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St. John’s vs. DePaul men’s basketball preview and game thread

Don’t lose. Please don’t lose.

The DePaul Blue Demons mascot on the floor during the Quarterfinal round of the Big East Basketball Tournament against the Xavier Musketeers at Madison Square Garden on March 9, 2023 in New York City. Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

After coming off a 77-64 loss to the number-one ranked UConn Huskies to send St. John’s spiraling to five losses in six games, the Red Storm are granted a reprieve with a matchup against the dismal DePaul Blue Demons, who are having one of the worst seasons by a power conference team in modern men’s college basketball history and have already made a mid-season coaching change by firing Tony Stubblefield.

Game information

Who: St. John’s Red Storm (13-9) vs. DePaul Blue Demons (3-19)

When: Tuesday, February 6th, 2024, 6:30 p.m.

Where: UBS Arena, Elmont, New York

TV: FS1

Radio: Learfield Red Storm Sports Network, Sirius XM Channel 389

Opening Odds: St. John’s (-20.5), O/U at 146.5

Series History: St. John’s leads, 31-22

Résumé review

St. John’s is 13-9 overall, and they are tied for seventh in the Big East standings with a conference record of 5-6. St. John’s is currently ranked 41st in KenPom and 43rd in NET while holding the seventh-best strength of schedule rating in KenPom. Their records by NET quadrants are as follows, with opponents defeated in bold:

  • 2-7 in Quad 1 games (Utah, Dayton, @ UConn, @ Villanova, @ Creighton, @ Seton Hall, Marquette, @ Xavier, UConn)
  • 5-1 in Quad 2 games (North Texas, Boston College, Xavier, Butler, Providence, Villanova)
  • 2-1 in Quad 3 games (Michigan, @ West Virginia, Hofstra)
  • 4-0 in Quad 4 games (Stony Brook, Holy Cross, Sacred Heart, Fordham)

Note that Dayton, Utah, North Texas, and Boston College are designated as neutral site games

Facing DePaul (NET #315) at home gives St. John’s a chance to claim a Quad 4 win. Tuesday night’s game will be the first of four remaining Q3/Q4 games of the season, while St. John’s still has five Q1/Q2 games remaining.

According to Bracket Matrix, St. John’s is seeded in 73 of 86 different bracketology selections, with an average seed of 9.89 as of today. In his latest update, ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi dropped St. John’s to the first team out after losing to UConn.

Injury update

No injury news

Scouting the Blue Demons

I firmly believe in delivering good news first, so let’s discuss the facets of basketball where DePaul isn’t appalling to watch. They’re shooting 33.7% from three and 72.3% from the free throw line, which are better than the Red Storm’s respective marks of 32.6% and 70.3%. They’re also an above-average team in blocking shots, with a 9.7% block rate that ranks in the 56th percentile nationally.

That is it.

DePaul categorically fails at almost every aspect of the game in stunning fashion. Their defense is sieve-like at all three levels; they turn the ball over too many times, force very few turnovers, get ambushed on the boards, and can’t score inside the arc.

As a result, DePaul is bordering on uncharted levels of futility in high-major college basketball. The worst power conference team in the KenPom era is the 2012 Utah Utes, who finished 302nd in that season’s ratings with a record of 6-25. DePaul is currently ranked 296th in KenPom with a record of 3-19. The Blue Demons have nine more regular season games, plus one Big East tournament game they will most likely lose.

These crimes against basketball were enough to get Tony Stubblefield fired eighteen games into the season on January 22nd, two days after one of their most respectable results of the season, a 74-60 road loss to Butler.

Replacing Stubblefield is interim head coach Matt Brady, who started his first season on DePaul’s staff as an assistant. Brady has D1 head coaching experience with Marist and James Madison, accruing a winning record of 211-175 between those two stops and even leading James Madison to an NCAA tournament berth in 2013.

Considering the circumstances, no one could blame Brady for a 0-4 record with the Blue Demons since he assumed head coaching duties. Heck, they lost to Marquette by one less point than Kansas did in Brady’s first game at the wheel.

If the on-court woes were terrible enough, DePaul has been snakebitten by a couple of critical absences. Leading scorer Chico Carter Jr. (11.8 ppg) has missed the last five games and will be out for at least one more week with a rib injury, and backup guard Caleb Murphy will miss the remainder of the season with a wrist injury.

The short-staffed Blue Demons lean on this group of players. Senior forward and second-leading scorer Da’Sean Nelson (10.8 ppg, 4.0 reb) carried the offense through the first half of the season, but he has been relegated to the bench and has only scored in double-figures once in his last six games.

Former top-50 recruit Elijah Fisher (9.4 ppg) is a great slasher on the wing, but he isn’t a threat from deep. Senior guard Jalen Terry (7.4 ppg) is the inverse of Fisher, as he’s a knock-down deep-range shooter (48.9% from three), but he will not trouble defenders inside the arc.

Freshman center Churchill Abass is still developing, but he’s been handed the reins as the starting center over the last five games. He even had a miniature breakout performance of 13 points and nine rebounds in his previous game against Xavier.

Keys to the game

Press as much as you can - DePaul turns over the ball a lot, and they’re missing their best guard, so they are ripe for the picking against a St. John’s team that presses at a very high rate.

Get everyone not named Jenkins going - Facing DePaul is a great opportunity for St. John’s to break out of their recent grotesque offensive form. Everyone, except Daniss Jenkins, has struggled with inconsistency, so perhaps this game can be viewed as a confidence booster for those looking to get off the schneid.

Limit turnovers - The only chance DePaul has of turning this into a game is if St. John’s gets sloppy with the ball. In Saturday’s postgame press conference, Rick Pitino pointed to a short sequence in which St. John’s gave up three turnovers that flipped momentum against UConn. Their opponent is several weight classes below UConn, but they shouldn’t make a habit out of it.

Prediction

Like every other Big East conference game involving DePaul this season (maybe with the exception of when they face Georgetown), this is not a fair fight. St. John’s pancakes the Blue Demons, 88-58.