It’s become somewhat dire for Big East teams other than Villanova and Marquette. While those two sit at the top of the standings, every other team has a losing Conference record, including St. John’s, who has lost Four of its last five, and Creighton who had lost Four in a row going into last week. Winning home Games will be the most important thing for these teams the rest of the season, at least if they want to make the NCAA Tournament.
Either way, this Game should be exciting since both teams are near the top of the Big East in terms of tempo. However, they are almost the opposite in what they do well. Creighton is one of the best offensively with great shooting numbers, while St. John’s has kind of sputtered in Conference play and its best offensive trait is not turning the ball over. St. John’s has better defensive numbers, but it also just gave up 89 points at home to Georgetown and 80 at Butler before that.
St. John’s won 81-66 when these teams met a few weeks ago, though the score is a bit misleading since Creighton led most of the first half and it was close in the second half until about 10 minutes to go. The Bluejays have to forget about that performance and that’s what they usually do when playing at home. Their main problem in that first Game was that two of their best shooters, Mitch Ballock and Ty-Shon Alexander, combined to go 3-for-18 from deep even though both shoot better than 40% for the season. Move those numbers to the norm and the Game looks a little different.
The same goes for the Red Storm, but in an opposite way because they got great production from not only Shamorie Ponds, but also Justin Simon, LJ Figueroa and Mustapha Heron all had at least 16 points. While five guys on the roster average double digits, it’s rare that they all shoot well on the same day. Just last Game, Simon managed to go 2-for-11 from the field and Marvin Clark was 3-for-15. Creighton’s defense isn’t good overall, but it’s at least been competent at home. After losing 84-69 to Butler in the first meeting, it turned around and won 75-61 at home in the second meeting, and that’s the relevant number for this Game.
The Bluejays could end up leaning on big man Martin Krampelj (11.3 ppg, 6.4 rpg) a little more than usual because he was one of the more efficient players in the first Game. That’s made possible because St. John’s often rolls with a small-ball lineup that features the 6-foot-7 Clark at the five spot. Sedee Keita is their only player taller than Clark and he never plays more than 20 minutes. Getting Krampelj the ball down low should also open up threes on the outside assuming that draws double teams. Marcus Zegarowski was the sharpshooter in the first Game, but Ballock and Alexander will probably take up a bigger role in this one. Plus, the team’s fifth-leading scorer, Davion Mintz, is averaging 15 points, Four boards and almost Four assists over the last three Games.
The Johnnies are in need of a win, but the defense hasn’t been there in recent Games and trying to keep up with Creighton will be difficult on the road. Ponds will get his usual buckets, but it’ll be up to the rest of the team to have a chance for the upset. Given Creighton’s home/away splits, it makes the most sense to back the Bluejays in this spot.
Our Pick – Creighton -4.5