St. John’s basketball with a lot at stake entering matchup with Xavier

St. John's basketball (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)
St. John's basketball (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images) /

St. John’s basketball has a lot at stake entering its matchup against Xavier. 

The St. John’s basketball team is entering an unfamiliar territory where you live and die in the eyes of fans and bracketologists with each game as a bubble team for the NCAA Tournament.

After a dominating victory over then No. 3 Villanova, the Red Storm (13-8, 7-7 Big East) followed up its big effort with a road win against Providence before falling in overtime to the Butler Bulldogs.

The Johnnies held a lead as large as 16 points before Butler came all the way back and as the ‘Dawgs forced overtime after a St. John’s turnover in the closing seconds.

After a weekend off, head coach Mike Anderson has his team ready to go against a Xavier (11-3, 4-3 Big East) squad that has not played a lot of basketball recently.

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Following multiple pauses forced by COVID-19, Xavier has only played two games since January 11, a victory over Butler on January 30 and a loss against UConn in its most recent outing on February 13.

Head coach Travis Steele told the media that Bryan Griffin will not play against the Johnnies has he had not cleared all COVID-19 related protocols. Griffin posted seven points and eight rebounds in the Musketeer’s victory over the Johnnies on January 6.

Most NCAA Tournament experts have Xavier safely in the field and a victory would go a long way at moving St. John’s closer to the right side of the bubble and while a loss would not be catastrophic, it would hinder the Red Storm’s chances at earning an at-large bid with a missed opportunity for a quality victory.

St. John’s basketball has to win in the front-court

In its loss to the Huskies, sophomore forward Zach Freemantle had his best game of the season with 30 points and 15 rebounds and was only one of two players for Xavier to reach double-digits.

In its first meeting the Red Storm were able to contain Freemantle, who was in foul trouble, to just five points on 0-of-6 shooting from the field but he did pull down ten rebounds.

Xavier out-rebounded the Red Storm 57-40 while going 0-for-12 from three-point range and still winning, 69-61.

The combination of Josh Roberts, Isaih Moore, Marcellus Earlington, and Julian Champagnie have to keep St. John’s competitive on the glass if they want to try and pick up a much needed home victory.

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Roberts did not play in the first meeting between the two teams and has been dealing with foul trouble in recent contests.

Rasheem Dunn had the best game for the Johnnies in its last meeting with the X-Men, coming off the bench to add 17 points on 8-of-15 shooting. The Red Storm will need more from its stars and supporting cast to ensure a win.

A victory for St. John’s would also be No. 400 in the career of head coach Mike Anderson and push the Johnnies up to 5th place in the Big East Conference standings.

If Providence defeats UConn and St. John’s beats the Musketeers on Tuesday night, the Johnnies would be in 4th place in the conference’s standings, two games back of Seton Hall in the loss column for 3rd place.

The Red Storm have also lost 12 straight games to Xavier, its longest active losing streak against a single opponent.

St. John’s plays much better inside Carnesecca Arena, only dropping two games at home this season, and if the Red Storm can continue to pick up wins at home it will be dancing in March.

Tipoff is slated for 8:30pm EST (Fox Sports 1).

PREDICITION: St. John’s 77, Xavier 69

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