In a league with only six teams and thus only five conference games to be played, each contest takes on a fairly significant amount of meaning. That’s the situation that Marquette find themselves in with men’s lacrosse, and each game gets a little weightier thanks to two things. First, there’s only four Big East tournament spots. Four teams get in, two teams get left out. With so few games in order to jostle around in the standings, tiebreakers become crucially important. Second, and this is more of a factual statement than it is a discussion of the metaphysics of a six team league, everyone loses to Denver. They’ve yet to lose a regular season Big East contest since joining the league, and their only two losses to a Big East team at all came against Marquette in each of the past two conference tournaments.
That brings us to where the standings sit right now. Marquette is currently holding down the fourth and final conference tournament spot at 1-1. The three teams in front of them are all 1-0, and that includes Villanova, which now holds a win over Marquette. In last place at 2-0 and in a world of trouble already is Georgetown. Thankfully, the Golden Eagles already hold the tiebreaker with the Hoyas.
Who’s in fifth place? Well, as luck would have it, St. John’s is there at 0-1 right now.
I think you get the picture at this point. Beat the Red Storm on Saturday, and Marquette will be one up in the loss column on St. John’s AND hold a tiebreaker over both St. John’s and Georgetown. That ends up making the home finale next week against Providence absurdly important with the Denver game looming as the regular season finale, but hey, we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it. Focus on beating a Johnnies squad that’s reeling a bit right now (more on that in a minute) and bolster your spot in the league tournament. Once you get in, who knows what can happen?
Big East Game #3: at St. John’s Red Storm (6-4, 0-1)
Marquette is 4-1 against St. John’s, with one contest in each of MU’s five seasons of lacrosse. The Golden Eagles dropped the first ever meeting, but have won each successive meeting by increasing margins, capped off by last year’s 17-9 victory.
I would not expect that streak to continue, and not just because it’s hard to beat a team by nine goals. So far this season, St. John’s is averaging 10.70 goals per game while allowing 9.30 goals. That’s a pretty tight margin. That level of scoring in a game is going to be mitigated by whatever it is that Marquette has going on, as they’re currently getting outscored on average, 8.12 for and 9.50 against. If a best case scenario for scoring in the match is one side getting to 11, it seems unlikely that the final margin is going to be 11-2.
Heading into the start of Big East play, I was all set to be very complimentary to this Red Storm team. I had them pegged as last place in the Big East this season, and through eight games, they were 6-2. The losses were to teams that were ranked in the top 10 at the time, and you can’t fault anyone for losing to those teams, even other top 10 squads. However, things have gone sideways in a hurry for St. John’s, as they’ve suffered an offensive power outage and have lost two straight, both on the road. First it was a 14-8 defeat against Providence in their lone conference game so far this season, and then it was an 8-6 loss at Stony Brook, and by the way: the men’s iteration of the Seahawks are not as good as their female counterparts.
So, yeah, I don’t know what to make of St. John’s any more. It’s not like they’ve suddenly had someone go out of the lineup, as each of their top seven scorers have played in all 10 games so far this season. Same goes for their top faceoff guy, their top three ground ball guys, and their top five caused turnover guys. It’s the same lineup that we’ve seen all season, it’s just not producing at the same level any more.
The Marquette defense is going to need to worry about two familiar names: Joe Madsen and Jason DeBenedictis. That’s their top two goal scorers this season, and both guys have already surpassed the 20 goals that Madsen posted last year to lead the team as a freshman. SJU’s passing game is a little weird, as sophomore Matt Oehl usually comes off the bench to lead the team in assists with 14 on the year. Oehl is almost allergic to shooting it with only six shots on the season, so MU is going to need to keep an eye on him when he’s making his way onto the field. In general, St. John’s is going to use passing to get their guys quality shots, as the Red Storm have recorded 66 assists on just 107 goals on the year.
Matt Hanley will get the nod in net for St. John’s. He’s started every game and played all but three minutes this season. As you can guess, his goals against average is just a teensy bit higher than SJU’s goals allowed per game mark at 9.34. The senior from Bethpage, New York is a quality netminder, jamming up nearly 53% of shots on goal.