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Marquette vs. St. John’s: A Big East classic at MSG should be a pace matchup

The Golden Eagles and Johnnies both defend well, but in very different ways.

St. John’s Red Storm guard Daniss Jenkins dribbles as center Joel Soriano screens Seton Hall Pirates guard Al-Amir Dawes during the first half at Prudential Center. Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

The Marquette Golden Eagles head to Madison Square Garden to take on the St. John’s Red Storm on Saturday, January 20. Tip-off is set for noon, and the game will air on Fox.

Shaka Smart’s Marquette (12-5, 3-3 Big East) are just .500 in the league, but are beloved by the metrics as they rate No. 18 in KenPom, and No. 17 in the AP Poll. Tyler Kolek (14.2 points, 5.1 rebounds, 6.6 assists) is what makes them go, and alongside Kam Jones they make for one of the backcourts in the Big East.

But what makes them special is their defense, as they force a turnover on 23.3% of opponent possessions, the sixth-best rate in America. But the problem is ability to shoot it from downtown, as a 31.6% rate on three-pointers is what’s holding them back from the Top 10 as of now.

St. John’s (12-6, 4-3 Big East) are playing Rick Pitino’s legendary up-tempo system in Year 1 already. Losses at Creighton and Seton Hall in their last two outings have put the Johnnie’s back on the NCAA Tournament bubble, and they’ll want to improve on their 2-4 record in Quad 1 games.

Fifth-year senior Joel Soriano (16.4 points, 9.8 rebounds) is one of the best players in the Big East, but look for St. John’s to not be as effective on the offensive glass against a defensive-minded team. Entering the game, the Red Storm recover 39.8% of their misses, the sixth-best rate in the country.

Marquette vs. St. John’s odds from DraftKings Sportsbook

Spread: St. John’s -1.5
Total: 157
Moneyline: St. John’s -120, Marquette +100

Pick: Under 157

While the Johnnies will do everything they can to speed up this game, Marquette opponents take an average of 19.1 seconds per possession, which is the second-longest in college basketball. We’re strictly going under here because of game plan, as Smart’s charges will be running the floor to try and force STJ into the half-court as much as possible.