Tuesday, February 15, 2011
W2W4: St. John's at Marquette
By Kieran Darcy
Here are three things to watch in Tuesday night's game between St. John's (15-9, 7-5 in Big East) and Marquette (15-10, 6-6) at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee, Wisc.
Tip-off is at 9 p.m., and the game will air on ESPNU. The game will also be available on ESPN3.com.
D-FENSE! St. John's better bring the defensive intensity on Tuesday, because Marquette is one of the best offensive teams in the country. The Golden Eagles are No. 22 in all of Division I (and tops in the Big East), averaging 77.8 points per game. They are also No. 16 in field-goal percentage (48.0) and assists per game (16.6), and No. 9 in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.43-to-1).
St. John's has played a very effective swarming defense in their big wins over ranked opponents this season. But there have also been games when they've been lackluster on that end of the floor and been torched -- particularly from the 3-point line. Four of Marquette's five starters shoot 37.5 percent or better from beyond the arc, so the Red Storm better get out on those shooters.
Darius Johnson-Odom -- a 6-foot-2 junior from Raleigh, N.C. -- is Marquette's top scorer, averaging 16.2 points per game.
A REUNION OF SORTS: Another one of Marquette's shooters -- 6-foot-3 senior Dwight Buycks -- was a teammate of St. John's guard Dwight Hardy at Indian Hills Community College in Iowa. The two of them led Indian Hills to a 58-13 record in their two seasons there, and the team was ranked as high as No. 2 in the country.
Buycks was named an All-American at Indian Hills, while Hardy was an all-region selection. But Hardy has blossomed into the better player at the Division I level. He was named the Big East Player of the Week earlier this week, for the second time this season. Hardy is now averaging 16.6 points per game, to lead the Red Storm.
Buycks is averaging 9.9 points per game for Marquette, but is very dangerous from downtown, shooting at a 42.6 percent clip from behind the 3-point line.
LETDOWN? After St. John's dramatic 59-57 win at Cincinnati on Sunday, the Red Storm are actually in very good shape, in terms of making the NCAA Tournament. With the Red Storm's current RPI ranking (No. 17) and strength-of-schedule ranking (No. 2), going .500 in the Big East should be enough to punch their Dance ticket. That means they need two more wins in their final six games, and they still have home games remaining versus the two last-place teams in the conference, DePaul and South Florida.
But does this team just want to get into the Big Dance for the first time since 2002, or does it want to do some damage in it? The Red Storm has climbed to a No. 7 seed in the latest Bracketology projection, and they could keep climbing by collecting more quality wins against teams like Marquette. The better the seed, the better the chance of winning a game or two in the tournament.
Marquette beat St. John's twice last season, both times by just two points -- 63-61 in overtime at Carnesecca Arena, and then 57-55 at Madison Square Garden in the second round of the Big East tournament. Maybe that will provide some extra motivation for St. John's to pick up a win in Milwaukee this evening.