday at Butler. #sjubb— Zach Braziller (@NYPost_Brazille) February 13, 2017
Last Meeting: St. John’s upset the No. 13 Bulldogs at Carnesecca Arena by an 76-73 score.
Spanning from the beginning of this decade, Butler has remained a consistent winner. That narrative has held true this season, as they will enter Wednesday’s bout with 19 victories, and ranked 24th in the latest AP Poll.
Although one of the Big East’s best - and a near lock for the NCAA Tournament - the Bulldogs have already been upended by St. John’s. On Wednesday night, the Red Storm will for their first season sweep of Butler since the first year of the reinvigorated Big East.
In that last matchup with Butler, the Johnnies prevailed without playing all that well. St. John’s finished with more turnovers, less assists, and less shot attempts. They made their mark at the free-throw line, furiously attacking the hoop.
This time out, St. John’s must play much better.
Butler is an incredibly smart team that shots the ball effectively, and limits their turnovers. Their methodical offense is balanced well, as many of their baskets come from all over the court.
Junior forward Kelan Martin sparks this Butler offense. So far this season he is averaging 15 points and 5 rebounds per game. Martin has also focused on shooting more three-pointers, although his 33% from deep is significantly worse than last year.
Down on the low post, forward Andrew Chrabascz is dangerous. He currently is averaging 12 points, 5 rebounds, and 3 assists. Also, Chrabascz has gotten to the line more often this year, converting on 74% of his charity stripe attempts.
Defensively, the Bulldogs stick to man, and force opponents take tough shots. Their defense is solidified when they are creating turnovers and securing rebounds. Butler’s main issue is their lack of a basket defender, as they only block about 8% of opponents shots. That comes in conjunction with the fact that Butler is one of the Big East’s shortest teams.
Keys to contest
Free-throw shooting: As mentioned above, St. John’s excelled at the free-throw line last time they played Butler. Just this past weekend, the Red Storm went 19-21 from the line in a victory over Seton Hall. Free-throws help immensely down the stretch, as foul shots can turn slim leads into comfortable wins. Shooting many free-throws and converting on those will be a huge key to this contest.
Points off turnovers: St. John’s did an exceptional job getting out in transition and flipping Seton Hall turnovers into points. The Pirates 18 turnovers contributed to 30 Red Storm points. If St. John’s can repeat this, they will have a shot to pull off another upset.
Keep Shamorie Ponds going: This New York native has exploded onto the scene as a freshman. In his last five games he is averaging 19 points, while shooting 88% from the foul line. During this stretch, Ponds has averaged almost 3 steals per game, turning opponents over left and right. As he did in the last Butler contest, Ponds must have a huge game for the Johnnies to keep it close.
Although flashing potential, St. John’s still remains young and inconsistent. Butler has much more experience, and all around plays solid basketball. The Red Storm likely cannot win if they play like they did last time against Butler. In addition, leaving Hinkle Fieldhouse victorious is very tough.
KenPom Prediction: 81-69 Butler (87% chance of victory)
Rumble Prediction: 75-64 Butler