St. John’s would like things to get easier, but it doesn’t look good on that subject. The Red Storm are in the middle of a run of Games against Xavier, Duke and Villanova, something that no other team has seen in three consecutive Games this season. After looking solid in non-Conference play, everything went downhill fast in the Big East and getting Duke in the middle of that Schedule isn’t great.
The Blue Devils all but gave away the ACC regular season title over the weekend in a loss to Virginia and begin a stretch of three straight on the road starting with this Game. They’ve been far from reliable on the road this season, but it’s hard to see them falling in this Game. St. John’s has battled numerous teams at home like Villanova, Creighton and most recently Xavier, but ultimately didn’t have enough in any of those Games. After giving away the Game against Xavier on Tuesday, it’ll be hard for St. John’s to rebound and put in a similar effort.
For this one, there’s a glaring mismatch in the paint as St. John’s lacks the tools to deal with Marvin Bagley and Wendell Carter. Those guys are averaging a combined 36 points and 20 rebounds per Game and that’s one area St. John’s struggles. For starters, the Storm only have two guys coming in above 6-foot-7 in Tariq Owens and Amar Alibegovic. Alibegovic averages less than 10 minutes per Game, but has often been needed for his size like in the loss to Butler when he played 26 minutes. If both of those guys aren’t in the Game at the same time, either Marvin Clark or Bashir Ahmed will have to deal with Bagley or Carter and both are more suited for small ball at the Four spot.
The bigger reason for the Red Storm’s struggles in Big East play has been Marcus LoVett’s injury because he was one of the team’s best scorers. Without him, Shamorie Ponds has had to do everything and that’s simply not enough. He’s been pushing so much that in recent losses to Butler and Creighton he combined to go 3-of-23 from the field for nine total points in two Games. The only way the Red Storm have a chance is he if can crack at least 20 points. The good news is that Duke’s biggest flaw is on the defensive side and a reason it has struggled on the road. The bad news is that St. John’s is the opposite of efficient with Ponds shooting a miserable 27-of-128 from deep this season with Clark the only real shooter on the team that’s above 37 percent from three.
St. John’s may be able to cover only if Ponds shows up and keeps this Game close like when he dropped 37 against Villanova or 31 against Xavier. However, in addition to getting exploited by Bagley and Carter down low, Duke has advantages on the perimeter with Trevon Duval, Grayson Allen and Gary Trent. Ponds could have 30 points, but it’s hard to see him playing great defensively if he pushes on every offensive possession against guys that are bigger than him.
The Red Storm have been in close Games at MSG this season, but that’s only because Ponds goes off. And betting on that to happen against a team that’s more skilled at every position is a stretch.
Our Pick – Duke -11