When Posh Alexander transferred to Butler during the offseason, it was immediately clear that his return game against St. John’s in New York would be appointment television. Now that day has arrived and the Red Storm are hoping to not only win the divorce over Alexander, but build up their résumé with a home win against a Butler team that has performed admirably in non-conference play.
In their previous game last Saturday, St. John’s eked out a win against Hofstra inside UBS Arena, 84-79. Five Johnnies scored in double-figures, including Daniss Jenkins, who racked up a team-high 21 points. The Red Storm are trying to win 2 of their first 3 Big East games to begin conference play for the first time since the 2018-19 season, when they knocked off Marquette at home and Georgetown on the road.
Meanwhile, Butler is currently 10-3 with a record of 1-1 in the Big East. They’re rated 61st in the country in KenPom, with a 42nd-rated adjusted offensive efficiency and 92nd-rated adjusted defensive efficiency. The Bulldogs are coming off a 85-75 overtime loss on the road to now-ranked Providence, in which they failed to foul while leading by three in the waning moments of regulation and allowed Ticket Gaines to sink a buzzer-beating tying three.
Who: St. John’s Red Storm vs. Butler Bulldogs (10-3)
When: Tuesday, January 2, 2024, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Carnesecca Arena, Queens, NY
Opening Odds: St. John’s (-6.5), O/U at 151.5
Series History: Tied, 11-11. St. John’s has won five of the last seven meetings dating back to the 2020-21 season.
Scouting the Bulldogs
Through 13 games, Butler has gelled into a well-rounded unit despite the addition of four transfers into their starting lineup. What sticks out from their statistical profile is that they score inside the arc with high-efficiency (55.2 percent) and they take care of the ball (14.4% turnover percentage) extremely well. So much of their offense is facilitated inside of the paint, where their 41.0 points per game inside the painted area ranks 11th-most in the country.
Butler is pretty unexceptional on the glass, with their 29.3% offensive rebound and 70.8% defensive rebound percentages hover around the 50th percentile in the country. The Bulldogs’ three-point shooting is also perfectly adequate at 33.3 percent, and they take an appropriate amount of threes for their averageness, as shown by their 35.5% three-point attempt rate.
Their offense is spearheaded by two wings Thad Matta pulled from the portal: Pierre Brooks (16.8 ppg) and Jahmyl Telfort (14.8 ppg). Both are very good three-level scorers who will take a lion’s share of shots, with each player averaging 12.5 attempts per game. Brooks is more of a three-level scorer who shoots 50% from the field and 38.5% from three, while Telfort is more of a slasher who shoots 45% from the field and 37.8% from three.
Pierre Brooks II (@nba_pbj) continues to be one of the most underrated transfers. And not just in the Big East, but in the nation— Butler Basketball Guru (@ButlerGuru) December 23, 2023
PB2 had 20 points on 8/17 shooting, including 2/5 from 3PT, and grabbed 7 boards
The MSU transfer has made a HUGE junior year leap #DawgsOnly pic.twitter.com/pqID4xXzLz
UC Irvine transfer D.J. Davis (12.8 ppg) is an off-ball long-range threat who is averaging 37.3 percent from three, but has recently gone on a hot streak. In his last four games, Davis is shooting 11-of-21 (52.4%) from beyond the arc.
Of course there’s Posh Alexander (10.7 ppg) and he hasn’t changed since he left Queens for Indianapolis. He’s a strong-willed rim-runner that presents little-to-no threat from three, and his calling card is his terrorizing one-on-one perimeter defense (2.1 steals per game). Posh has regained his confidence slashing to the basket, with his two-point percentage returning above 50% for the first time since his sophomore year.
Jalen Thomas (5.7 ppg) and Andre Screen (7.4 ppg) form a platoon at center, and both are capable shot swatters that each hold a round 6.0% block percentage.
Keys to the game
Shut down the paint - Butler’s offense predominantly operates inside the paint and St. John’s left driving lanes exposed late against Hofstra. St. John’s needs to shift to their matchup zone and crowd the lanes, forcing Butler to play around the perimeter where they aren’t comfortable.
Get on the fastbreak - When action slowed down against UConn and Hofstra, the Red Storm’s offense went stagnant. St. John’s needs to break out more frequently after rebounds or takeaways and generate high-percentage shots.
Finish at the rim - St. John’s struggles at the rim continued against Hofstra when they shot 8-for-16, with more than a few of those misses being uncontested. They’re going to need those easy points whenever they can get them in Big East play, and they have to snap out of this funk as soon as possible.
Butler has been a revelation in the Big East, but they still haven’t won a true road game this season. The Red Storm’s best home court advantage comes at Carnesecca Arena, and they’ve beaten the Bulldogs by double-digits in each of their last three meetings on the campus of St. John’s. That streak is going to be broken, but the Red Storm should outlast Butler thanks to their perimeter shooting. St. John’s wins, 73-66.