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#16 Marquette Basketball Preview Primer: at St. John’s Red Storm

The Golden Eagles kick off league play with a road trip to New York.

NCAA Basketball: Sacred Heart at St. John Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

#16 Marquette Golden Eagles (11-2, 0-0) vs St. John’s Red Storm (12-1, 0-1)

Date: Tuesday, January 1, 2019
Time: 6pm Central
Location: Carnesecca Arena, New York, NY

Marquette Stats Leaders

Points: Markus Howard, 25.1 ppg
Rebounds: Sam Hauser, 6.8 rpg
Assists: Markus Howard, 4.2 apg

St. John’s Stats Leaders

Points: Shamorie Ponds, 18.7 ppg
Rebounds: LJ Figueroa, 7.0 rpg
Assists: Shamorie Ponds, 6.1 apg

Current KenPom Rankings

Marquette: #28
St. John’s: #51
KenPom Projection: The game is a 50/50 proposition for both teams, but the algorithm says Marquette wins, 79-78.

Tempo Free Fun: There’s a lot of aspects of this game that we could dive into in detail, but there is one in particular that may ultimately be the deciding factor, and it’s probably the one that you’re already thinking about.

Marquette has to figure out how to protect the ball.

It’s not a secret that the Golden Eagles are currently posting the worst turnover rate of the Steve Wojciechowski era, and it’s the second worst turnover rate ranking of his tenure as well. 20.2% of MU’s possessions end in a turnover, which ranks #241 in the country. That’s no good. Theo John, Ed Morrow, and Joseph Chartouny all have individual turnover rates higher than 25%, meaning over a quarter of the possessions that end with them doing something end with the ball going the other way. Chartouny’s turnover rate is north of 33%, and yes, that’s over a third of his possessions ending in a turnover. While Marquette is tilting well towards bad in that regard, they are in fact straight up awful in terms of letting the ball get taken away from them. When you are ranked #312 in any particular stat, you’re amongst the worst teams in the country at that point, and that’s where MU is right now. More than 10% of their possessions end with the defense saying “YOINK!”

This problem for the Golden Eagles is compounded by the fact that St. John’s ranks #30 in the country in turnover rate on defense. They force a turnover on 22.6% of defensive possessions, and it’s not because they’re forcing passes to go flying out of bounds. The Red Storm ranks #12 in the country in steal rate. Only 11 teams — shouts to UT Rio Grande Valley — are better at grabbing it from their opponent and going the other direction. Shamorie Ponds is personally responsible for a lot of that, ranking #31 in the country on an individual level, with LJ Figueroa (#226) and Justin Simon (#457) swiping their way into the national rankings as well.

You can see the problem that potentially arises here.

I’m not particularly worried about Marquette’s ability to knock down shots in this game. They’ve got a significant advantage over St. John’s defense there, and when the ball goes the other way, Marquette’s defense is on par with how good the Johnnies are at putting the ball in the hole. Marquette’s a good rebounding team, and while the Red Storm can pull it in on defense, thanks to Figueroa and Marvin Clark, they don’t get many second chances. Again, advantage Golden Eagles. St. John’s has a problem letting teams get to the line, with Clark and Mustapha Heron being particularly susceptible to committing a foul or three. Marquette isn’t great at getting to the line, but if Markus Howard and Sacar Anim can get going downhill at the rim enough and Morrow and John can attract enough attention inside, I think that part of the show tilts MU’s way.

They just. can. not. give. St. John’s. the. ball. for. free.

Marquette does seem to be stabilizing in terms of turnovers. They had a team turnover rate below 20% in four of their last five games. Do that against the Johnnies, and I think MU starts off Big East play 1-0 for just the second time under Steve Wojciechowski.

Speaking of starting 1-0, St. John’s did not do that as they suffered a 76-74 loss to Seton Hall on Saturday night. The Red Storm maybe kinda sorta got victimized by James Breeding and his striped shirted friends at the very end of the game. Was there a whistle blown maybe when it shouldn’t have while St. John’s was tipping away an inbounds pass? Seems like it! Did they come up with an after the fact explanation that no one has managed to prove wrong, that the clock did not start when the ball was tipped like it should have! Sure did! Did St. John’s have a 14 point lead in the first half, a 12 point lead with 9:45 to play, a 10 point lead with 6:35 to play, and a three point lead with 2:26 to go and lost anyway? You betcha! Was that game against the best team in the KenPom rankings that St. John’s has played all year? Of course it was! Did they collapse like a bad card table when things got tough for them? Maybe!

They’re probably pretty annoyed right now. Is that going to help them or hurt them when they play one of the favorites to win the league in their own building in their first home game of the conference schedule? We’ll find out.

Marquette Last 10 Games: 9-1, with the Golden Eagles riding an eight game winning streak.

St. John’s Last 10 Games: 9-1, with the Red Storm taking their first loss of the season on Saturday against Seton Hall.

All Time Series: Marquette leads, 20-12.

Current Streak: Both teams won their home games in each of the past two seasons, with Marquette getting the win in the last ever meeting in the Bradley Center in the most recent game.

Follow Along On Twitter

@AnonymousEagle - hey, that’s us!
@MarquetteMBB - The official Marquette team account
@StJohnsBBall - The official St. John’s team account
@BenSteeleMJS - The Journal Sentinel’s beat reporter
@DalyDoseOfHoops - I presume he’ll be in the building?
@RumbleSBN - our SB Nation friends that cover St. John’s
@becb_sbn - our SB Nation friends that cover the entire Big East