After being handled by Butler, St. John’s will conclude their road trip at Marquette. The Johnnies will be going for the season sweep against the Golden Eagles.
According to Joe Lunardi’s latest bracket, Marquette is barely in the NCAA Tournament. It should be noted that the bracket has not been updated since Thursday, meaning Marquette’s annihilation of Xavier wasn’t accounted for. Regardless, due to their weak bubble standing, the Golden Eagles cannot afford a home loss to St. John’s.
And only one game separates the Red Storm and the Golden Eagles for fifth place in the league - this game will have major implications for the seeding for the Big East Tournament.
Can the Red Storm blemish Marquette’s resume just weeks out from March? Can the Johnnies position themselves for a first-round bye in the Big East Tournament?
Who: St. John’s Red Storm (12-15, 6-8 Big East) vs Marquette Golden Eagles (16-10, 7-7 Big East)
What: Big East Conference game
Where: BMO Harris Bradley Center, Milwaukee, WI
When: Tuesday, February 21st, 8:00 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 570 WMCA.
Last Meeting: St. John’s rolled past Marquette 86-72 at Madison Square Garden
The Marquette Golden Eagles have gone 2-4 since their big home victory over the Villanova Wildcats on January 24th. In that time, the Golden Eagles fell to Providence at home, St. John’s on the road, defeated DePaul on the road, lost to Butler at home (no shame in that) and were clobbered by Georgetown in DC.
Which is to say, a team that earned enough wins to make the NCAA Tournament faces a near-must-win against St. John’s.
In the most recent win over Xavier at home, Markus Howard exploded for 34 points - which included a 9/12 shooting performance from beyond the arc.
Also of interest - the Golden Eagles’ main big man, Luke Fischer, started the game on the bench, with sophomore center Matt Heldt taking his place; Haanif Cheatham played a solid game, grabbing eight rebounds and scoring 15 points; and Marquette’s much-maligned defense held the Musketeers to 0.90 points per possession - 61 points in 67 possessions.
Is the Marquette defense turning a corner?
The team did force 14 turnovers, 20% of Xavier’s possessions.
Since the track meet against St. John’s, the Golden Eagles have kept opponents to 68 or fewer possessions in a game. Not a huge departure from their 70 possession average this season, but there does seem to be a concerted effort to control the game - perhaps as Markus Howard matures and as the guard-oriented team improves their ability to share the rock unselfishly.
Then again, the Xavier win is also a game where the Musketeers shot 2/17 from beyond the arc. Sometimes, that’s good defense... but sometimes, that’s just a team having a bad shooting night.
Andrew Rowsey started that game and scored 18; but freshman Sam Hauser went scoreless (also starting) and Katin Reinhardt only added three points.
The Golden Eagles can be dangerous, but they may not be that different than the team St. Johns knocked off at Madison Square Garden.
Keys to contest
Interior work: In the first meeting between the two teams, Kassoum Yakwe provided interior balance. Can he do it again, possibly with help from Tariq Owens, turning a St. John’s weakness into a strength, and also keep the Golden Eagles off the offensive glass?
Run them off the three-point line: Did you know that Marquette has three players shooting better than 40% from the three-point arc in conference play? Katin Reinhardt is shooting 41%, Andrew Rowsey is shooting 49% and Markus Howard shoots 56%. The goal, defensively, should be to force them inside the arc.
Fast break points: St. John’s needs to impose the chaos of fast break play, where Marcus LoVett, Shamorie Ponds and Bashir Ahmed excel.
The Golden Eagles are decent, and road games are tough. St. John’s keeps it close but finds the magic runs out.
KenPom Prediction: 90-80 (Marquette, 82% chance of victory)
Rumble Prediction: 86-80 Marquette