Pick with Analysis
St. John’s picked up a huge win on Wednesday at Creighton since it’s more than likely it will lose its next two road Games, starting with the trip to Duke. The Red Storm stole this Game last year, but that one wasn’t at Cameron Indoor and the teams were a bit different. This time, the main thing they have to do for bettors is to simply be competitive and even that’s not guaranteed.
The Blue Devils get a couple extra days of rest in addition to not traveling, but also Coach K can give his players some motivation after losing last year. Duke has disappointed at times, but that’s usually against top defensive teams, and often without a ton of motivation. To go with that, they have clear matchup advantages which wasn’t the case last year as the Johnnies had more size. That likely means there could be some zone played in this Game because St. John’s tallest player is 6-foot-9 Sedee Keita and he never plays more than 20 minutes. It’d be almost impossible to play man against this Duke team because not only would Zion Williamson and RJ Barrett feast on smaller players, but also Marques Bolden would have his way against the much smaller Marvin Clark and LJ Figuroa.
While St. John’s has good three-point defense, that’s not an area Duke needs to win, as that’s been its biggest offensive issue in recent Games. Instead, the Blue Devils will keep attacking in the paint and could dominate the offensive glass against a team with the worst defensive rebounding percentage in the Big East. Even in zone, the combo of Williamson and Barrett will simply be too much since they both have the skill sets to beat it, as seen in previous matchups. Williamson could sit at the top of the key and use his athleticism from there while Barrett can slice past anyone that’s guarding him on the perimeter. Then there’s the issue of stopping Bolden down low, as well as Cam Reddish and Tre Jones on the outside.
St. John’s doesn’t play slow, either, so that doesn’t help the situation. The best way for the Johnnies to cover and stay competitive will be to score. That hasn’t been a problem this season, scoring at least 70 points in every Game, so there is hope. However, the size discrepancy could again be a problem. The other issue is that Duke’s defense also rates as one of the best in the country, doing everything well outside of defensive rebounding.
Shamorie Ponds (20.9 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 5.7 apg) has been excellent and unstoppable at times, but he also draws the attention of Duke’s best defender in Tre Jones. That matchup will be fun to watch, but it’ll be up to the rest of the team if the Johnnies want to have a chance. Both Figueroa (14.6 ppg) and Clark (12.2 ppg) can step out and shoot, which will be a problem whenever Bolden is in. Of course, whichever player Bolden doesn’t guard, Williamson will have the edge there and then Reddish will likely be matched with Mustapha Heron, St. John’s second-leading scorer at 15.5 points per Game.
The spread is large, but none of the matchups favor St. John’s in a huge way and that’s the main problem if backing the road team. If the Red Storm continue to play with a quicker pace, that’ll also be a major problem against a team that could easily put up 90 points. In the ACC, the Blue Devils haven’t faced many high-tempo teams, so they’ll definitely be glad to see this matchup.
Our Pick – Over 160.5