It seems like most "experts" agree that the Big East has four teams as locks for the NCAA Tournament, with a chance to have as many as six. The two teams who could add those two spots for the Big East happen to do battle tonight from (I think it's mandatory to say this or else I get in trouble), "The World's Most Famous Arena." St. John's hosts Xavier tonight in the second meeting of the year, with each team sharing the national spotlight (Tip off 8:00 p.m. on Fox Sports 1 nationally) for a chance to show the committee that they are the more deserving team to make the tournament.
These teams met nine days ago at the Cintas Center in Ohio, with the Red Storm coming away with a 78-70 victory over the Musketeers. Sir'Dominic Pointer notched 24 points for the Johnnies, matching his career high, while D'Angelo Harrison added 18 points to lead the Johnnies to victory. The Red Storm shot 51 percent from the field and 35 percent from beyond the arc.
Xavier cut a 12 point lead down to one with four minutes to play, thanks to a 17 point effort from Matt Stainbrook, before St. John's ultimately pulled away.
But that was then, this is now. Both team's are coming off wins and are hitting the final stretch of conference play. Here are three things to watch out for tonight.
Which St. John's team decides to play?
As referenced, St. John's shot 51 percent in their last meeting against Xavier. In five of the Red Storm's seven losses, the team has shot less than 43 percent from the field. With a lineup like the one coach Steve Lavin uses, a guard heavy offense that relies on outside shooting, it is paramount to shoot well from the field (well, duh).
Which St. John's shows up tonight? Do we get the St. John's with the likes of Harrison and Pointer on fire, shooting lights out for the win? Or do we get the Red Storm team that misses everything in their biggest game of the season?
Xavier's "Bigs" vs. St. John's Athleticism
Xavier has the bigger line up than St. John's, with regards to depth and height advantage. With three big men in the rotation, the Musketeers have gone to a 1-3-1 defensively, which has been solid for coach Chris Mack's squad.
But that 1-3-1 does not match up well against the Red Storm, whose athleticism and quick transitional play do not bode well for the Musketeers. They found that out the hard way during their loss nine days ago. Xavier will have to force St. John's into ill advised shots and force them to go inside to Chris Obekpa, who is not the most offensively gifted player for the Johnnies, in order to stifle the Johnnies.
Resume, Resume, Resume
If you want a spot in the dance, you better have a solid resume to make your case. Xavier and St. John's have the chance to add to their
With a win on the road at St. John's, Xavier would almost assuredly lock up an at-large bid. The Musketeers, in addition to tonight's game, will host Villanova later this week before wrapping up on the road at Creighton. All three are tough games, but if Xavier can win two of their final three, they should be solid. It would be a much easier road to start with a win at St. John's.
For the Red Storm, as of this writing Joe Lunardi still has them in the NCAA Tournament as part of his "Last Four In." They're on thin ice with four games remaining before the Big East Tournament. Steve Lavin and co. have a tough stretch however, hosting Xavier and Georgetown, who defeated the Red Storm by double digits, before traveling to Marquette and Villanova. So this game is not exactly a "must win," but with a strong final stretch, a win over Xavier would do wonders for this squad.
For more on St. John's, check out our friends at Rumble in the Garden.
More of a Musketeer? Go visit our other friends at Banners on the Parkway.