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Marquette Basketball Big East Preview Primer: vs St. John’s Red Storm

Who’s ready for a hastily scheduled game while the Golden Eagles are struggling mightily?

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament First Four-Arizona State Sun Devils vs St. John’s Red Storm Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Marquette Golden Eagles (8-8, 4-6 Big East) vs St. John’s Red Storm (10-7, 4-6 Big East)

Date: Sunday, January 31, 2021
Time: 2:30pm Central
Location: A very empty Fiserv Forum, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Marquette Stats Leaders

Points: Koby McEwen, 12.4/game
Rebounds: Dawson Garcia, 6.9/game
Assists: D.J. Carton, 3.6/game

St. John’s Stats Leaders

Points: Julian Champagnie, 19.7/game
Rebounds: Julian Champagnie, 6.8/game
Assists: Posh Alexander, 4.5/game

KenPom.com Rankings

Marquette: #68
St. John’s: #77
Game Projection: Marquette has a 62% chance of victory, with a predicted score of 78-74.

Last Time Out: Julian Champagnie nearly singlehandedly won a game for the Red Storm. The Golden Eagles were, to a certain extent, living comfortably after being up 41-30 at the half and 51-41 with 15 minutes left. That’s when Champagnie scored 12 straight points all by himself as the pressing defense deployed by St. John’s wrecked havoc over everything that Marquette was trying to do. The game would be close the rest of the way, but Marquette escaped with a win after a late layup by Koby McEwen, a block by Theo John, and a miss by Champagnie off a last second inbound.

Since Last We Met: St. John’s hasn’t lost. They went up to Storrs and won on the road against UConn for the first time since 2000, knocking off the Huskies later in the day after they had moved from #25 in the AP poll up to #23. Five days later, they easily handled Utah Valley at home in a hastily scheduled non-conference game, and they beat DePaul this past Wednesday at Wintrust Arena in Chicago. That was a 13 point win for the Johnnies as they went on a 10-1 run early to take control and just kept the Blue Demons at arm’s length the rest of the way.

Tempo Free Fun: Let’s be honest about what happened at Carnesecca Arena last time we saw the Red Storm: Marquette was lucky to win.

The most notable thing that St. John’s does is create turnovers on defense. It’s the only one of the Four Factors on offense or defense where they rank in the top 50 in the country according to KenPom.com. The only other one where they are in the top 100 is avoiding turnovers on offense, and quite honestly, that could easily be read as “we know how valuable having the ball is because we like taking it from you, so we’re not wasting our possessions” more than anything else. So even their other top 100 thing that they do is really a function of really getting after you on defense.

And Marquette barely passed the test.

The Golden Eagles are 2-6 this season when they turn it over on more than 19% of possessions. They’re 1-3 when they turn the ball over on more than 21% of possessions. The 1 there is the last game against St. John’s, as Marquette coughed it up on 26.7% of possessions. The only other win when MU gave it away more than 19% of the time was Game #2 of the season against Eastern Illinois where they just overwhelmed an outclassed Panthers squad.

Knew what was waiting for them. Still couldn’t do a damn thing about it. Choked away a lead when the Johnnies cranked up the pressure. Lucky to win.

It’s a bad combination. Not the worst combination, because “ended up with a loss” is the worst end to that last group of phrases.

Marquette did most everything else well. They hit more than half their twos, and the interior defense shut down the Red Storm to the tune of shooting just 36% inside the arc. The Golden Eagles struggled to defend the three-point line which did not help, but that was mostly just Julian Champagnie going 5-for-11. Take him away, and the rest of the team went 5-for-14. You can tolerate giving up just under 36% when you’re shooting the same number.

I’d say Marquette rebounded well enough to win in Queens. It wasn’t a good showing, not on the defensive glass at least. Theo John and Justin Lewis each coming up with three offensive rebounds helped MU’s efficiency on that end in a big way given all the turnovers. Armed with the awareness that St. John’s knows that the pressure can get to the Golden Eagles, offensive rebounds are going to be important once again on Sunday afternoon.

Let’s cut to the chase, shall we? Enough with high minded analysis and taking this game seriously as an independent event. It’s obviously not. Marquette followed up their season breaking loss to DePaul by spending an overtime loss to Providence looking like they weren’t particularly embarrassed by the second straight loss to the Blue Demons, becoming the only league win of the year for their I-94 rivals, and being the only program to lose to DePaul as they have gone 2-8 in their last 10 Big East regular season games.

Is the season over? No. Is Marquette’s postseason future officially dead? Technically, no. Sunday’s game will be the first of eight scheduled games remaining on the year, and maybe the postponed contests against Villanova and Georgetown make their way back in. The Golden Eagles have their chances to rack up wins. They’re not favored to actually get those wins, sure, but the opportunity is there.

But the effort that has been shown over the last two games ain’t getting it done. Maybe Marquette loses to St. John’s on Sunday. Who knows what will happen. But I would like to see a feisty Marquette team on the Fiserv Forum court on Sunday. Tough. Determined. If they get a lead, I want to see them hold it, maybe build on it. If they fall behind by six or eight, I want to see them rally to tie it quickly instead of letting it get away from them.

I want to see a reason to believe.

Marquette Last 10 Games: 4-6, with losses in the last two games.

St. John’s Last 10 Games: 5-5, with the loss to Marquette going as their only blemish in their last five games. The Johnnies are trying to win three straight Big East games for the first time since Shamorie Ponds went God Mode in February 2018 and followed up a win over Duke with wins over Villanova, Marquette, and DePaul.

All Time Series: Marquette leads, 23-15

Current Streak: After winning earlier this season in New York, Marquette has now won three of the last four meetings, believe it or not.

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
@RumbleSBN - our SB Nation friends that cover St. John’s
@becb_sbn - our SB Nation friends that cover the entire Big East