St. John’s, Butler face off in Big East tourney opener
When the Big East’s preseason poll was projected, Marquette was forecast to be the eighth or ninth seed in the opening contest of the conference tournament.
Instead, top-seeded Marquette will be awaiting whoever emerges from Wednesday’s Big East tournament opener pitting St. John’s against Butler, two teams who finished near the coaches’ preseason predictions.
St. John’s (17-14, 7-13 Big East) was projected for sixth in coach Mike Anderson’s fourth season. The Red Storm won 11 of their first 12 games against a weak non-conference schedule, then lost five of their first six conference games. They were 4-10 in conference before splitting their final six games, with all three losses coming by 10 or fewer points.
The Red Storm ended their disappointing regular season by dropping a pair of high-scoring affairs to ranked opponents. After a 95-86 loss to UConn on Feb. 25 in New York, St. John’s ended the season with a 96-94 defeat at Marquette on Saturday when it nearly erased a 10-point deficit in the final 30 seconds.
Dylan Addae-Wusu scored 25 points and Posh Alexander added 18. Joel Soriano notched a double-double with 14 and 11 rebounds, capping a season where he earned Big East most improved player of the year honors after posting 23 double-doubles.
“I thought our guys fought to the very end,” Anderson said. “I thought offensively that’s probably the best we’ve played in a while for a consistent amount of time.”
Projected to finish eighth in the preseason poll, Butler (14-17, 6-14) endured its third straight losing season and averaged a league-worst 62.6 points in conference games. The Bulldogs failed to crack 70 points in their final 12 regular-season games and reached 60 only four times in that span, including their 68-66 home win over St. John’s on Feb. 7.
Butler ended the season by missing 13 of 16 3-pointers in a 78-66 loss at No. 19 Xavier on Saturday. Jayden Taylor scored 16 points but the Bulldogs saw their depth take a hit as Manny Bates suffered a shoulder injury that could keep him out Wednesday.
“We were kind of disheveled tonight, especially offensively,” Bulldogs coach Thad Matta said.
–Field Level Media