The no. 23 Marquette Golden Eagles will try to get back on track when they face the St. John’s Red Storm in Thursday’s Big East quarterfinals. Marquette is listed as a 2.5-point favorite in a de facto road game at Madison Square Garden.
Despite beating DePaul on Wednesday night, St. John’s remains very much on the bubble. The Red Storm lost three of their last four games to end the regular season, finishing 8-10 in Big East play. The Red Storm are 21-11 overall and have a few quality wins to their name. However, they may need to win Thursday if they want to feel safe on Selection Sunday.
Marquette also endured a slump late in the season, losing four in a row to close out the regular season. That losing streak cost them a chance to at least share the Big East regular-season title. It also caused their NCAA Tournament seed to drop considerably. The Golden Eagles will still get a decent seed, but they don’t want to head into the Big Dance on a five-game losing streak, so they’re under some pressure to win on Thursday.
At this point, Marquette’s season hinges on the performance of brothers Sam and Joey Hauser. They are the team’s second and third-leading scorers, respectively, behind Big East Player of the Year Markus Howard. However, they’ve been maddeningly inconsistent down the stretch. Sam, the older brother, averages close to 15 points per game, but he scored just seven points in the season finale against Georgetown and three points in a recent loss to Creighton. Joey, meanwhile, has scored double figures just twice in the last 10 games.
The Golden Eagles are a big team that’s strong defensively and tough to beat on the boards. But they don’t have enough pure scorers. When the Hauser brothers don’t contribute, it puts way too much pressure on Howard to carry the team. Howard averages 25 points per game and rarely has an off night, but he’ll need to get more support from his teammates if Marquette is going to win games in March.
Secret Double Failure Edition
Before their late-season slump, Marquette’s only losses in Big East play came at the hands of the Red Storm. St. John’s has two wins over the Golden Eagles this season, including a 20-point blowout on New Year’s Day. In that game, the Red Storm were able to limit Howard to just eight points. St. John’s also held him to a mere 17 points, well below his season average in a 1-point win at Marquette last month.
In addition to having some good defenders, the Red Storm have a balanced attack that includes five players who average 10 or more points per game. The key is point guard Shamorie Ponds, who averages nearly 20 points and over five assists per game. Unlike Howard, he gets plenty of help around him, specifically from fellow guards Mustapha Heron and LJ Figueroa. When those three get going at the same time, the Red Storm can play with anyone in the country.
Get It Together
Marquette begins Big East Tournament play as a desperate team, and that may actually play in their favor. It won’t be easy, but Howard will rise to the occasion and the Hausers will do just enough. With the spread only at 2.5 points, bet on Marquette to win and cover on Thursday night.