Print and Go Back ESPN.com: New York Colleges [Print without images]

Saturday, March 9, 2013
W2W4: St. John's vs. Marquette

By Kieran Darcy

Here are three things to watch for when St. John's (16-13, 8-9 Big East) plays No. 15 Marquette (22-7, 13-4 Big East) on Saturday at Madison Square Garden.

Tip-off is at 2 p.m., and you can watch the game on ESPN.

THE END IS HERE: Of the regular season, anyway. St. John's, which has lost three in a row and five of six, is trying to finish .500 in the Big East. A win would put the Red Storm in a tie for eighth place, with the winner of Saturday's UConn-Providence game, and possibly Cincinnati as well. A loss could drop them as far as 11th.

Marquette, on the other hand, is currently tied for first place with Louisville and Georgetown, and will be playing for at least a share of its first-ever Big East championship. So there's plenty on the line for the Golden Eagles, who were picked to finish seventh in the conference this season. You can expect them to be fired up. The question is, will a shorthanded St. John's squad (see below) be able to match their intensity?

MISSING IN ACTION: The Red Storm will be without two starters -- leading scorer D'Angelo Harrison, who has been suspended by coach Steve Lavin for the rest of the season, and Sir'Dominic Pointer, who was suspended by the conference for his role in a fight at the end of Tuesday's blowout loss to Notre Dame.

Lavin said Friday that he was leaning toward starting freshman guard Felix Balamou in place of Pointer, because he brings a similar type of effort at both ends of the floor. Freshman forward Christian Jones and 3-point specialist Marco Bourgault should see increased minutes as well. And St. John's will need a big game out of second-leading scorer Jakarr Sampson, who is averaging 14.9 points per game and has scored 20 or more seven times this season.

For what it's worth, Lavin said the team has practiced well this week, and he expects them to play well against the Golden Eagles.

BUZZ'S BUNCH: Marquette coach Buzz Williams lost last season's Big East Player of the Year, Jae Crowder, and another star player in Darius Johnson-Odom, and yet his team is contending for the league crown.

The Golden Eagles have won three games in a row -- victories at home over Syracuse and Notre Dame, following by a come-from-behind win at Rutgers on Tuesday night.

Marquette has no star players this year -- its leading scorer, 6-foot-4 junior guard Vander Blue, averages just 14.3 points per game. Davante Gardner, a 6-foot-8, 290-pound junior, averages 11.6 points and shoots 57.5 percent from the field.

These two teams are among the very worst in Division I in 3-point field goals per game. The Golden Eagles get the job done by attacking the basket -- they are 32nd in the country in offensive field goal percentage (46.8), and 54th in free-throw percentage (73.0).