Friday College Basketball Odds & Betting Picks for St. John’s vs. Kansas: Can Johnnies Pull the Upset? (Dec. 3)
Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images. Pictured: Aaron Wheeler
St. John’s vs. Kansas Odds
|St. John’s Odds|
+100o / -120u
+100o / -130u
With conference play looming in college basketball, most teams with NCAA Tournament aspirations are leaving the highly competitive tournaments and marquee matchups behind in favor of tune-ups vs. lesser competition.
That’s not the case in New York on Friday night. Kansas, one of the sport’s most heralded blue-bloods, heads to Elmont, NY for a game vs. St. John’s.
The Red Storm fell short of the Big Dance last season, but have their sights set on March in 2022. A date with one of the nation’s best teams is a perfect chance to add a resume building win. Can St. John’s take advantage with a win on its home floor?
Other than a loss to Dayton at the buzzer on Black Friday, Kansas has been as advertised this season. The Jayhawks entered the year highly ranked and have backed up that hype with a strong win over Michigan State at the Champions Classic and several other impressive performances.
The real eye-opener early on has been the play of Ochai Agbaji. Now a senior, the swingman showed tons of talent and promise in his first season as a Jayhawk before plateauing a bit in his second and third years in Lawrence.
This season, he’s making the leap many expected in prior seasons. Agbaji is averaging 22.5 points per game and shooting 42 percent from outside the arc on six attempts per game. His development has given Bill Self a dynamic go-to-guy and has Agbaji’s name on the short-list for end of year honors.
Agbaji is joined on the perimeter by Christian Braun and Arizona State transfer Remy Martin, both of whom are able to slash into the paint to create offense. Add in experienced center David McCormack on the block and Kansas has a difficult roster to defend.
The Jayhawks are top five in the nation in offensive efficiency so far this season. Much of that success has come inside the arc, where Kansas is shooting 58.8 percent, 13th-best nationally.
That success around the rim is reflected in Bill Self’s game plans too. The Jayhawks rank in just the 11th percentile in Division I in 3-point rate. Kansas plays fast and wants to slash your defense into the paint every time down the court.
The Johnnies can relate to a lot of what Kansas does well. Mike Anderson has his team playing fast (27th in tempo) and attacking the rim. St. John’s is currently shooting with the fifth-best 2-point percentage in the country.
So much of that interior success comes from St. John’s work in transition. Few teams are as good at turning defense into offense as the Red Storm. St. John’s forces turnovers at a top-20 rate in college basketball, after ranking 10th in steal rate last season.
The Johnnies play fast, active defense and are always looking to force a turnover that can create easy offense in the other direction.
The Red Storm are fueled offensively by a potent one-two punch. Julian Champagnie is an effective inside-outside threat. He’s hauling in seven rebounds, reaching the foul line four times and shooting seven shots from outside the arc on a nightly basis. He demands constant attention from the defense.
Champagnie works well with sophomore guard Posh Alexander. He is a quick creator with the ball in his hands, adding 6.6 assists to his 14.6 points per game.
St. John’s two best scorers also spark the defense, with each averaging more than two steals per game.
From the top down, this team is built to harass opposing ball handlers and find transition buckets.
St. John’s vs. Kansas Betting Pick
This is a crucial game on St. John’s schedule. To date, the Red Storm have played the third-easiest schedule in the nation, per KenPom.
St. John’s has played just one game against a team ranked in the top half of the country, a loss to Indiana at Assembly Hall. With the rigors of Big East play less than three weeks away, it’s time for St. John’s to test itself against top competition.
Kansas fits that bill and will offer quite a challenge for St. John’s. The Red Storm want to make this game chaotic, but Kansas is in the top-20 nationally in avoiding turnovers. That single statistic will go a long way in determining this game. If Kansas protects the ball, it’s likely that the Jayhawks can score in the half court.
In Lawrence, I’d be a lot more confident in the Jayhawks’ chances to control the ball. In New York, surviving the St. John’s pressure is a lot more difficult.
If this line was any lower, I’d think it’s a stay away or favor Kansas, but at +7 the value is on St. John’s to keep it close.
Pick: St. John’s +7