UConn vs St. John’s Odds, Pick: Down Goes No. 1?

UConn vs St. John’s Odds, Pick: Down Goes No. 1? article feature image

Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images. Pictured: UConn forward Alex Karaban.

UConn vs St. John's Odds

Saturday, Feb. 3
12 p.m. ET
UConn Odds
Point SpreadTotal PointsMoneyline
-110o / -110u
St. John's Odds
Point SpreadTotal PointsMoneyline
-110o / -110u
Odds via BetMGM. Get up-to-the-minute NCAAB odds here.

Editor's Update: Alex Karaban (ankle) is out.

Rick Pitino's return to the Big East this season set up the potential for some high-profile clashes in Madison Square Garden.

On Saturday, Pitino's Red Storm will welcome the defending national champion and current No. 1 Connecticut to the world's most famous arena.

The Huskies held off a scare from Providence at home on Wednesday. Still, forward Alex Karaban picked up an injury, and his status is in doubt for this "road" game at St. John's that will probably be played closer to a neutral court given UConn's fanbase's presence in the New York City metropolitan area.

Connecticut beat St. John's by four at home earlier in the season, but the underlying box score suggests that the Red Storm won't be overmatched on the glass. Donovan Clingan didn't play in that matchup, but Clingan won't be able to dominate the interior when facing off against Joel Soriano of SJU.

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Connecticut Huskies

Karaban finished the game against Providence, but the Huskies have no reason to rush him back, given that he went in for X-rays on his ankle postgame and dealt with swelling on Thursday.

Knowing how healthy Karaban is is impossible, but his potential absence removes an elite perimeter shooter and a plus defender for the Huskies.

Evan Miya's player efficiency ratings make Karaban the third most valuable player on UConn this season. As dominant as they've been, the Huskies' performances in true road games show that they are not infallible. UConn won by one at Villanova, five at Butler, seven at Xavier, and lost at Seton Hall since league play began.

If you were trying to find weaknesses for UConn in their statistical profile, the ball handling has been shaky against top competition. Since league play began, the Huskies have turned it over on 16.7% of possessions, fourth worst in the Big East.

The Red Storm love to apply ball pressure and try to force turnovers, and the Huskies' ball-handling is getting increasingly questionable.

St. John's didn't shoot the ball well from the perimeter, as they made just 4 of 18 3s. They still managed to grab 10 offensive rebounds in total to remain closely competitive in that game. Connecticut's defensive rebounding numbers are below league average, and while Clingan is elite in the middle, the Huskies haven't been the same dominant rebounding team since Adama Sanogo graduated.

St. John's Red Storm

St. John's couldn't be shooting the ball worse in league play if it tried. The Red Storm have made 29% of 3s, which is by far the worst in the league — that includes lowly DePaul.

They've overcome that by dramatically improving the defensive metrics. While they rank 49th in KenPom's adjusted defensive efficiency, that number is skewed by COVID-19 running through the locker room in December. Since Jan. 1, the Red Storm rank 21st in defensive efficiency.

The offense could improve if the Storm could make a few more jumpers. If the shots fall, you're looking at a top-25 team the market is still undervaluing.

The matchup zone should help St. John's ability to disrupt the UConn offense. It would also help if the Red Storm didn't need to worry about Karaban running off screens because he's injured.

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UConn vs. St. John's

Betting Pick & Prediction

UConn may need to go deeper into its bench if Karaban can't provide his usual productivity.

The Red Storm showed in the first meeting they could hang with the physicality of the Huskies, and now they're catching multiple possessions in the Garden. Karaban's absence would limit the Huskies' ability to exploit their largest edge in this matchup — jump-shooting quality.

I'd bet St. John's at +4 or better, as it'll force enough turnovers to keep this game close late.

Pick: St. John's +4 or better

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