The main roster issue that looms over this game is the same one that has plagued Xavier for most of the last three games: Edmond Sumner is still out. That means that the Musketeers head into New York with LAJ and Myles Davis again handling the point guarding duties and a rotation that has changed drastically since the first 12 games. They do that against a St. John's team that is plumbing the depths of just how bad a Big East team can be. The last time the Johnnies won was a startling victory over Syracuse back on December 13th. With all that in mind, here's what Coach Mack will be pondering as Xavier takes the floor tonight.
1. Will the point guards play together?
Last game Myles Davis played 25 minutes and LAJ got 11. When Austin Jr. is on the floor he runs the point as he isn't much a threat off the ball. This game presents a slightly different challenge in that St. John's doesn't excel at turning teams over and can be absolutely torched from deep. While Davis will almost undoubtedly start, Coach Mack may run both of his ballhandlers together on occasion to get Myles off the ball and in positions where LAJ can get him the ball to do some damage. Myles was in a mini-slump until the Butler game, when he went 3-6. The Xavier staff would be quite happy to see him do that again.
2. Kaiser Gates or Sean O'Mara?
Against Auburn it was Sean O'Mara who grabbed more minutes than usual and shone. Against Wake it was again O'Mara with Gates getting no time at all. Villanova is better off forgotten, but last game it was Kaiser Gates who logged twice as many minutes as Sean O'Mara. Coach Mack has shown himself a dab hand at sticking with whoever is hot at the time. Kaiser Gates gives the Musketeers a chance to draw one of St. John's excellent shot blockers out away from the rim. Sean O'Mara would aid in Xavier's massive edge on the defensive glass and present a fighting fire with fire option against the Red Storm rim protectors. We know the first two bigs, but who will get the most time off the bench?
3. Is the double pivot a viable lineup against shot blocking big?
Butler isn't a big team and doesn't block many shots. Because of that, the double post of Jalems Farrnolds had a very tidy game and controlled the offensive block area. St. John's has a 17.1% block rate, the highest in the country. (I know they are terrible, but that number is amazing). Coach Mack could either run his double post out and hope for some of that hot block to block passing action we all love, or run four outside of one and let Xavier's shooters feast on St. John's atrocious three point defense. Both bigs will likely start, but it will be telling to see how much time they log together.