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Xavier v. St. John's: Preview

Both teams are somewhere on the bubble, with this game going a long way toward determining exactly where. Xavier needs it, but St. John's will be tough at home.

If this guy shoots 90% again, Xavier is in trouble.
If this guy shoots 90% again, Xavier is in trouble.
Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports

In the nine days since Xavier last played, and lost to, St. John's a lot has changed. The Red Storm were resurgent at that point, with the Musketeers marking their third win in a row and a rise back into NCAA tournament bubble consideration. That loss had the effect of leaving Xavier on the edge of desperate for at least two good wins down the stretch to solidify their own standing. The Musketeers had looked good coming into the game, and looked very bad coming out.

Since then, the teams have essentially flipped positions. St. John's got obliterated by Georgetown in a game that was effectively over at the half. A win over a Seton Hall team that it's possible that the Banners staff and some of the top Twitter contributors could beat right now hardly went any way in repairing the damage. Meanwhile, Xavier went to UC and came up with a great road win over a top 50 team and hated rival. The Musketeers followed that by stepping their game up even farther and destroying the media darlings from Indianapolis. Depending on who you ask, either team could either be a lock or just clinging on to the field.

Team fingerprint:

Nothing has really changed in terms of how St. John's plays since the last time these two teams met. The Johnnie's are still going to shoot well if not terribly frequently from deep, though they did put up 26 attempts against Seton Hall. They're still going to be efficient, shoot too many mid range jumpers, and rely on D'Angelo Jordan when times get tough.

Defensively, St. John's is not a good matchup for the Musketeers. They love to block shots and steal the ball, and they had six and eleven of those, respectively, the last time the teams met. One thing that has changed is the approach to St. John's perimeter defense. The Musketeers are 17-33 from deep in the two intervening games, and St. John's allowed 43 attempts from deep in their two games. With the Musketeers suddenly rediscovering their ability to shoot, the Red Storm will look much more susceptible to the three than they were in the first meeting.

Sophomore Class Senior
6'4", 193 Measurements 6'0", 160
13.6/3.7/3.0 Game Line 8.7/2.3/6.2
.427/.356/.656 Shooting Line .394/.316/.708
Jordan missed the first contest between these two teams, but is back now. He had 18/6/6 against Seton Hall in his last time out and remains the primary user of the ball for the Johnnies. He'll be facing the suddenly resurgent Dee Davis, who is 6-7 from deep since the last meeting.
Senior Class Sophomore
6'2", 187 Measurements 6'2", 195
13.1/2.9/1.7 Game Line 11.4/2.4/2.2
.429/.375/.744 Shooting Line .431/.413/.872
Greene went for 15/0/1 in the last meeting and took 14 shots to get it. Since then he's averaging 13.5 shots per game and doing his scoring more efficiently. He's going to be on the floor for most of the game.
D'Angelo Harrison SMALL FORWARD Remy Abell
Senior Class Senior
6'4", 202 Measurements 6-4, 200
18.3/5.7/2.0 Game Line 8.7/2.0/1.4
.423/.373/.813 Shooting Line .488/.403/.750
Harrison scored 18 against Xavier and has scored 17 since, including an 0-9 from the floor in the loss to Georgetown. It's possible that carrying the load all season is starting to wear on Harrison, but he'll still draw Abell as a matchup.
Senior Class Freshman
6'6", 192 Measurements 6'6", 215
13.4/7.5/2.9 Game Line 12.1/4.4/1.9
.536/.100/.757 Shooting Line .456/.336/.752
24/5/1 with with two blocks and four steals, 9-10 from the floor, 6-6 from the line, 40 minutes. That's what Pointer did in the first meeting between these teams. He also just went for 22/10/3 with three more blocks and two steals against Seton Hall. Yikes.
Junior Class Senior
6'10", 236 Measurements 6'10", 270
6.1/7.1/0.5 Game Line 11.8/6.6/2.5
.472/.000/.534 Shooting Line .613/.333/.769
Obekpa blocks shots. I'm certain there must be other things he can do well (paint? play guitar?), but his lone basketball skill is shot blocking. He'll take Stainbrook one on one and also get free for weakside blocks on unwary drivers of the lane.


St. John's is incredibly not deep. Off the bench Coach Steve Lavin  will use Amir Alibegovic or Joey de la Rosa to spell the bigs. Neither plays much and neither does much when they do play. Guard Jamal Branch is the only non-starter to play more than 20% of the possible minutes. His 21.8 minutes off the bench come with a 4.7/2.5/2.5 line and a respectable TO rate of only 19.2%. None of Lavin's starters will play less than 30 minutes unless someone gets injured or in serious foul trouble.

Three adjustments/keys:

- Defend the perimeter: St. John's was just too athletic in the last meeting, and James Farr and Matt Stainbrook were particularly exposed. The 1-3-1 may allow too many three point looks, but Coach Mack can hardly just let Pointer run past a big every time down the floor again. Is Bluiett quick enough to take him one on one?

- Make threes: In the first game between these teams, Xavier finished on a 3-16 stretch from deep. Since then, they are shooting 51% from behind the arc. If Xavier knocks down threes, Matt Stainbrook (17/9/4 in the first game) and Jalen Reynolds (12/7/0) will take advantage of their muscle advantage against the slender St. John's bigs inside. Dee Davis starting the game with a make or two will be vital.

- Turn the Johnnies over: The ten turnovers Xavier first in the last game were roughly in line with the 15.7% TO rate that St. John's has averaged on the year. The Red Storm take care of the ball, but Xavier has to force more turnovers in order to avoid being matched up on the defensive end on a team that got them for 1.15 points per possession at the Cintas last time.