No. 24 Xavier (14-6, 4-3 Big East) and St. John's (10-12, 4-5 Big East) meet once again this season. This time, they’ll square off at the World’s Most Famous Arena.
How to watch, listen, and stream
Game Time: Sunday, January 29, 2017, at 6 p.m. ET
TV: Fox Sports 1 (Brian Custer, Donny Marshall)
RADIO: 55KRC-AM (Xavier) , 970 AM WNYM (St. John's)
Live Stream: Fox Sports Go (where available)
Xavier is listed as a 6-point favorite, according to Oddsshark.com.
The Musketeers lead the all-time series, 5-3, over the Red Storm. They have also won the last three meetings between the two teams. Earlier this season, Xavier won 97-82 on Jan. 7.
What to Watch For
Battle of the Backcourts
St. John’s boasts the best young, freshman backcourt in the conference—and possibly in the country. First-year players Shamorie Ponds and Marcus LoVett haven’t played like new kids on the block and hit the ground running to start the season. Approximately three months into the season, they are still going strong. They are both averaging over 17 points per game and are among the top 10 scorers in the Big East. Ponds and LoVett gave Xavier a hard time in their previous meeting, combining for 53 points.
In the blue corner, Xavier has a great young guard of its own in Edmond Sumner, who is continuing to grow as the team’s full time point guard. Then there’s the seasoned veteran Trevon Bluiett, who not only has been the Musketeers’ leading scorer in every season since he first set foot on the court but is also coming off a monstrous performance. Bluiett was unconscious in the game against crosstown rival Cincinnati. Although Xavier lost, his 40 point performance turned a lot of heads. He was very efficient in that game too, going 12-of-15, including a blistering 9-of-11 performance from long range.
Own the Glass
There’s no doubt that St. John’s has some solid rim protectors. Kassoum Yakwe and Tariq Owens provide an imposing duo up front and currently place one-two in leading the Big East in blocks. While it’s certainly an asset to have these big men be intimidating and keep opponents wary of going inside, they’re not the greatest rebounders. In fact, it is one of the areas that the team as a whole can improve on. On average, St. John’s has been outrebounded by its opponents by approximately 1.7 boards per game. The Red Storm is ranked a lackluster 178th in rebounding as a team.
While frontcourt play has been a bit inconsistent and questionable for Xavier, it is actually a solid rebounding team. The Musketeers have been able to perform decently on the glass and have outrebounded opponents by an average margin of 6.8 boards per game. If the Musketeers can continue that trend of beating their opponents on the glass, it won’t bode well for St. John’s. It has been shown before that even teams that are smaller, but can rebound, give St. John’s fits. Getting second chance opportunities aren’t only important for Xavier, but it is also demoralizing for St. John’s. The Red Storm rank 218th in offensive rebounds allowed, giving up an average of nine per game.
Both teams are trying to find their footing again after suffering a few skids. Xavier has lost four out of the last five games entering Sunday. It has quickly fallen from a top 15 team to one that will most likely be left off the rankings after suffering a loss to Cincinnati. However, a win may (or may not) possibly save the Musketeers falling off, but it would definitely be a much-needed win that could be the start of a turnaround.
As for the Red Storm, it has very streaky all throughout the season. Since winning back-to-back games to start Big East play—including an upset win over Butler—the Johnnies proceeded to lose four straight games against conference opponents. They have won two out of the last three and a victory against one of the better teams in the Big East would bode well for this young team’s confidence.