St. John’s cruised past Butler in the first round of the Big East Tournament, but a quarterfinal matchup with Marquette will be a much tougher challenge. Marquette enters as a 6.5-point favorite in New York, with the over/under for this game at 161.5 points.
Let’s make predictions for Thursday afternoon’s matchup and take a look at why the Golden Eagles should win comfortably.
St. John’s vs. Marquette Prediction
I was wrong in thinking Marquette would blow out St. John’s last weekend. With the line shorter and the Golden Eagles more focused – they didn’t have much to play for last time – we’re going back to the well and rolling with Marquette.
Shaka Smart’s team is high on assists, low on turnovers, and doesn’t rely on any individual player. Marquette has torched St. John’s defense in both matchups this season, and there’s no reason to expect that to change with so many options on this team.
St. John’s didn’t look great against Butler on Wednesday. The (very) shorthanded Bulldogs beat themselves despite mistakes by the Red Storm. With St. John’s coming off a turnaround of less than 24 hours, it would be surprising if we see an entirely new team take the floor on Thursday.
Slowing down the Johnnies’ offense has to be a priority, but I’m not convinced St. John’s shooting near 50% from three-point range is sustainable regardless of what kind of defense Marquette throws at them. The Golden Eagles should be able to win by 7+.
St. John’s vs. Marquette Prediction: Marquette -6.5
St. John’s vs. Marquette Odds
Marquette enters as a 6.5-point favorite, sitting at -280 on the moneyline. The over/under is 161.5 points.
Marquette was an 11-point home favorite over the Red Storm last weekend but got a surprisingly close game from Mike Anderson’s team. Does St. John’s have enough in the tank to keep it close again?
St. John’s vs. Marquette Key Matchups
Here are some key matchups that could decide St. John’s vs. Marquette.
St. John’s absolutely could’ve won last weekend’s matchup in Milwaukee if it had been smarter with the ball. The Red Storm lost the turnover battle 19-8, still managing to score 94 points in a promising performance.
Unfortunately for them, it wasn’t much of a fluke. The Golden Eagles are one of the smartest teams in the nation, averaging under 11 turnovers per game – that’s a major factor in my St. John’s vs. Marquette prediction.
One of the biggest reasons is the emergence of Tyler Kolek, whose strong finish to the season earned him Big East Player of the Year honors. Kolek has been an assist machine lately, totaling 34 assists over his last three games. 18+ points in each of his last four games isn’t bad, either.
With Kolek playing at this level, the Golden Eagles should keep the turnovers low. Will St. John’s play smarter? Marquette forces 16.2 turnovers per game, so it’s going to be easier said than done.
St. John’s Shooting vs. Marquette Three-Point Defense
The Johnnies have exploited one of Marquette’s few weaknesses in both of their matchups this season, shooting very efficiently from three-point range. Opponents shoot 35.9% from deep against the Golden Eagles, a mark St. John’s beat both times.
The Red Storm scored 85 and 94 points against this team this season and lost both times, so it’s likely going to take an offensive explosion to pull the upset on Thursday. That means David Jones and Dylan Addae-Wusu (25 points against Marquette last week) will have to show up, as will AJ Storr. Even Posh Alexander (0.4 threes per game) got in on the fun with three three-pointers last time out.
I question whether this kind of efficiency is sustainable, even against a shaky three-point defense, but St. John’s has found something against Marquette and needs to find it again Thursday. It’s going to take a village to keep up with the Golden Eagles.