Marquette Golden Eagles (7-6, 3-4 Big East) at St. John’s Red Storm (7-6, 2-5 Big East)
Date: Saturday, January 16, 2021
Time: 11am Central
Location: Carnesecca Arena, Jamaica, New York
Marquette Stats Leaders
Points: Dawson Garcia, 13.5 points/game
Rebounds: Dawson Garcia, 7.5 rebounds/game
Assists: D.J. Carton, 3.8 assists/game
St. John’s Stats Leaders
Points: Julian Champagnie, 20.7 points/game
Rebounds: Julian Champagnie, 7.6 rebounds/game
Assists: Posh Alexander, 4.2 assists/game
St. John’s: #85
Game Projection: Marquette has a 57% chance of victory, with a predicted score of 78-76.
All Time Series: Marquette leads, 22-15.
Current Streak: Yes, this does usually go towards the end of the article, but I felt it was pretty relevant to move this part up to the top. Marquette has lost four straight regular season road games against St. John’s. Their last win in Carnesecca Arena came on January 24, 2016, as Henry Ellenson put together a 16 point and 18 rebound double-double to guide the Golden Eagles to victory. Still, even then, that game was a nightmare as MU led by 20 with 16 minutes to play but only won by five, 78-73. Before that, we have to go back to February 24, 2010, to find the last time previous that Marquette won at Carnesecca Arena. Sure, the Golden Eagles snagged some wins over the Johnnies at Madison Square Garden along the way (including the Big East title clincher in 2013), but the point of the story is that visits to Carnesecca have gone very very very badly for MU in the last several years, and now is not the time to have to go through another one of these stupid trips.
Overall, St. John’s has won three out of the last five meetings against Marquette, including a godawful 88-86 loss in Carnesecca to end the 2019-20 season where Markus Howard declared the game to be a must win situation for the Golden Eagles and then they trailed 47-28 at halftime after falling behind 12-0 out of the gate.
Tempo Free Fun: Things were going pretty good for St. John’s right up until Big East play started. They started out the year with two back-to-back wins against relatively decent squads in Saint Peter’s and La Salle, and then went up to Mohegan Sun and knocked off old school Big East rival Boston College. They ended up taking a loss to BYU there as well, but at the time, that was the best team they had faced up to that point of the season. Wins over Stony Brook and Rider weren’t really needle movers, but hey, wins are wins, and that got them to 5-1 on the year.
And then league play started and they started scuffling. Three straight losses to start out, including needing a 12-2 run late to get to overtime where they lost to Georgetown on the road. However, things have been kind of tilted against the Johnnies so far, as they’ve lost each of the four road games in league play that they’ve already experienced while going 2-1 at home. The loss was to Creighton, and you can kind of toss your hands up in the air at that one, especially when the Jays shoot 57% from three-point range.
They’re coming off a 12 point win over Butler on Tuesday night where they held the Bulldogs to just five points in the final seven minutes and change. Julian Champagnie did Julian Champagnie things in that game, going for 18 points, five rebounds, an assist, two blocks, and two steals to lead the way to victory.
I don’t think it’s an oversimplification to tell you that this game might be decided completely on whether or not Marquette turns the ball over a lot. The Golden Eagles have struggled with that this season, with four of their six losses coming in games where they turned it over on more than 20% of possessions. Each of the last three games has seen Marquette cough it up less than 19% of the time, so things are on the upswing lately......
..... except St. John’s is really good at forcing turnovers. KenPom.com says that the Johnnies are #34 in the country in defensive turnover rate, popping it free on 23% of possessions. They’re #8 in the country in steal rate, so they’re really going after the ball and not just relying on hounding their opponents into dead ball turnovers like passes sailing out of bounds. Posh Alexander (#42), Greg Williams (#136) and Champagnie (#343) are all amongst KenPom’s national leaders in steal rate, while guys like Marcellus Earlington, Rasheem Dunn, and Arnaldo Toro might be in that top 500 as well if they met the minutes minimum to be included in the rankings.
None of this should be a surprise to you, as Mike Anderson’s teams have ranked in the top 50 in defensive turnover rate in 14 of the last 18 seasons. This is just an extension of the 40 Minutes Of Hell defense that Anderson learned first as a player for then as an assistant with Nolan Richardson back in the 1980s and 1990s. Last year Marquette turned over on 20.7% of possessions while beating St. John’s in Milwaukee and 26.1% of possessions while losing to the Red Storm in Queens. Golden Gate Mike’s game plan should be very very obvious to the MU staff at this point, and considering that’s a weakness for the Golden Eagles, that has to be stressed heading into this game.
St. John’s being great at creating turnovers and Marquette being mediocre at avoiding them is probably going to play a major role in this game because other than that, the Red Storm are a terrible defensive team. They’re currently #117 in the country in KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency math, making them the worst defense in the Big East. MU is still the worst defense in only league games, but the Johnnies are second worst. This is because they absolutely can not stop you from hitting shots. Opponents are shooting 38% from long range against the Red Storm and a whopping 55% inside the arc. They’re right around #300 in the country in both departments, and those percentages are right about exactly the same in league play. I don’t know if their inability to stop you from hitting shots is directly related to their interest in creating turnovers, but the logic jump from A to B there is roughly equivalent to stepping off a curb into the street. Marquette is an exceptional shooting team, particularly behind the arc, so as long as the Golden Eagles can keep up their run of not giving the ball away for the low price of free.99, then you’d think that things will tilt in their favor across 40 minutes.
St. John’s isn’t a particularly strong offensive team, either, but they do have Julian Champagnie. The 6’8” Brooklyn native does a little bit of everything for the Red Storm, which does cause your brain to say “well, Marquette really took David Duke out of the game on Tuesday, and he’s kind of the same guy.” Except Duke is just 6’5”, which means Marquette has lots of options on how to go about defending Duke..... and Duke also still had nine assists even though he missed 13 of his 18 shots against the Golden Eagles. That’s not exactly shutting him down completely. Anyway, the point is that Champagnie is 6’8”, which means it probably falls to Dawson Garcia or Jamal Cain to try to corral him on Saturday afternoon instead of the whole team getting to try to take a turn for at least a possession or two. Marquette is going to have to find a way to disrupt Champagnie’s game because St. John’s wants to run the whole show through him. If they can, things are probably looking good for MU. If they can’t...... eeeeep.
The biggest question mark in the game is whether or not Isaih Moore will be suited up to play for the Johnnies. The 6’10” junior college transfer has been averaging 9.7 points and 5.8 rebounds per game for St. John’s, but he missed Tuesday’s game for “not meeting team standards” according to a report from the New York Post’s Zach Braziller. Moore plays less than half the game on average, but he’s still fourth on the team in field goal attempts per game. Part of that is probably because he’s the best offensive rebounder on the team, but that’s still an awful lot of the offense. Moore also creates one hell of a 1-2 shot blocking tandem with Champagnie, but that does require him to actually be playing. Was this just a one game suspension? Is this a long term thing for the Johnnies? We’ll have to wait and see if #13 is dressed and ready to go on Saturday morning.
Marquette Last 10 Games: 5-5, with wins in two of their last three games.
St. John’s Last 10 Games: 4-6, with Tuesday’s win over Butler snapping a two game skid.
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