College Basketball Picks For Friday Present West Coast Flavor

Jay Pryce

Friday, December 8, 2017 12:36 PM UTC

Friday, Dec. 8, 2017 12:36 PM UTC

Our best college basketball bets Friday night target a game total wager in the St. John’s-Arizona State matchup in the Hall of Fame Classic at Staples Center, and a pick on a side when Air Force travels to UC Riverside.

St. John’s vs. No. 16 Arizona State

No. 16 Arizona State (7-0 SU, 6-1 ATS) is one of eight undefeated teams left in the country, off to its best start since the 1980-81 season when it claimed the old Pac-10 crown with a 24-4 record. It’s all on the line tonight at Staples Center in Los Angeles versus Big East-leading St. John’s (8-1 SU, 4-3 ATS).

The Sun Devils are all offense. The program ranks No. 4 in scoring (92.7), No. 3 in field goal percentage (53.1) and 16th in 3-pointers (42.0 percent) nationally. It is super efficient, helped by the fact it turns the ball over just 11.4 times a night (32nd). KenPom ranks the team sixth in adjusted efficiency, posting 117.1 points per 100 possessions.

The starting five is led by a trio of seniors: leading scorer Tra Holder (22.1 ppg), Shannon Evans (18.7 ppg), and Kodi Justice (15.0 ppg). Two others average double figures as well, both forwards: freshman Romello White (15.7 ppg) and junior De’Quon Lake (11.1 ppg). Head coach Bobby Hurley runs an unscripted motion offense with up to six audibles, utilizing team strengths and presenting equal opportunity. Here's Hurley discussing his approach to guard play with the Sun Devils:

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As one of the best to play the position, what does 2-time National Champion Bobby Hurley expect from his @SunDevilHoops guards?

— ESPNU Radio on SiriusXM (@ESPNUonSiriusXM) December 8, 2017

St. John’s has to be tired. This is its fifth road game in the last 16 days, winning three of its previous four. The Red Storm seems to have shed its reputation for lackluster defense under head coach Chris Mullin. They rank top-15 in the nation in five key statistical categories, including opponent scoring (60.0 ppg), opponent field goal percentage (36.1), and forced turnovers (20.3 per game). The competition has been so-so, ranking 214th in strength of schedule.

The Johnnies run a zone offense, which has yet to find its groove this season. They have a size disadvantage in the paint, forward Tariq Owens (6-11) the only starter standing above 6-foot-7 tall. They pick up an extra 24.3 points per game from takeaways, yet have not faced a team as stingy as the Sun Devils.

Both teams play up-tempo, ranking in the top-100 in pace. One will score 80-plus points, forcing the other to chase. Combined, the two are 14-4 to the ‘over’ playing on neutral hardwood behind Mullin and Hurley. St. John’s average game score is 170.3 in this spot, 156.4 for the Sun Devils. It’s a pretty safe bet tonight. Pick ‘over’ 158.5 points.

Free NCAAB Pick: Over 157Best Line Offered: at Heritage

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Air Force vs UC Riverside

Air Force (5-4 SU, 3-2 ATS) is abysmal outside of Clune Arena, going 13-58 SU in true road games in head coach Dave Piliovich’s tenure. Most defeats have come via tougher Mountain West competition than it will face tonight at UC Riverside (2-6 SU, 2-4 ATS). The media voted the Highlanders, which won just seven games last season, to finish second to last in the Big West.

Pilovich’s Falcons are 5-2 SU versus Big West competition, including winning three of four away from home. We’re expecting another victory tonight. The defense has proven it can contain the weaker talent, allowing 64.5 points per game on 41.7 percent shooting. UC Riverside enters ranked 342 in offensive efficiency. As a home underdog under head Dennis Cutts, it scores 63.7 per game on 41.1 percent from the floor. The point is, Air Force will really have to play poorly offensively to lose. Falcons win 68-62 and cover the bucket spread.

Free NCAAB Pick: Air Force -1.5Best Line Offered: at Pinnacle

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