Game Preview: St. John's vs. No. 20 Creighton

Eric Francis

The potent Creighton Bluejays welcome the suddenly surging St. John's Red Storm, who are winners of their last three games.

Teams: Creighton (17-3; 7-1) vs. St. John's (12-8; 2-5)

Day: Tuesday, Jan. 28

Time: 9:00 PM ET

Location: CenturyLink Center Omaha; Omaha, Neb.

TV: FOX Sports 1

Radio: 1620 KZON-AM (Creighton) or Bloomberg 1130-AM (St. John's)

Creighton Storylines

While their performance in South Philadelphia had the nation talking, Creighton's performance against the Georgetown Hoyas on Saturday night was far from glamorous. The nation's most efficient team may have won the game by a large margin, but the performance itself was less than what we have come to expect from the Bluejays.

The team shot an eFG% of 52.9 percent, nearly six percentage points below their average of 59.1 percent. The best 3-point shooting team in the country shot just 33.3 percent from the 3-point line on their 21 attempts, which was a full 10.0 percentage points below their average of 43.3 percent on the season.

WIth that said, the performance certainly should have been expected. No team is going to have the absurd efficiency that Creighton had against Villanova last Monday night be continued night in and night out. The Bluejays have had their fair share of off nights this season, but more often than not they have managed to come away with victories on those nights. That is a testament to how this team plays. Even when they are not playing at a very efficient level, they can still scratch and claw their way to victories, with both their go-to guys and their role players stepping up when needed.

The Bluejays might need to rely on their perimeter shooting in this upcoming contest against the St. John's Red Storm. That is because Steve Lavin's club is one of the best teams at defending inside the 3-point line. This season, through the first 20 games, the Red Storm are only yielding a 2PT FG% of 43.1 percent, the 27th best mark in the nation. Luckily for the Bluejays, the Johnnies are merely an average team at defending the 3-point shot, as they are giving up a 3PT FG% percentage of 34.7 percent this season, which puts them 196th in the country.

St. John's Storylines

At 12-8, the 2013-14 season has been somewhat of a disappointment for Steve Lavin and the St. John's Red Storm. There is certainly some talent on this club, and they have not nearly put it together at the rate that many were expecting them to. With that said, recently the Red Storm have been piecing together solid performances one after another. After going on a five-game losing streak to start league play, St. John's has bounced back to win their last three contests in a row, including games against Seton Hall and Butler. Those may not register as "quality wins" this season, but getting back on the right track in this fashion might be just what the doctor ordered.

One thing that the Red Storm can be proud of this season is their ability to take care of the basketball. The club is 26th in the nation in Turnover%, registering a turnover only 15.4 percent of the time this season. Only Butler and Creighton have a better TO% in the BIG EAST Conference this season. Unfortunately, that has just not been able to translate to success in the win-loss column as a whole, at least. In their last three wins however, St. John's has had a TO% of 18.1 percent, 15.0 percent, and 17.0 percent, so the success of keeping the basketball in their control lately has been able to turn the tide on the season so far.

What may plague the Johnnies, much like other teams that Creighton has faced this season, is that their offense is not nearly on par with their opponents on Tuesday evening. St. John's is scoring an average of 73.2 points per game, 107.8 points per 100 possessions, and has registered an eFG% of 48.4 percent. The 107.8 points per 100 possessions ranks them in the Top 100 in the category, but they are closer to the 100-mark, ranking 98th in the category amongst their peers. Meanwhile, the eFG% of 48.4 percent has them camped in the basement, as the Red Storm are ranked 216th in the country in this category.

The Bluejays have had extraordinary success at home this season, so if an opponent's offense is not able to keep up, it might be troubling for them. Unless something extraordinary happens, it might be an uphill climb for St. John's on Tuesday night.

X-Factors

Creighton's guard play has greatly improved as the season has played on. Austin Chatman and Jahenns Manigat have improved their play in different areas, and while all of the spotlight has deservedly been shined on Doug McDermott and Ethan Wragge, the backcourt has been tremendous as of late. In league play, Chatman has averaged 4.375 assists per game and Manigat has averaged 11.0 points in the eight games that the Bluejays have played against BIG EAST opponents. Each man has been doing their part to help the Creighton offense thrive, and they could once again on Tuesday night if they get it going.

St. John's will look to the play of D`Angelo Harrison and JaKarr Sampson to help carry them to victory. The two leading scorers for the Red Storm, averaging 17.8 and 12.6 points per game respectively, have been who Steve Lavin has been able to run the offense through this season. Neither Harrison nor Sampson are efficient shooters, but each has their own respective qualities that they can do well. Harrison, a 6'4 junior shooting guard has been spectacular from the FT line this season. On 124 attempts this season from the stripe, the Missouri City, Tx. native has converted 83.8 percent of those attempts. Meanwhile, Sampson has been superb on 2PT FG attempts. On the 209 attempts he has taken, Sampson has converted 49.8 percent of those attempts, second best on the team amongst players with >85 FGA.

Four Factors

Team Effective FG% Turnover% Off. Rebounding% FTA/FGA
Creighton 59.1 15.0 30.5 33.0
St. John's 48.4 15.4 31.8 38.0

The Prediction

The difference in this game, as it always seems to be when teams face Creighton, will be whether or not they can either keep up with their potent offense, or stunt their offense so severely that they cannot muster anything. Unfortunately for Creighton's opponents, life has not been so good to them in Omaha. The Bluejays are undefeated at home this season and have yet to truly face any troubles against BIG EAST opponents inside CenturyLink Center Omaha. It might be a good bet that that trend will continue on Tuesday evening, with Doug McDermott & Co. finding even more success in their home venue.

Creighton 79 St. John's 68

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