SCOUTING ST JOHNS!! HEAD To HEAD FOR 3RD PLACE IN BIG EAST!!
By Andy Mac Williams, 3/8/2019

Not much has been decided regarding the BIG EAST(order of finish-BE Tournament seedings and pairings-NCAA and NIT bids TBD) even though 85 of 90 regular season games have been played. Most of the details come down to the 5 games scheduled for Saturday(Villanova at Seton Hall-Noon on FOX, Butler at Providence-Noon on FS1, Georgetown at Marquette-2:30 on FOX, St Johns at Xavier-5PM on FOX and DePaul at Creighton-8PM on FS1) Villanova and Marquette sit 1st and 2nd. Both are heading to the NCAA Tournament. Villanova(13-4) can win the regular season outright w/ a win at Seton Hall or a Marquette loss in Milwaukee to Georgetown. Providence(6-11) is locked into the Bottom 4 and will have to play an Opening Round game Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden in the BIG EAST Tourney. The other 3 Bottom 4 Wednesday participants are to be determined plus regular season finish positions plus conference tournament seeds and pairings.

Five teams(Xavier, St Johns, Seton Hall, Georgetown and Creighton) are stacked up behind VU and MU tied for 3rd at 8-9. Butler and DePaul are tied for 8th at 7-10. What a crap shoot!!

MUSKIES VS RED STORM:

Xavier(8-9) w/ 5 wins in the last 6 games can grab solo 3rd w/ a win over St Johns at Cintas and losses by Seton Hall, Georgetown and Creighton. 9-9 and solo 3rd for the Muskies might lead to an NCAA at large bid when coupled w/ two more wins Thursday and Friday in the BE Tourney at MSG.

In NEW BIG EAST history(5 seasons) no solo 3rd place team has missed the NCAA BIG DANCE(5-0). 6 teams over that 5 season span have completed the regular season at 9-9 w/ 3 getting NCAA at large bids. X went 9-9 in 2015 and 2017-won 2 more games in NYC and made the Field of 68. Hopefully, history in this case is doomed to repeat itself!!

So 3 more wins here and Xavier is an NCAA team IMHO. 4 in a row and X gets the BIG EAST automatic NCAA bid. X at 8-10(losing to St Johns Saturday) probably has to play an extra game Wednesday at MSG and almost certainly must win 4 at MSG for the auto NCAA berth.

9-9 is much preferable. St Johns gets at least a share of 3rd place and the #3 seed at MSG by beating Xavier. They own all the tie breakers at 9-9.

THE GAME:

X may be w/o Top scorer Naji Marshall(ankle sprain). It's going to be a game time decision. Naji(21PPG over the last 6) turned his ankle early in the first half at Butler. He dropped a career high 31 in Xavier's 84-73 win at St Johns 10 days ago.

The Muskies(11-5 at Cintas) have home court. It's Senior Day(Final home games for Grad transfers Zach Hankins-Ryan Welage and Kyle Castlin barring an NIT date). XU's defense has been stingy(65PPG the last 6). They have been controlling tempo and patiently running offense through the post.

Turnovers continue to torpedo Xavier(15 in Tuesday's tight 71-66 loss at Butler). St Johns is 20-10 overall w/ 2 wins over Marquette and talking confidently of their first NCAA bid under 4th year coach Chris Mullin.

The Johnnies label themselves as New York Cities' Team and the BIG APPLE certainly expects an NCAA bid. STJ has been leaking oil(3 losses in the last 4). DePaul blew them out last Sunday 92-83 in Chicago.

XU beat then by 11 in Queens. Foul trouble has been epidemic for the Storm. #2 scorer Mustapha Heron has been struggling w/ a sore knee. St Johns has had all week to prepare(no mid-week game).

Their starting 5 is uber talented. Shamorie Ponds is #3 in BE scoring(20PPG) plus #2 in assists and #1 in steals. He sniped for 29 at DePaul. Heron is at 15PPG. JUCO transfer L.J. Fuegeroa(14PPG) scored 23 vs XU 10 days ago. Justin Simon is an all court stud and Michigan State transfer Marvin Clarke hits threes and rebounds hard.

ST Johns wants to run and play quickly. They gamble early on defense(Top 15 NCAA in steals). It's a battle of contrasting styles that Xavier won 10 days ago pounding the Johnnies on the glass and outscoring them 25-4 in free throws.

X needs to repeat-walk it up-play long possessions-take care of the ball-control Ponds and hope Heron is sub 100%. 9-9 is light years better than 8-10. Hopefully, Xavier gets to 9-9.

BOTTOM LINE:

Xavier has two NCAA routes w/ a win over St Johns( a possible at large w/ 2 NYC victories and a trip to Saturday's Finals or a certain NCAA automatic w/ 3 NYC victories. If Xavier loses to STJ, only one Hail Mary path to the NCAAs remains-4 wins in 4 days at MSG!!

LOOKING AHEAD TO TEAM 98:

Xavier signee Deionte Miles completed his high school career Friday afternoon. His Walton Verona team lost 49-42 to Campbell County in the Kentucky State Tourney Quarterfinals at Rupp Arena in Lexington. 7 footer Miles did his part w/ 10 points-5 rebounds and 12 blocked shots. He'll report to Xavier over the Summer-get a jump on academic credits-get into the weight room-practice 10 times w/ TEAM 98-then depart in early August for Spain and a series of exhibition games(same trip Michigan made last Summer).

TEAM 97 has work to do! BEAT ST JOHNS SATURDAY!! DO DAMAGE IN NYC!! MOVE ONTO THE NCAA or NIT!! Then put the uniforms away!!




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