This is a matchup between the two final at-large bids in the Tournament. That means this Game could be a bit of a mess, but also two teams that are playing with nothing to lose since they’re lucky to be here. Both of these teams had weird seasons and that’s why they barely made the Tournament.
St. John’s beat Marquette and Villanova three combined times, but also lost to DePaul twice and lost Four of its final five Games. Arizona State beat Kansas and Mississippi State in non-Conference play, but also lost to Vanderbilt, Princeton and Washington State. ACCording to the numbers, the Sun Devils have more advantages, though they’re extremely slim. They draw a ton of fouls and are a better rebounding team, but they also foul a lot. The Red Storm are one of the best in the country at not turning it over, while also getting a lot of steals themselves.
ASU lost to Syracuse in this spot last year and while St. John’s plays some zone defense, it’s not as exclusive as what the Orange do. Otherwise, these teams are fairly similar in terms of make up. The Sun Devils rebound better with Romello White and Zylan Cheatham two of the better rebounders in the Pac-12. In fact, Cheatham averages a double-double with 11.8 points and 10.4 boards per Game. That’s the Red Storm’s main worry because they play extremely small with the 6-6 LJ Figueroa and 6-7 Marvin Clark often being the frontcOurt. Those guys can hold their own at times, but there’s a reason they aren’t a good rebounding team. The advantage for the Johnnies is that both Figueroa and Clark can stretch the floor, though making shots is never guaranteed.
The backcOurt edge arguably goes to St. John’s, but it’s not a clear-cut edge. Shamorie Ponds is probably the best player in the Game and he averages 19.5 points and 5.2 assists per Game. He usually takes over when needed and ASU doesn’t exactly have a defender to match up with him. As for St. John’s, Justin Simon is their defensive specialist, while Mustapha Heron (14.9 ppg) meshes well with Ponds as he shoots above 42% from three.
The Johnnies have the advantage in the backcOurt, but it isn’t by much. Remy Martin (13.4 ppg, 5.1 apg) can have huge Games, while leading scorer and freshman LUguentz Dort is probably the most talented player on the Sun Devils. The better news is that Dort is shooting better of late, going 11-for-24 from three in the last Four Games, despite shooting 31.5% for the season. If the shots fall for Dort, that adds another dimension to the offense because they don’t have one standout shooter on the team.
The Sun Devils are the more well rounded team and their rebounding should help against a smaller squad, but the Red Storm have more overall talent and the duo of Ponds and Heron will be hard to stop. The problem is that the Storm haven’t put things together this season and that’s why they’re in this situation. They maybe have more talent, but if the shots aren’t falling, ASU’s rebounding could come in handy.
Our Pick – Arizona State -1