The Marquette Golden Eagles are surprising a lot of people as they have very quietly pulled into the top ten nationally. After a slow start that saw them sitting at just 3-2 after five games, the Golden Eagles have won sixteen out of their last seventeen games, including an eight-game winning streak. The Golden Eagles last loss? On January first against St. John’s. Marquette will host the Red Storm tonight in an attempt to avenge that loss.
For St. John’s, they have had a very different start to the season as they won the first twelve games of the year. Since that hot start, St John’s is just 4-6 in their last ten games. The Red Storm have a losing record in Big East play and need a signature win to make sure they are on the right side of the bubble on Selection Sunday. The Golden Eagles are -6.5-point home favorites. The game total over-under is set at 155 points. Tipoff is scheduled for 5:00 PM PST from the Fiserv Forum.
Markus Howard came into the season expecting to be one of the best players in the Big East. And halfway through the season, that is just what he has become. Howard is leading the Big East in scoring at twenty-five points a game. He is also bringing down over four rebounds and dishing out four assists a game. Howard is getting it done on the offensive side of the ball with some elite shooting. The junior guard is shooting 44% from the field, 43% from three, and 91% from the charity stripe. When the Golden Eagles got blown out by St John’s a little over a month ago, Howard had his worst game of the year as he scored just eight points on 2-15 shooting. If the Golden Eagles are going to want to avenge their earlier season loss, they are going to need a lot more out of Howard tonight.
The Big East is down this year. As of right this minute, ESPN’s chief bracketologist Joe Lunardi, has the league getting just five teams into the field of sixty-eight. That includes this St. John’s team. But in my estimation, the Red Storm still has some work to do if they want to lock in an at-large bid. It is never easy to win twelve straight games, but those wins were a lot of quantity over quality as the biggest win during that stretch was over either Rutgers or VCU, and neither of those teams look like NCAA tournament teams at the moment. Their non-conference strength of schedule ranked 320th in the nation. So, yeah, the wins are nice to have, but they played a very soft schedule, and they aren’t bragging too much about beating teams like Mount St. Mary’s, Wagner, and Sacred Heart.
Since Big East play has started, the Red Storm have really been exposed. They picked up a season sweep over a decent Creighton team, but outside of those two wins, they are just 2-5 in league play. That includes losses to Butler, Depaul, and Georgetown. In their last game, they played a rare late-season non-conference game against the Duke Blue Devils and got ran off the court as they got pounded by thirty points.
Some teams can fade playing back to back top ten teams on the road, this St John’s team isn’t one of those teams. But they will have to play the brutal back to backs, nonetheless. I just don’t think this St John’s team is any good. Really the only good win they have all year long was against this Golden Eagles team, and I think Marquette will use that to fuel them tonight. They say revenge is a dish best served cold, and it is getting mighty chilly tonight in Milwaukee for the Red Storm.
I expect the Golden Eagles to not just win this game but run it up on the Red Storm. Markus Howard is way too good to struggle like he did the last time these teams played, and it wouldn’t shock me to see him drop thirty plus points on the Red Storm tonight at home. Since the loss to St John’s, Howard has scored at least twenty-three points in every game and has scored at least twenty-six points in five of those seven games, including a fifty-three points explosion against Creighton. That loss fired Howard up and he is playing at an elite level right now.
This St John’s team just has not shown me that they can compete with good teams on the road, and I think they get pounded tonight. Howard will drop thirty or more, and the Golden Eagles will get their revenge. Give me the Marquette Golden Eagles laying -6.5 points tonight at home in what could very well be a blowout!