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Providence at St. John’s
When and Where: Saturday, Feb. 9, Madison Square Garden, New York, N.Y., 12 p.m. EST.
Having picked up a huge win to bolster its NCAA Tournament chances, St. John’s looks to avoid a letdown Saturday when it hosts Big East rival Providence.
Friars need to revive flagging NCAA Tournament hopes
While third through 10th place in the Big East is separated by only two games, Providence (13-10, 3-7) is looking up at far too many teams at the moment. The Friars are trying to reach the NCAA Tournament for a school-record sixth straight year but are going to need a late-season surge with some quality wins to be among the field of 68.
Alpha Diallo hits a three-point basket to reach 1,002 career points.
— PC Men's Basketball (@PCFriarsmbb) February 7, 2019
The Friars enter Madison Square Garden on a three-game losing streak after a 76-67 home loss to Georgetown on Wednesday night, completing a season sweep at the hands of the Hoyas. Alpha Diallo scored 22 points but went 1 for 6 from 3-point range and got little perimeter help from his teammates as Providence shot 4 of 22 from beyond the arc and 37.3 percent overall.
“When you miss open shots, I don’t have an answer for that except to tell them to keep shooting. Eventually, they will fall,” Friars coach Ed Cooley told the Providence Journal. “Unfortunately in the last month we just haven’t been able to make a lot of open shots.”
Providence does have chances to bolster its NCAA Tournament resume as it hosts No. 10 Marquette and plays at No. 14 Villanova later this season, and this is the first of its two games against St. John’s. Considering the Red Storm are in a similar plight as the Friars — albeit with a season sweep of the Golden Eagles — Cooley’s team should not lack for motivation.
What Providence does lack, however, is consistent perimeter shooting. The Friars are shooting a woeful 23.7 percent from 3-point range in their last six games and 37.6 percent overall while averaging 64.5 points — well off their season mark of 71.9 per game.
Some of that fall-off can be attributed to freshman guard A.J. Reeves still getting his conditioning back after missing nine games with a foot injury. Reeves has totaled seven points in 39 minutes over three games since coming back and is 1 for 10 from 3-point range.
Averaging 11.4 points overall, Reeves was connecting at a 45.8 percent clip from deep before the injury. Diallo is sixth in the Big East in scoring at 17.3 points per game and second in rebounding (8.0).
Red Storm riding high after sweep of Marquette
After a 12-0 start against an underwhelming non-conference schedule, St. John’s (17-6, 5-5) started regressing to the mean when Big East play began.
— St. John's Red Storm (@StJohnsRedStorm) February 6, 2019
An 89-78 home loss to Georgetown on Jan. 27 dropped the Red Storm to 3-5 in conference play, and many pointed to the three-game road swing that included a trip to Durham to face No. 2 Duke and Milwaukee versus 10th-ranked Marquette as a make-or-break stretch for Chris Mullin’s team.
St. John’s did itself no favors last Saturday when it got crushed by the Blue Devils 91-61 but arguably saved its season by edging the Golden Eagles 70-69 on Wednesday night to become the first team to beat Marquette on its home floor.
Shamorie Ponds scored 28 points, including 13 of the Red Storm’s final 14 as he helped them survive blowing a 15-point, second-half lead. He had a go-ahead layup with 16 seconds to play as St. John’s played strong defense to prevent Marquette star guard Markus Howard a good look in the closing seconds.
“I was just trying to stay composed and not get sped up,” Ponds told The Associated Press. “It was getting loud in there when they were making their run. I was trying to slow the game down. We pretty much had a 15-point lead, they cut it and took the lead. You try to stay composed and try to keep their crowd out of it.”
Justin Simon added 19 points on 8-of-11 shooting as the Red Storm enter this game tied with the Hoyas for third in the conference. They are kicking off a stretch in which they play five of six at home, including a home contest versus Big East leader Villanova, and can greatly enhance their chances for a first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2015.
Ponds is third in the Big East in scoring at 20.8 points per game and is averaging a conference-high 5.5 assists. The Red Storm have five players in double figures and are averaging 80.7 points, good for third in the conference.
St. John’s is:
- 0-5 ATS in its last five games following three or more consecutive road games.
- 0-4 ATS in its last four home games vs. Providence.
- 3-7 ATS in its last 10 home games as a favorite between 7-12.5 points.
- The under is 5-2 in its last seven games vs. Big East opponents.
- The under is 6-2 in its last eight games.
- The under is 3-1-1 in its last five home games vs. teams with a sub-.500 road record.
- 5-2 ATS in its last seven games vs. St. John’s.
- 9-4 ATS in its last 13 road games vs. teams with an above-.600 home record.
- The road team is 5-0 ATS in its last five games between the teams.
- The under is 6-0-1 in its last seven games.
- The under is 9-3-3 in its last 15 games as an underdog between 7-12.5 points.
- The under is 20-6-2 in its last 28 games vs. Big East opponents.
The Bottom Line What to bet on this game.
Full-Game Side Bet
If this game was being played at Carnesecca Arena in Queens, this pick might have gone for St. John’s, but regardless of venue, the hedge here is Providence is going to ugly up this game since it has the defensive length on the perimeter to challenge Ponds.
Additionally, the Friars are returning to Madison Square Garden for the first time since reaching the finals of the Big East tournament. They won two games in overtime by a combined seven points before pushing Villanova to an extra five minutes. Simply put, Providence is used to close games at MSG, and this should be no different.
Prediction: Pick: Providence +7
Full-Game Total Pick
Again, this is about Providence getting gritty in the Garden and slowing the tempo. The Friars swept last season’s series in differing styles, combining with the Red Storm for 166 points in Queens and 118 in Providence. The hunch here is the number is a bit out of reach in a game where reaching 70 will be a challenge.
Prediction: Pick: UNDER 146 points
Half-Time Side Pick
The expectation is Providence is going to catch St. John’s a little flat at the outset after the Red Storm’s big win at Marquette. Chris Mullin’s team also trailed Georgetown after 20 minutes in its only Big East game at MSG thus far. The Friars have been down seven and 10 points at halftime in their last two conference road games, but they should hang around within one possession in either direction here.
Prediction: Pick: Providence +3.5
Half-Time Total Bet
Again, this has the feel of a grind-out game because Providence can challenge St. John’s on the perimeter with defensive length. The Friars have played to 61 and under in their last four Big East road games and will need to dictate pace against a Red Storm team that has reached 70 and above in three of its four conference home contests.
Prediction: Pick: UNDER 69 points