Momentum Builder

New York,N.Y. - Marquette couldn't have finished the regular season feeling any worse, ranging from Dominic James' broken foot to their subsequent four consecutive losses against ranked opponents.

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It would prefer to build at least a little momentum prior to the NCAA tournament.

Oddsmakers from Online Sportsbook SBG Global have made the Marquette -7 point spread favorites for today’s game against the St John's. Current College Basketball Public Betting Information shows that 59% of more than 234 bets for this game have been placed on the Marquette -7.

If the No. 21 Golden Eagles are to do so, they'll need to start at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday afternoon, as they'll look to avoid a fifth straight loss when they face St. John's in the second round of the Big East tournament.

Marquette (23-8) appeared to be rolling toward one of the league's top seeds and a double-bye into the quarterfinals of this week's conference tournament, carrying a 12-2 Big East record into a showdown with then-No. 2 Connecticut on Feb. 25.

But James, the Golden Eagles' steady senior point guard, broke a bone in his foot early in that game, and then-No. 8 Marquette lost 93-82.

With James lost for the season, the Golden Eagles haven't won since, though their opponents certainly had something to do with that. Marquette dropped road games against the Big East's top two teams - Louisville and Pittsburgh - before falling 86-79 in overtime against then-No. 25 Syracuse on Saturday in their home finale.

"We've lost four in a row - you wouldn't be able to tell if you were (in the locker room),'' senior guard Wesley Matthews said. "We're still playing for the same thing we were playing for in the beginning of the year. Nothing's changed.

"We're 0-4 without him, but at the same time we could easily be 4-0. We were in every single one of those games.''

With James gone, teams have been able to pay closer attention to Matthews (18.5 points per game) and All-Big East first-team guard Jerel McNeal (20.1 ppg).

Matthews is shooting 35.1 percent in his last four games - including 3-of-15 against the Orange - and McNeal is making a woeful 32.2 percent in that same stretch.

All eyes, though, will be on Maurice Acker, the previously little-used reserve guard who's now stepping into James' role. He's not expected to contribute much offensively - Acker has averaged 5.0 points and 4.0 assists in his three games starting - but Marquette especially misses James defensively.

Opponents have averaged 79.3 points on 54.3 percent shooting in the last three games as the Golden Eagles have tried to hide the 5-foot-8 Acker by using more zone looks.

"It's a really big adjustment,'' forward Jimmy Butler said. (Dominic's) a really great on-ball defender, and off-the-ball defender. He kind of sparks everybody else on the floor. It's not the same without him, but Mo tries his best to do that."

McNeal had 20 points, seven rebounds, seven assists and five steals in Marquette's lone meeting with St. John's (16-16), a 73-59 win in Milwaukee on Feb. 14.

The Red Storm closed their regular season winning two of three and three of five, though all of those victories came against lower-tier Big East opponents.

They beat Georgetown 59-56 in overtime at home on March 3 behind 16 points from Paris Horne, and the sophomore guard led the way again when they met the Hoyas at MSG on Tuesday in the first round of the Big East tournament. He had 23 points as St. John's escaped with a 64-59 victory.

Horne had one of his best all-around games this season at Marquette, totaling 23 points, seven rebounds, six assists and three steals, but the Red Storm haven't thrived when he's having big-scoring games. They're just 1-5 when he scores 20 points or more.

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Posted: 3/11/09 1:30AM ET

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