Tomorrow, St. John’s will play the last game of their regular season on the road in Milwaukee, at the Fiserv Forum against the Marquette Golden Eagles. The Johnnies are fresh off a big win over Xavier on Senior Night, and look to build on that momentum going into the Big East Tournament.
Marquette is the only conference opponent the Red Storm have not taken on yet this season (the COVID pause cancelled their scheduled game at Carnesecca in December), and are the only Big East team that St. John’s will not play twice in the regular season.
The Golden Eagles are just ahead of St. John’s in conference standings at sixth, and come into tomorrow with a KenPom ranking of #42 and a NET ranking of #36. St. John’s will finish in seventh place, no outcomes can change that on Saturday.
The Red Storm will likely need to win the Big East Tournament to make the Big Dance, but winning their last two regular season games will still be important for getting hot. They are fresh off a very solid performance against Xavier, and currently sit with a KenPom of #66 and a NET of #72.
Who: St. John’s Red Storm (16-13, 8-10 Big East) at Marquette Golden Eagles (18-11, 10-8 Big East)
When: Saturday, March 4, 2022, 9:00 PM
Where: Fiserv Forum, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Odds: Not out yet
The Golden Eagles are coached by Shaka Smart, in his first season as head coach of the program after replacing Steve Wojciechowski. They played well in their non-conference games, only losing to ranked opponents, and have been middle of the pack in the Big East this season; they have cracked the top-25 this season until a recent lull, going 3-5 in their last eight games after a seven-game winning streak.
Marquette is solid offensively both in terms of how often they score and how efficiently they score, and also do a good job defensively causing their opponents to be less efficient than they are. They are a fairly deep team, with 10 players who have played in at least 25 of their 29 games, eight of which average at least five points a game.
The leading scorer for the Golden Eagles is 6-7 redshirt freshman forward Justin Lewis, who averages 16.8 points and 8.0 rebounds in 32.3 minutes a game. He has the ability to stretch the floor, averaging 1.8 threes a game at a rate of 35.2%.
Lewis is joined in Marquette’s starting frontcourt by a couple other forwards 6-8 redshirt freshman Olivier-Maxence Prosper and 6-10 grad student Kur Kuath, who both average about 20 minutes a game. Prosper averages 6.4 points and 3.4 rebounds, while Kuath averages 5.5 points and 3.9 rebounds, and provides some paint protection with 2.6 blocks per game.
Marquette’s starting point guard is 6-3 redshirt freshman Tyler Kolek, a sublime passer (but questionable scorer) who averages 7.1 points, 3.7 rebounds, 5.7 assists, and 1.5 steals per game. Their starting shooting guard is 6-5 grad student Darryl Morsell, who is their only player besides Lewis to average in double figures. Morsell averages 13.5 points, 3.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists, and 1.3 steals, making 1.5 threes a game at a 36.6% rate.
Marquette uses three guards off the bench, of which the most minutes goes to 6-4 freshman Kam Jones. Jones averages 7.8 points and is probably the Golden Eagles’ biggest threat from deep, making 1.9 threes a game with a percentage of 39.8%. Another guard who sees minutes for Shaka Smart is 6-3 redshirt junior Greg Elliot, who averages 7.4 points and 1.9 rebounds in 17 minutes a game. 6-2 freshman Stevie Mitchell has played in every game, averaging 2.8 points in 10.7 minutes.
The Golden Eagles’ top forward off the bench is 6-9 redshirt freshman Oso Ighodaro, who averages 5.6 points and 3.4 rebounds in 18.3 minutes a game. They also have 6-7 freshman David Joplin who has played in every game, but only averaged 6.6 minutes and 2.8 points.
Keys to the Game
Be smart on offense. Marquette is a solid defensive team, and are ranked 53rd in the country in steals per game and 17th in the country in blocks per game. The Red Storm need a smart offensive game with limited turnovers and bad shots taken.
Ride the hot hand. This is how the Johnnies took down Xavier on Wednesday, as Tareq Coburn, who started on senior night, scored 20 points and knocked down five threes for a Johnnies team who besides him struggled from deep.
Control down the stretch. Against Xavier, the Johnnies did a good enough job of controlling the game down the stretch and building their lead towards the end of the game, and this is something they need to do in a winning effort tomorrow.
St. John’s closes out the regular season playing tough but falling, 81-78.