The St. John’s basketball team is entering a ‘must-win’ scenario on Tuesday night against Butler.
Let’s call it like it is: the St. John’s basketball season is on the brink of a collapse.
The Johnnies (6-6, 1-5 Big East) have been humbled once again by the rigors of Big East Conference play and have not won a game since December 20, losers of five of its last six games.
Butler (3-6, 2-4 Big East) and Marquette (6-6, 2-4 Big East) come to Queens this week, Tuesday and Saturday, respectively, and St. John’s head coach Mike Anderson could have an entirely different outlook on his season by the time he eats dinner on Saturday night.
Two wins puts the Red Storm at 3-5 in the conference, all of a sudden in the midst of a fight for positioning in the chaotic Big East, but two losses drops the Johnnies to 1-7 and fighting for its life not to come in last place in the regular season standings.
The biggest issue for the Red Storm this season has been its defense, a surprising development because it’s Anderson’s staple in his career as a head coach.
St. John’s allowed No. 7 Creighton to score 97 points without its best player, Marcus Zegarowski, on Saturday and have allowed over 80 points in five of the seven major conference teams they have played this season.
However, Butler will enter Queens with a less than stellar offense, averaging just 63.7 points per game.
Leading scorer Aaron Thompson (14.3 points per game) is set to play his fifth game this season and his third since returning from an ankle injury.
Jair Bolden (13.0 PPG) and Chuck Harris (11.0 PPG) are the only other two players for the Bulldogs who average double-figures and both are the best 3-point shooters on the team, making 43.3 and 42.9-percent, respectively.
St. John’s basketball has blueprint to defeat Butler
Last season in Queens, St. John’s was on the cusp of defeating Butler in one of the most bizarre comebacks of the season, but late game offense was the demise of the Red Storm.
The Johnnies used its pressure defense to force the Bulldogs into uncharacteristic turnovers, primarily due to the absence of Kamar Baldwin due to injury.
But Butler doesn’t have a star and bonafide ‘bucket-getter’ like Baldwin anymore, they don’t have prolific shooters like Jordan Tucker or Sean McDermott, and they haven’t been a dominant defensive teams like in years past.
St. John’s doesn’t have any excuses left for not winning on Tuesday.
As Julian Champagnie said after the loss to Creighton, it’s not about the offensive execution, it’s about the team’s defense.
Butler had 24 turnovers the last time it came to Queens, compared to just nine in its blowout victory over the Johnnies in Hinkle Fieldhouse.
St. John’s must amp up the pressure early and often, create turnovers, and finish easy transition buckets off said turnovers.
The season is on the line, can St. John’s deliver a big win? Tipoff is 7:00pm EST (Fox Sports 1).
PREDICTION: St. John’s 74, Butler 66