Tuesday, February 18, 2014
W2W4: St. John's vs. Butler
By Kieran Darcy
Here's what to watch for when St. John's (17-9, 7-6 Big East) plays Butler (12-13, 2-11 Big East) on Tuesday at Madison Square Garden.
Tip-off is at 9 p.m., and you can watch the game on Fox Sports 1.
LETDOWN ALERT: St. John's is on a major roll right now -- the Red Storm have won five in a row, eight of nine, and entered Joe Lunardi's projected NCAA tournament field for the first time since the preseason on Monday.
They are coming off their best performance of the season -- an 82-60 pummeling of Georgetown on Sunday -- but a loss to Butler would be a major setback.
St. John's won by 17 at Hinkle Fieldhouse on Jan. 25, but had just one day to prepare for the Bulldogs this time around. Coach Steve Lavin must have his Red Storm fired up, because Butler is tough, despite being tied for last place in the conference with DePaul. The first few minutes will be telling.
Rysheed Jordan made a career-high 24 points vs. Georgetown on Sunday.
SUPER SHEED: St. John's freshman guard Rysheed Jordan is blossoming before our eyes. After a disappointing start, he's now been in double figures in five of the team's past seven games, capped off by a career-high 24 points against Georgetown.
That stretch began at Butler, where Jordan scored 16 points, shooting 7-for-11 from the field. And in the increase in Jordan's confidence in recent games has been palpable. He no longer hesitates to pull the trigger on his jump shot, penetrates when the opportunity arises, and can finish with either hand. And his 1.7-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio ranks him 11th in the Big East.
Let's see what Jordan -- the Big East Rookie of the Week three of the past four weeks -- does next. He has played a lot of minutes the past two games (33 against Seton Hall, 35 against Georgetown) with Jamal Branch out due to oral surgery. Branch practiced Monday and will be available Tuesday night.
THE BULLDOGS: Butler's first season in the Big East could look very different if the Bulldogs had been able to pull out a few more close games. Six of their games have gone to overtime, and they are 2-4 in those games. They've had 10 games decided by five points or less or in overtime, going 4-6, and have lost four more games where the margin was five points or less with under two minutes remaining. Ouch.
Butler has lost four in a row, but last Thursday the Bulldogs came up just short of an upset against No. 11 Creighton. They led 63-61 with less than a minute left, before national player of the year favorite Doug McDermott drained a 3-pointer to put the Bluejays back on top for good.
Two players average in double figures for Butler -- 6-foot-6 sophomore guard Kellen Dunham (16.8 ppg, 36.6 3-point percentage) and 6-foot-6 senior forward Khyle Marshall (14.6 ppg, 52.8 field-goal percentage). Kameron Woods, a 6-foot-9 junior forward, averages 8.0 points and a team-high 9.1 rebounds.
The Bulldogs are 96th in Division I (out of 345) in scoring defense (67.3 ppg), but not very good in field-goal defense -- 250th (45.0 percent). They are very good in 3-point defense -- 42nd (31.0 percent) -- but St. John's does not rely heavily on the 3-point shot.
Butler isn't particularly strong offensively, either -- 228th in scoring (69.8 ppg), and 238th in field-goal percentage (43.2). But the Bulldogs handle the ball well, ranked 19th in turnovers per game (10.2).