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St. John’s vs Xavier: preview, odds, prediction

The Johnnies look to rebound from critical losses as they finish the home slate with Xavier on senior night.

Jeff Dean, The Enquirer

After the big wins at Xavier and against Butler, St. John’s found themselves back on the cusp of NCAA Tournament aspirations, but after close losses against Creighton and at DePaul they find themselves back on the outside looking in. They look to get back into the win column tomorrow when they host Xavier in their last home regular season game of the season.

The Musketeers come into tomorrow’s matchup tied with the Johnnies at seventh in Big East standings, owning a KenPom ranking of #46 and a NET ranking of #35. They have struggled recently, losing their last four contests.

The Johnnies come into the matchup with KenPom and NET rankings of #70 and #75, respectively. Their recent losses have more than likely eliminated any hopes they had of an at-large bid for the NCAA Tournament, so their last two regular season games only serve to strengthen their NIT bid and help them build momentum for a miraculous Big East Tournament run.

Game Information

Who: St. John’s Red Storm (15-13, 7-10 Big East) vs Xavier Musketeers (17-11, 7-10 Big East)

When: Wednesday, March 2, 2022, 6:30 PM

Where: Carnesecca Arena, Queens, New York

TV: FS1

Odds: St. John’s -1

Last Matchup: St. John’s had control of the matchup and earned a big win over the Musketeers on the road.

Recapping the First Matchup

The Red Storm and Musketeers faced off a couple weeks ago on February 16, where St. John’s pulled off a 13-point upset road win at the Cintas Center.

The Johnnies’ 45 point first half led to a three point halftime lead, as Julian Champagnie led a strong offensive effort but the defense had a lot to work on. In the second half, both teams struggled to perform offensively like they did in the first half, and a late run from the Red Storm sealed the deal on their 86-73 win.

Xavier finished the game with a solid field goal percentage of 49%, but they struggled from deep and at the stripe, shooting 20% and 69%, respectively. Individually, they received a great game from big man Jack Nunge, who scored 22 points and grabbed seven rebounds. Guard Paul Scruggs had 16 points and five assists, and guard Colby Jones had seven points, nine rebounds, and five assists.

St. John’s finished the game with very good shooting percentages, shooting 54% from the field, 40% from three, and 83% from the line. They were solid offensively and cleaned up over the course of the game defensively. The Red Storm were led in scoring by Julian Champagnie, who scored 27 points, in addition to having five assists and three steals. They received a very important 13 points from Tareq Coburn off the bench, who connected on all three of his deep ball attempts.

Xavier Since the First Matchup

Since losing to St. John’s the Musketeers have played UConn and Providence on the road and Seton Hall at home, dropping all three matchups. At #24 UConn, Xavier struggled to score, with a field goal percentage below 40% and a three point percentage below 30%. They finished with a 72-61 loss, whereAdam Kunkel had a solid 15 points off the bench, but no Musketeer starter scored more than 11.

Xavier took #11 Providence to triple overtime on the road, but ended up with a 99-92 loss. They had another inefficient game offensively, and allowed the Friars to shoot well from deep. Adam Kunkel had another great offensive performance off the bench with 20 points, and all Musketeer starters finished with double figures.

Against Seton Hall, Xavier lost 82-66, shooting the ball better than they had in their previous two games. Colby Jones had 20 points, 10 rebounds, and four assists, but no other Musketeer had a great offensive game.

St. John’s Since the First Matchup

Since beating Xavier, the Johnnies have beaten Butler at home, but lost to Creighton at home and at DePaul. They exploded offensively and defensively against Butler, winning 91-57 in one of their best conference wins in recent years. Julian Champagnie had a monster game with 31 points, and everyone else played their role and contributed to the win.

Against Creighton, the Johnnies lost a close 81-78 game. The Johnnies had a seven point lead going into the half, but squandered it down the stretch. The Johnnies received solid games from Posh Alexander, Montez Mathis, Stef Smith, and O’Mar Stanley, but everyone else, especially Julian Champagnie and Aaron Wheeler, struggled.

Wheeler and Champagnie made up for their bad performances against the Bluejays with 20 and 26 point performances against DePaul, but the Johnnies still lost 99-94. They really struggled defensively, allowing the Blue Demons to shoot 55.9% from the field and 38.9% from deep, and allowing Javon Freeman-Liberty to score 39 points.

Keys to the Game

Play defense. The Johnnies cannot play D like they did against DePaul, where Freeman-Liberty torched them and they allowed 99 points. They need to tighten up their defense and prevent Xavier from getting good looks.

Be efficient offensively. The Red Storm need an efficient offensive game, where they convert on the looks they get from three and inside. A good game from Julian Champagnie would be key, as the Johnnies do well when he performs offensively.

Stretch the floor. Giving more minutes to Tareq Coburn and Stef Smith will allow the Red Storm to stretch the floor offensively, and will open up more looks for their half court offense.

Prediction

St. John’s drops another one and loses 80-75.