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RV Marquette Men’s Basketball Big East Preview Primer: at St. John’s

The Golden Eagles head out on the road for another contest with an eye on a three game winning streak in the Big East.

Big East Tournament Quarterfinals: St. John’s vs Creighton
It’s still funny.
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RV Marquette Golden Eagles (11-4, 3-1 Big East) at St. John’s Red Storm (11-4, 1-3 Big East)

Date: Tuesday, January 3, 2023
Time: 5:30pm Central
Location: Carnesecca Arena, Jamaica, New York

Marquette Stats Leaders

Points: Kam Jones, 16.1 ppg
Rebounds: Oso Ighodaro, 6.8 rpg
Assists: Tyler Kolek, 7.5 apg

St. John’s Stats Leaders

Points: Joel Soriano, 15.8 ppg
Rebounds: Joel Soriano, 12.2 rpg
Assists: Andre Curbelo, 5.2 apg Rankings

Marquette: #23
St. John’s: #68
Game Projection: Marquette has a 59% chance of victory, with a predicted score of 80-78.

So Far This Season: The Johnnies started out the year with eight straight wins, including a 20 point victory at home against Nebraska that looks a lot better now than it did then and a Barclays Center overtime win over Syracuse that looks worse than it did then. As they were right on the cusp of national attention for their start, they went out and lost to a good Iowa State team on the road. No knock for the loss, that’s just what happens.

They followed that up with a relatively easy win over DePaul to open Big East play, a buy game W against New Hampshire, and then crushed a bad Florida State team down in Miami in a game that wasn’t even on national television. That’s 11-1 on the year through December 17th, and you can kind of handwave the loss even though the Red Storm didn’t really pick up any quality wins along the way either.

That “no quality wins” thing is rearing its head since then, as they’ve lost three straight. At Villanova, home against Xavier, at Seton Hall. They gave up a 20-2 run bridging halftime to the Wildcats on their way to a 15 point loss, gave up a very early 16-0 run to the Musketeers and needed a late 14-2 burst to make that game look respectable at the horn, and then got whipsawed out of The Rock on New Year’s Eve. Up 18-8 after eight minutes, they coughed up the lead thanks to a 13-2 Pirates run and then before the game even got to halftime, SHU started off a 17-2 run that left St. John’s in a 54-39 hole on their way to a 22 point loss.

Small sample size, sure, but since beating Florida State, St. John’s is playing like a team that’s barely in the top 200 in the country.

Tempo Free Fun: We’re going to start out with a gigantic warning sign for this game, and if you looked at the stats section up above, you’ve already assembled a quality guess as to what it is. If you take all of the Four Factors, the one thing that St. John’s is good at this season is offensive rebounding. They’re currently #32 in the country in that department according to, and Joel Soriano is the primary driver in that department. The 6’11”, 260 pound big man from New York is a top 50 in the country offensive rebounder as he grabs up four of SJU’s misses per game on average. David Jones, the former DePaul forward is no slouch in this department either, ranking #205 in the country per KenPom and hauling in 2.7 misses on the offensive end per game. That’s nearly seven second chances per game from those two guys alone.

Why is this notable? Lemme point something out about three of Marquette’s losses so far this season:

  • Purdue, currently #2 in the country in offensive rebounding rate
  • Providence, currently #6
  • Mississippi State, currently #12

In other words: Great offensive rebounding teams have been able to find a way to beat Marquette. The Providence game was MU’s worst defensive rebounding game of the season. MSU was the fifth worst. The Wisconsin game — and the Badgers are an awful offensive rebounding team — is the sixth worst defensive rebounding performance of the season.

If you want to take it from a different angle: KenPom currently slots the Golden Eagles at #250 in the country in defensive rebounding rate. That’s bad. That’s bottom third of the country stuff. Just in league play so far this season — yes, it’s still early in the 20 game slate, but you get the point here — Marquette ranks 10th in the 11 team Big East in defensive rebounding rate. Holding the Johnnies to one shot per possession is going to be a critical item on MU’s path to a win in this game. If you want to keep it ultra-simple in terms of things that head coach Shaka Smart preaches: Get three stops in a row, or as MU calls it “a kill,” and reach the team goal of eight of those in a game and everything is going to be fine.

There is another way to counteract the way that St. John’s gets after missed shots on the offensive end, of course. It’s the oldest one in the book: Don’t let them shoot the ball in the first place. At least partially because the Johnnies are attempting to play nine million miles an hour, they find themselves coughing the ball up just over 13 times per game. When you factor out the pace they play at, this works out to 18% of their possessions. This isn’t objectively bad, but it is also outside the top 100 in the country. Part of the reason that they’re fine in this department is because guys like Montez Mathis and David Jones and Joel Soriano do a good job protecting the ball.

Which brings us to Posh Alexander and Andre Curbelo, SJU’s two starting guards. Both men have a turnover rate north of 21% this season, and if it weren’t for Alexander going without a turnover against Seton Hall last time out, we would be saying that both men are north of 22%. You might be finding yourself saying, “Andre Curbelo, that name rings a bell, but it’s not because of any memories of St. John’s, why is that?” WELL, DO I HAVE NEWS FOR YOU. Remember Marquette’s somewhat shocking 67-66 win over then-#10 Illinois early in Shaka Smart’s first season? Curbelo was on Illinois’ roster for that game, and in fact, he started and played 26 minutes..... and finished with seven turnovers, including two in the final four minutes as Marquette made their charge to win, but in particular, he coughed up the ball with three seconds to go on Illinois’ final chance to win after Tyler Kolek’s steal and bucket that gave the Golden Eagles the W.

Am I telling you that Marquette is going to harass another seven turnovers out of Curbelo and coast to an easy victory as a result of that? No, far from it. Am I telling you that Shaka Smart is telling his players that they did this to Curbelo last year and so they have his number? I feel like that’s an easy bet to make. Is the coaching staff making the point to the team that they can hassle Alexander and Curbelo into mistakes all game long and the true benefit of doing that is stopping the ball from getting anywhere near Soriano? Man, that certainly sounds like a thing that I would be doing.

One thing to keep an eye on is how St. John’s shoots the ball. For the season, they’re not good, connecting on just 31% of their long range attempts, but they make up for that by knowing that they’re bad at it and getting more than 70% of their attempts inside the arc. They make 52% of their two-point attempts, driven heavily by Joel Soriano shooting 60%. However, during their current three game losing streak.... hoooooboy. This is why they’re barely a top 200 team in that stretch. Their effective field goal percentage sits at just 44% and hasn’t cleared 49% in any of the three games. The Red Storm are shooting just 44% on two-pointers and a very not good 29.5% on triples in this run. That three-point shooting percentage is propped up by an 8-for-18 performance against Xavier, and given how that one went, it’s not a surprise to find out that the X-Men held Soriano and Jones to a combined 8-for-22 shooting inside the arc. If Marquette can keep this rough shooting stretch going, that will work out well for them.... but this is the part of the story where I point out that Big East teams are shooting nearly 56% inside the arc against Marquette. If the Johnnies figure out that they can attack MU’s interior defense, something that SJU wants to do anyway, it could be a long evening at Carnesecca Arena.

Marquette Last 10 Games: 8-2 with two straight wins as well as wins in five of the last six.

St. John’s Last 10 Games: 6-4 and coming in on a three game losing streak, all against Big East opponents.

All Time Series: Marquette leads, 24-16

Current Streak: The two teams met only once last season due to a cancelation, so Marquette has a slight advantage with four wins in the last six meetings.

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