NCAAB Odds, Pick for St. John’s vs Providence
Photo by Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Devin Carter (Providence)
St. John's vs Providence Odds, Pick
You can't manufacture better stakes for a sporting event than two bubble teams battling for position late in the college hoops season. Down the stretch, the Big East is built for that kind of drama.
On bracketology aggregation site Bracket Matrix, the Big East currently has three of the final six teams in the field of 68, plus the first team out and two more receiving consideration. Every week will include multiple games between those six teams, wrestling for some safety on the bubble before the chaos of the Big East Tournament.
Tuesday night offers one of these critical matchups, with the St. John's Red Storm heading up I-95 to battle the Providence Friars.
A month ago, it seemed like a safe bet that we'd have the Red Storm playing in the postseason. A 12-4 start to the season — including a 4-1 mark in Big East play — announced St. John's as a factor in the conference.
Rick Pitino's re-build appeared to have reached hyper-speed, with a roster capable of a March run in just his first season in the Big Apple.
Since then, the Johnnies have stumbled, winning just two of their last eight games. Bracketologists project St. John's as one of the final teams in the Big Dance, though that assumes the Red Storm will stabilize, instead of continuing this descent.
St. John's has had issues at both ends of the floor, which compound in totality. The Red Storm have been sending opponents to the free-throw line far too often and giving up the second-highest offensive rebounding rate in the Big East.
Those defensive lapses slow down the St. John's offense, limiting transition opportunities and chances for easy looks.
On the offense end, when penned into the half court, this team gets stagnant and struggles. Early in the season, the Red Storm relied on the extra possessions and put backs found on the offensive glass. That has dried up in Big East play.
St. John's is fourth in the nation in grabbing its own misses, doing so 39.3% of the time, yet third in the Big East in that same metric, nabbing only 34.9% in conference play. After grabbing 15.8 offensive rebounds per game in their first nine games of the season, the Johnnies hauled in just 11.5 in their last 10.
St. John's, in its current form, doesn't add up to the sum of its parts. The Red Storm botched a 15-point lead (failing to even cover an 8.5-point spread) at Marquette on Saturday, largely due to all-conference big man Joel Soriano managing just two points on four field goal attempts.
When Kentucky transfer and All-Big East performer Bryce Hopkins was lost to a season-ending injury, many wrote off the Providence Friars. In a deep Big East, it would be tough sledding for a team under a new head coach to find the answers to stay afloat.
To Providence's credit, the Friars have done exactly that.
The answers have come largely on the backs of two players: Devin Carter and Josh Oduro.
Carter has played like a lock for All-Big East first team honors and should be in the mix for Big East Player of the Year. He leads the conference in points per game and ranks 12th in assists per game and fourth in rebounds as a 6-foot-3 guard.
Take defensive analytics with a grain of salt, but he leads the Big East in Defensive Box Plus/Minus and Defensive Win Shares.
Before Hopkins got hurt, Carter was posting 16.2 points per game, without a game over 25 points. Since the injury, Carter is posting 22.5 points per game, with 25+ points in five of 10 outings.
His volume has increased, yet he's still efficient and, more than anything, clutch. His 3-pointer from the logo against Creighton was one of the ballsiest shots of the season, paying off with a win in overtime over the ranked Bluejays.
Oduro has also come on strong of late, tossing up 20.7 points and 8.6 rebounds per game in his last seven. He's added a presence on the interior that frees up space for Carter, rather than forcing his point guard to do everything in isolation.
Oduro was sorely missed when he didn't play at Butler this weekend, following the recent birth of his child. Butler hammered Providence on the glass without the big-bodied Oduro, though he's expected to return to the court for this home game against the Johnnies.
Throughout this late season swoon by St. John's, each game has felt like the one where Pitino snaps his team back to life. That's a tough ask on the road at Providence.
Over the last five seasons, the Friars are 36-23 ATS at home, third-best among power-conference programs in that span (and best in the Big East).
When the game is between two relatively evenly-matched clubs, Providence responds. In the last five years, when playing as the home team in game where the spread is between -5.5 and +5.5, the Friars are 24-8 ATS, a winning percentage of .750.
The first time these teams met, St. John's jumped out to a 20-5 lead, thanks to a brutal start by the Friars. In the game's first 7.5 minutes, the Friars had just two buckets to five turnovers, but they battled back to lose the game by just two points, spurred by a 31-point, 13-rebound performance for Carter.
On their home floor, I'd bet against another sluggish outing and instead expect the Friars to continue their winning ways in their home arena.