College Basketball Odds, Picks and Predictions for Butler vs. St. John’s (Thursday, Dec. 23)
Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images. Pictured: Dylan Addae-Wusu
Editor’s Note: Thursday’s game between Butler and St. John’s has been postponed due to COVID-19 issues.
With the holidays approaching, college basketball takes its first meaningful turn of the season. While tournaments and non-conference matchups will continue to dot the landscape, the energy of conference play takes hold over much of the schedule.
For a league like the Big East, where the teams jostling in the middle of the pack are also fighting for bubble positioning, this time of the year can be critical.
In Thursday’s meeting between St. John’s and Butler, both teams are coming off of a tough non-conference loss and eager to win their Big East opener.
The current swath of COVID cases throughout the sport has not spared this game, with St. John’s having a debilitated roster. Could that be enough to make the Butler Bulldogs a feisty underdog on the road?
2021-22 is a critical year for the Butler program. In year five with LaVall Jordan at the helm, the magic sheen of the Brad Stevens era now feels like ancient history. Jordan has led Butler to just one NCAA Tournament in that span, though they surely would have played in the cancelled 2020 tourney.
Last season was Butler’s lowest final KenPom ranking dating back to 1997. There was some optimism for a turnaround this season, though injuries have played a major factor.
Only two players have been able to start all nine of Butler’s games against D1 competition. Most notably, high-usage guard Chuck Harris missed the Bulldogs’ last game against Purdue. His continued absence would be big enough to swing the line a few points in this game.
With or without Harris in the lineup, Jordan wants his guys playing a slow pace and winning games on the defensive end of the floor. The Butler offense has been a mess this season, shooting poorly and turning the ball over.
Against a fiery St. John’s defense on the road, scoring will be an uphill battle.
St. John’s has been a mild disappointment to date this season. The Red Storm are, once again, looking to push the pace and create turnovers that make for easy transition baskets.
In games against lesser competition, that has worked out just fine. But top competition has not been the norm on the schedule. St. John’s has played the 338th-ranked schedule (out of 358 teams) this season, per KenPom.
St. John’s has played just three games against power conference teams: a nail-biting loss at Indiana, a blowout loss to Kansas and a dreadful defeat to a pitiful Pitt team. That doesn’t sound like a team ready for the rigors of the Big East.
That is especially true with Julian Champagnie sidelined. The junior forward leads the Red Storm in points, rebounds and minutes played, but is currently sidelined in the COVID protocols.
He’s joined by contributors Joel Soriano and Tareq Coburn. In fact, the Johnnies will have just eight scholarship players available Thursday.
Posh Alexander will be expected to pick up the slack. His 16 points and five assists per night make him the centerpiece with Champagnie sidelined.
College Basketball Odds for Butler vs. St. John’s
-110o / -110u
|St. John’s Odds|
-110o / -110u
Butler vs. St. John’s Betting Pick
The most important item when considering this game: I’m not going anywhere near either side until I have a finalized sense of who will be taking the floor.
If Harris doesn’t play, the St. John’s defense likely suffocates a Butler team that is already prone to coughing up turnovers.
If Harris does play and the Red Storm’s issues with COVID stay limited to the three players we already expected to miss the game, this line is much more difficult to parse.
I’d still lean St. John’s at home in a game that is far from “must-win” but would certainly raise some major concerns if the Johnnies were to drop it.
If any more of St. John’s players test positive, this game could be in danger of being postponed. On the slim chance that more of the Red Storm are ruled out but the game is played, Butler suddenly starts to look appealing.
Pick: St. John’s -6, pending availability of players