It is a quiet day on the college hardwood, but the five games on the docket are spaced out rather nicely. Our focus will be the 7 p.m. ET matchup in the Big East, as Marquette battles it out with St. John’s at Carnesecca Arena in the borough of Queens, New York.
Marquette heads into conference play with an impressive 11-2 record that includes wins over Kansas State, Wisconsin, and Buffalo. St. John’s is coming off of its first loss of the season with a devastating buzzer-beater defeat at the hands of Seton Hall in the Big East Opener.
This game is hovering around pick ‘em, as some sportsbooks have swung to Marquette -1 and others are showing favoritism towards the home team with St. John’s -1. Most sportsbooks have the total at 156, but some do have 155.5 after opening at 155.5.
Feats of Strength
Festivus may have just passed, but we’ll be talking about Feats of Strength, as far as the schedule goes. St. John’s was 12-0, but Seton Hall, who is down a couple notches this season, was the best opponent that the Red Storm had faced by a large margin. Per Ken Pomeroy, the Red Storm have played the 335th-ranked schedule in the country. The Seton Hall game took St. John’s from 343rd to 335th-ranked after an extremely weak non-conference slate.
Marquette has not played a grueling schedule either, but the Golden Eagles rank 210th according to Ken Pom. Per Bart Torvik, Marquette has played six teams ranked in Quad 2 or better in his system with wins over Louisville, Kansas State, Wisconsin, and Buffalo and losses to Indiana and Kansas. St. John’s has only two games against Quad 2 foes, with a win over VCU and the loss at Seton Hall. Marquette is a Quad 1 opponent.
On The Offensive
Marquette hasn’t seen many opponents that can keep pace on the offensive end of the floor. There is a big difference between strength of schedule defense and strength of schedule offense for the Golden Eagles to this point. Per Pomeroy, Marquette has faced the 137th-ranked schedule by defensive efficiency, but the 270th by offensive efficiency.
St. John’s has faced one of the worst offensive schedules in the country. In games against Quad 2 or better opponents, Marquette ranks 22nd in offensive efficiency per Torvik and the Johnnies are 27th, albeit with just two data points. This will be a stiff test for both of these teams defensively and it is no secret that both squads are better on the offensive end of the floor.
Balance vs. Star Power
Markus Howard is working his way towards Player of the Year honors in the Big East. The junior from Arizona has dropped 25.1 points per game with 4.2 dimes per contest. He’s working on a 45/90/43 season with a 44.7 percent success rate from the floor, a 91 percent success rate at the stripe, and a 43.4 percent success rate from distance.
At some point, though, Howard is going to need some help. Brothers Sam and Joey Hauser have chipped in 24.2 points with 13 rebounds collectively and have been very efficient from the floor, but foul trouble for any of those three would really hurt Marquette. The next leading scorer is Sacar Anim with just 6.4 points per game. Howard and Sam Hauser have taken 355 of Marquette’s 770 shots this season.
Meanwhile, five players for St. John’s have taken at least 100 shots this season and four players average double figures. Shamorie Ponds leads with 18.7 points per game and he’s also kicked in 6.1 assists per contest while shooting nearly 50 percent from the floor. Mustapha Heron, LJ Figueroa, and Marvin Clark II are the others in double figures, but it is a collective effort for St. John’s. Add Justin Simon to the mix and everybody averages just about five rebounds per game and Simon is second on the team with three assists per night.
Four of the five are upperclassmen, with Figueroa the only sophomore. St. John’s hasn’t played much of a schedule, but there is a lot of balance on this roster heading into Big East play.
Marquette’s length is scary. Of course the team’s best player is the 5-foot-11 junior Howard, but the Hauser brothers are 6-foot-8 and 6-foot-9. Six-foot-nine sophomore Theo John is third on the team in Usage behind 6-foot-7 junior Ed Morrow. This is a big, athletic team that can close in a hurry defensively and play a physical brand of basketball. The Golden Eagles are 17th in defensive rebounding percentage per Torvik.
St. John’s doesn’t have a ton of height and certainly not among the highest-usage players. The two 6-foot-9 players for Chris Mullin barely play. Clark is the tallest regular at 6-foot-7. It is one of the reasons why the Johnnies rate so high in the tempo department, and that could be a problem for the Golden Eagles if they let St. John’s dictate the pace, but a Coach K disciplie like Steve Wojciechowski shouldn’t let that happen.
I’m Thinking Arby’s
Arby’s may have THE MEATS, but Arby’s also has turnovers. So does Marquette. The Eagles don’t take great care of the basketball. They rank 243rd per Torvik in TOV% on offense and 275th in TOV% on defense. St. John’s, meanwhile, ranks eighth in TOV% on offense and 30th on defense.
Keep in mind that the schedule has a lot to do with that.
Marquette is a more tested team at this stage of the season and also has a lot of length that could give St. John’s trouble. Both of these teams can dial it up from three-point land, but the primary difference is that Marquette is much better at defending the three-point line because of their height.
Marquette is the side to take tonight, as St. John’s should continue to get exposed in Big East play for a pathetic non-conference schedule. The Golden Eagles just match up well here with their length and with what they do offensively.