No one in the BIG EAST wants to be 0-3, so this will be hard-fought. The Johnnies are coming off a Sunday afternoon loss at Xavier (67-75) and have two fewer days of rest before visiting D.C. (thanks, FOX!). While neither team shot particularly well, St. John’s saw Xavier’s top-scorer, Naji Marshall, give up 8 turnovers despite getting his 20 points.
The Red Storm defense is a legitimate concern for a Hoyas team struggling with turnovers at times. As Coach Mike Anderson is known for pressing early and often, the Hoyas may have an advantage over St. John’s with their own penchant for pushing the pace—plus five days of preparation.
St. John’s specializes in both pressure and forcing opponents to take bad shots. Things could get physical (surprise!), again. Generating points off of turnovers to gain confidence has been key to comeback-attempts by both teams. If the Red Storm string together a couple buckets and get to set up their defense, the Hoyas will likely be on the wrong side of more than one swing. Let’s hope that’s not how the home opener starts, too.
Penetration for Mac McClung will be tough, but he must keep trying. While it’s not quite a hot take in modern basketball, the three point shooting percentage for McClung and Jahvon Blair will likely make or break this game. Omer Yurtseven and Jamarko Pickett may be able to make hay on the offensive boards, but dependence on second-chances is risky. If Georgetown takes the shots Ewing wants, off of clean passes from Terrell Allen and Jagan Mosely, then they should be in good position to get their first conference victory.
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SJU goes fast when they have the ball. Five teams in the nation have average possessions shorter than the Red Storm. As they speed along they focus on caring for the ball and collecting their misses, both of which they are on the cusp of elite at. This begins to overcome the fact that St. John’s shoots the ball very poorly. They mitigate their poor outside shooting (30.2%) by not shooting from there often, but they also struggle (47.2%) inside the arc.
On defense the Red Storm turn opponents over on nearly a quarter of their possessions. 13.7% of those turnovers come from steals, good for fourth in the nation. Mike Anderson’s guys are going to make having the ball an uncomfortable proposition, often for the entire length of the floor. They’ll also challenge every shot and block about 15% of them. All that pressure does leave SJU vulnerable to offensive rebounding, but other than that this is a very good defense.
LJ Figueroa is, when best utilized, one of those everywhere, jack-of-all-trades players that is hard to prepare for. He is long, quick, will defend on the perimeter and battle a little inside, is very good at defending inbounds plays, can shoot threes, can get to the basket.
Rasheem Dunn is a jet on the floor. He can be inconsistent, sloppy, but he can also be explosive. Marcellus Earlington is a former defensive end who brings physicality to the floor. Josh Roberts is an agile, fast shot blocker. Julian Champagnie is a smart, composed freshman. Greg WIlliams, Jr. has great hops and is figuring out his game. Nick Rutherford is notn a great scorer, but he is tough and will defend.
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We haven’t seen some action in almost a week from our Johnnies as they are in finals week. Here’s a look back at some of the top moments this season. Let’s go Johnnies as we have a huge stretch of games in our next few as we face Albany. Then we take on 16 ranked Arizona on a neutral site and 17 ranked Butler in our first conference game. #sjubb
The Red Storm missed pretty much everything in a 75-67 loss to the Musketeers.
St. John’s (11-4, 0-2 Big East) struggled to make shots despite the return of Heron, shooting only 35 percent from the field, 1 of 16 from beyond the arc and 62 percent from the free-throw line.
“When you don’t make shots, boy, it’s kind of disappointing,” St. John’s coach Mike Anderson said. “I know we’re much better at shooting the basketball.”
RECAP: Xavier gets in the Big East win column with tenth straight victory over St. John’s. https://t.co/4BfDhAYIUD— Big East Coast Bias (@becb_sbn) January 6, 2020
Outside of 19 turnovers that produced 22 points for St. John’s, it was a game dominated by Xavier at both ends of the floor.  Xavier won the rebounding war, 47-38.
”They do that [turnovers] to every team,” Steele said of the turnovers. “But again, I told our guys – if you have one turnover you can’t hang your head. You’ve got to go immediately next play because you can’t let one turn into two and turn into three.” 
Xavier [tied] its season-high with nine 3’s against St. John’s... ”It’s big,” said Steele. “I thought, for the most part, we took the right 3’s ... and we were able to knock them in, thank God.”
Clearly, Xavier's self-inflicted turnover stretch lulled St. John's into less-energetic defense.— Rumble In The Garden (@rumbleSBN) January 5, 2020
The Red Storm was disruptive early on, flummoxing the Musketeers into self-inflicted turnovers — a traveling call here, a pass well behind a teammate there. The Cintas Center fans rained a drizzle of boo birds on their Musketeers at an early break.
But Xavier wing Naji Marshall, who has torched the Red Storm in the past, kept Xavier’s heads up with the help of shots from Paul Scruggs and freshman KyKy Tandy, playing heavy minutes as Quentin Goodin struggled with foul trouble.
St. John's steps up one spot in @kenpomeroy's rankings, from 82nd to 81st. The Johnnies' adjusted defense (AdjD) rating jumped from 70th to 57th after the loss to Butler, and the Johnnies are now the 18th-fastest team in adjusted tempo (AdjT) #SJUBBhttps://t.co/Mrxy8HYlHC— Thomas Cavanagh (@TJCavs_) January 1, 2020
After a dreadful first half, St. John’s came roaring back, picking up full-court and turning up its trademark pressure defense, eliminating a 21-point deficit at the break. It forced 16 second half turnovers — two more than Butler’s season-high entering the game — and 24 altogether...
A 39-16 deficit got cut to 46-43, after Rutherford’s steal and slam. Butler was having trouble even getting the ball to mid-court. When they did, the Bulldogs struggled getting off quality shots. Shot-clock violations and desperation 3-pointers became the Bulldogs’ offense...
Added Butler coach LaVall Jordan: “You can see it on film. You can’t simulate what they do in practice, how quick their hands are, the speed of some of the traps.”
Butler was number five in the country in avoiding turnovers; St. John’s defense caused them to turn the ball over 24 times during the game. The Johnnies defense, particularly in the second half, was so intense that, even when it did not cause a turnover, Butler never got their offense untracked (sic) during the second half run.
The Bulldogs committed shot clock violations or took off-balance attempts with under three seconds on the shot clock. Of the 24 turnovers, 16 were steals and many turned into layups as the Red Storm cut into the Butler lead.
The one troubling spot on defense was the fact that the team was not taking down rebounds off missed Bulldog shots...
Men's Basketball Postgame Party @ Bar Louie— DC Alumni Club (@DCHoyas) January 6, 2020
January 8 | 8:30 pm after St. John's
Bar Louie in Gallery Place is the official pre- and post-game location of the Hoyas, offering food and drink specials (along with Dos Equis) for every home game throughout the season. #HOYASZN pic.twitter.com/DlNIB5NP6x