Time and Date: Tuesday, February 12 @ 8:30 p.m. ET
Location: Carnesseca Arena (Queens, NY)
Records: Butler (13-10) | Georgetown (15-8)
Rankings: Butler (#56 NET) | Georgetown (#73 NET)
TV Channel: CBSSN
St. John’s hosts Butler Tuesday night in what is an extremely significant game for both teams. The two squads are both near the bubble according to just about every bracketology expert out there; most have St. John’s barely in while Butler is one of two or three teams desperately grasping for a spot in one of the play-in games. With only a handful of games left to build resumes, a win would go a long way for either team while a loss could be devastating.
Tuesday’s matchup also has BIG EAST ramifications. Butler and St. John’s are two of the five BIG EAST teams tied for third in the conference. Whoever wins will climb to the top of the heap while the loser risks falling below a bevy of teams. Conference positioning will likely be a determinant in the NCAA Tournament committee’s decision making since the BIG EAST has two locks and then several seemingly equal teams. Furthermore, the loser of Tuesday’s game will have a hard time avoiding the opening day of the BIG EAST Tournament in which the conference’s bottom four teams will compete for the honor of playing Villanova or Marquette the following day.
St. John’s, ever a mystery, is coming off one of its worst performances of the year, a 14-point loss to Providence that came just days after upending Marquette on the road. Butler is coming off of back-to-back wins against Seton Hall and Georgetown. It’s worth noting that the last four matchups between these two teams have been won by the home team, so the Red Storm may have an advantage in New York.
Butler took the first matchup against St. John’s this year with an 80-71 victory on January 19. The Bulldogs jumped out early and never looked back in what was probably Kamar Baldwin’s best game of the season. Baldwin’s 30 points trumped Shamorie Ponds’ 20. Ponds and company will look to flip the script this time around.
KEYS TO THE GAME
The Bulldogs most recent victory against Georgetown was a product of excellent defense, especially in crunch time. Butler didn’t allow a single field goal in the last 4:25 which allowed them to win despite a slow second-half offense. St. John’s is a team that can be discombobulated when confronted with good defense and the Red Storm managed to put up just 56 points against Providence. If the Bulldogs can contain Ponds and frustrate Chris Mullin’s team, they may only need to put up around 70 points to win.
St. John’s: Get Ponds going early
The key to the last game between these two teams was a very slow start by Shamorie Ponds. He ended up with 20 points because he got it going a little in the second half, but by then the game was already out of reach. The Johnnies will have homecourt advantage which has been a significant factor in this matchup and Butler hasn’t played well from behind this year. If Ponds gets off to a hot start and the crowd gets into it, the Bulldogs may be doomed.