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Big East Tournament First Round Preview: St. John’s vs DePaul

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St. John’s opens up postseason play with DePaul at the Garden.

Steven Ryan

Tonight, St. John’s will play with their season on the line when they take on the DePaul Blue Demons in the first round of the Big East Tournament at MSG.

The Johnnies come into the matchup as the seventh seed in the Big East, with a KenPom ranking of #65 and a NET ranking of #72. They have dropped three of their last four, with one of the losses coming on the road at DePaul.

The Blue Demons finished the season as the Big East 10th seed, with a KenPom and NET of #99 and #101. They have been solid of late, winning three of their last four regular season games.

This matchup is a must win for both teams, as they both need to run the table and win four straight to make the NCAA Tournament. The Red Storm are currently projected to be on the bubble of an at-large bid for the NIT, and a win tomorrow would really help their case.

Game Information

Who: St. John’s Red Storm (16-14, 8-11 Big East) vs DePaul Blue Demons (15-15, 6-14 Big East)

When: Wednesday, March 9, 2022, 7:00 PM

Where: Madison Square Garden, New York, New York

TV: FS1

Odds: St. John’s -5.5

This Season: The two teams split the season series, both winning at home.

Recapping the Season Series

The Johnnies hosted DePaul on January 5 for their first conference game of the season, and won by a score of 89-84. In this game, the Red Storm shot the ball well, finishing with a field goal percentage of 47.8% and a three point percentage of 55.6%.

They did not convert from the line with a percentage of 56.5%, and won the game off a career performance from Julian Champagnie, who scored 34 points and grabbed 16 rebounds, going 12-22 from the floor and 4-7 from deep. Dylan Addae-Wusu and Posh Alexander both played well, as Addae-Wusu scored 17 and dished out eight assists, while Posh contributed a 16 point and four assist performance.

The Blue Demons had a similar game in terms of offensive efficiency to the Johnnies, shooting well from the field and three but not from the line, and had a little trouble with the Red Storm’s aggressive defense as shown by their 15 turnovers. They were led by their best player, Javon Freeman-Liberty, who had 24 points and seven rebounds. They received a very good game from guard Jalen Terry off the bench, as he contributed 14 points, eight rebounds, and six assists.

In their second matchup, the Blue Demons defended home court with a 99-94 win. The Johnnies had another efficient offensive game except at the line, as they did a good job scoring but struggled to defend, allowing DePaul to shoot 55.9% from the field and committing 26 fouls. Champagnie led the Johnnies with 26 points and six rebounds, but only shot 10-27 from the field. Aaron Wheeler had 20 points and seven rebounds, and Posh Alexander had 18 points, eight rebounds, and four assists.

As a team, DePaul had a very efficient game from the floor and from deep, and converted 26 of their 38 free throw attempts. They were led by a monster performance from Freeman-Liberty, who had 39 points, eight rebounds, and five steals. David Jones also had a very solid game for the Blue Demons, with 24 points, 10 rebounds, five assists, and four steals.

Keys to the Game

Contain Freeman-Liberty. The Red Storm have seen twice this season how dangerous he can be, especially in their last game when he was the main reason for DePaul’s win. The Johnnies need to do a better job of containing him on defense in order to pull off a win tomorrow.

Shoot the ball well. The Red Storm have been really on and off throughout the season in terms of their shooting efficiency, and the games they have won have largely correlated to the games they shot well. A game where they get good looks and execute those looks is one that St. John’s needs to have tomorrow.

Control the tempo. The Johnnies need to control the pace of the game, where they play their best game of uptempo basketball and control the points that are scored in transition.

Prediction

St. John’s moves on to Thursday with a 90-83 win.