St. John’s, Butler face off in Big East tourney opener

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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

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Field Level Media was founded by sports media executives with more than 40 years of combined experience working with the most influential media companies in the industry.

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