A little less than a week ago, Seton Hall was three games ahead in the Big East, but has since lost its last two games – Wednesday against Creighton (87-82) and Saturday in Providence (74-71). These results dropped the pirates to 10-3 in the conference game.
Creighton, now 9-4 in the Great East, is the next chaser after winning seven of his last eight games. Villanova (8-4), Marquette (7-5) and Butler (7-6) look like they are safe in the NCAA tournament, while Providence (7-6), Xavier (5-7) and Georgetown (5th ) -7) must get hot here in the second half of February. Xavier can begin his run towards the right side of the bubble with a win over St. Johns in the garden on Monday evening.
Xavier won the first meeting between these two teams on January 5 in Cincinnati (75-67), pushed himself as an eight-point favorite and let the game go under the sum of 145 ½. The difference in this game was that Xavier shot 9 from 27 to 3, while the Red Storm only scored 1 out of 16 from a distance.
That night, Xavier also faced a St. Johns team with a healthy Mustapha Heron in the Red Storm lineup. Heron, the Johnnies' second-best scorer with 13.8 points per game, suffered a right ankle injury in the February 8 loss at Creighton and is likely to miss the rest of the season.
In the first game without Heron, St. Johns took the place of the "fallen hero" – where a team moves up in the first game without a star player – and defeated Providence on Wednesday in the Carnesecca Arena as a one-point outsider with 80-69. This win broke a loss in three games, both directly and against the spread.
However, this is now the second game that has been known to have no heron for the rest of the season, and this is always a difficult point. It's an even more difficult point for a Xavier team that has played a lot better lately after winning three of their last four games and playing four consecutive times.
St. Johns (3-9) is currently ninth in the Great East, two games ahead of basement DePaul. The best chance for the Red Storm to reach the NCAA tournament for the first time in 20 years in two consecutive seasons is to win the Big East tournament in the garden, where they are currently listed at 20/1 do this via DraftKings in New Jersey.
Chances of winning the Big East tournament
St. Johns: 20/1
Note: Seton Hall is not listed as the New Jersey law does not allow betting on state universities.
Xavier is currently right for most bracketologists, but a loss on Monday night would significantly affect his chances of dancing in March. The Red Storm season got off to a promising start with non-conference victories against West Virginia and Arizona, but the game against Big East wasn't particularly good. Can the Johnnies stay in the season without one of their main stars? We'll find out Monday night.