Tuesday, February 25, 2014
W2W4: St. John's vs. Xavier
By Kieran Darcy
Update: Rysheed Jordan will play, but will come off the bench.
Here's what to watch for when St. John's (18-10, 8-7 Big East) plays Xavier (18-9, 8-6 Big East) on Tuesday at Madison Square Garden.
Tipoff is at 7 p.m., and you can watch the game on Fox Sports 1.
SELECTION SHOWDOWN: Creighton and Villanova are the only two locks to make the NCAA tournament out of the Big East. As of Monday's edition of Bracketology, Xavier, St. John's and Providence would be three of the final eight teams to earn at-large bids, and Georgetown would be among the first eight teams on the outside looking in.
Every game is critical from this point forward. And Xavier already has an edge on St. John's, thanks to a 70-60 win in Cincinnati on Dec. 31. A sweep of the Red Storm would give the Musketeers a big edge come Selection Sunday, if both teams are on the bubble.
St. John's is 5-2 at the Garden this season, with both losses coming several weeks ago to top-10 teams (Syracuse and Villanova). The Red Storm have had two days to get over the disappointing loss at Villanova on Saturday. Let's see how they respond in the early going against the Musketeers.
ONE UP, ONE DOWN? St. John's forward Orlando Sanchez is expected to play after missing Saturday's game to be with his wife and newborn daughter. But guard Rysheed Jordan may not play after the tragic death of a relative over the weekend. (Click here to read more.)
Sanchez will help; he remains the team's second-leading rebounder (5.2 RPG) despite coming off the bench in recent games. But losing Jordan could really hurt. He has made a huge difference the past few weeks, scoring in double figures in six of the team's past nine games.
If Jordan can't go, Jamal Branch should get a lot of his minutes. Branch isn't as good a scorer, but he might be an even better passer and is capable of a big performance.
THE MUSKETEERS: Xavier opened its inaugural Big East season 5-1 but is just 3-5 since and still has games left against Creighton and Villanova (both at home). The Musketeers were blown out at Georgetown 74-52 on Saturday.
Three players score in double figures, led by Semaj Christon; the 6-foot-3 sophomore guard is averaging 16.5 points per game. Junior forward Justin Martin (11.4 PPG) and junior center Matt Stainbrook (11.0 PPG) are the others. Stainbrook, standing 6-10, also leads the team in rebounding (8.3 RPG).
Xavier is 29th in Division I in field goal percentage (47.6), 36th in assists per game (15.4) and 26th in rebound margin (plus-5.6). But it is 300th (out of 345) in turnover margin (minus-2.0).