NCAA Basketball Pick on St. John’s to Close on NCAA Berth

LT Profits Sports Group

Monday, February 23, 2015 3:15 PM GMT

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The home team motivated by getting closer to securing an NCAA Tournament bid gets our call Monday night when the Xavier Musketeers (18-10, 4-6 away) pay a visit to those St. John’s Red Storm (18-9, 12-3 home) at Madison Square Garden in New York, NY at 8:00 ET in a game televised nationally on FOX Sports 1.

The point spread at Bet365 has St. John’s as a small home favorite for this contest with the current line at -1½ with odds of -105.


Win Could Put Red Storm in Good Shape
St. John’s is 18-9 under Coach Steve Lavin and the Red Storm are trying to get over .500 in Big East play tonight, coming in with a 7-7 conference mark. We personally had St. John’s as one of our last four teams in the NCAA Tournament in our last update Friday, and the Red Storm have certainly helped their cause since by beating Seton Hall 85-72 Saturday to avenge an earlier loss to the Pirates. Another win here could go a long way toward that NCAA berth.

Xavier is actually one-half game worse than St. John’s overall at 18-10, but the Musketeers are ranked higher on the Pomeroy Ratings at a very good 26th overall compared to a 38th ranking for the Red Storm and Xavier is one-half game up inside the conference at 8-7. The Musketeers have been the winning NCAA Basketball picks on four of their last five games, but the one loss in this span came back home in Cincinnati to this St. John’s team 78-70 on Valentine’s Day.


Tough at Home So Far
That road win just might be the most important for the Red Storm all season as they have been fine at home going 12-3 while losing to only Gonzaga, Villanova and Butler, all “good” losses, but the Red Storm had not had as much success on the road. Now, that road win over a Xavier team ranked 26th on Pomeroy coupled with an earlier road win vs. a Providence team that has since climbed to 33rd could shine a nice light on the Storm for the selection committee.

Of course that would go out the window if the Johnnies do not continue to take care of business at home, and just like they completed a season sweep of Providence, they now have a chance to do the same thing to Xavier at Madison Square Garden. And St. John’s is certainly solid enough and balanced enough to do so, ranking 47th in the country in offensive efficiency and 63rd in defensive efficiency.

Granted the Red Storm’s effective field goal percentage could be better as it stands at 49.8 percent, but that is still just above the national average of 49.0 percent and, much like the first meeting at Xavier when the Storm had a raw shooting percentage of 51.8 percent (29-for-56), they can do better than their average vs. the sometimes leaky Xavier defense. On the other end, St. John’s is a very good 57th in effective field goal percentage allowed at just 45.8 percent.


Musketeers Allow a High Percentage
Xavier could have a better Big East record than 8-7 as six of those seven losses were by single-digits with the lone exception being a 13-point loss to Villanova, which is one of the better teams in the entire country. However, while almost always having a chance to win is commendable, the disturbing part has been a defense that has been the main reason the Musketeers are not always successful in closing the deal.

Granted the Xavier defensive efficiency rating is ranked a good enough 72nd in the country, but that ranking gets a bump from being an excellent defensive rebounding team. The disturbing parts have been ranking 218th in the land in effective field goal percentage allowed at 50.0 percent and ranking only 147th in defensive turnover percentage.

That relative lack of pressure comes into play here because St. John’s does not make many mistakes while ranking an outstanding 11th in offensive turnover percentage at a mere 15.7 percent vs. a national average of 19.3 percent, so the Red Storm can basically run their offense relatively unencumbered here.


Not Great Bets on Road
Finally, note that Xavier has a losing 4-6 road record overall and the Musketeers have also been bad bets away from Cincinnati, going 4-9 AST in their last 13 road contests going back to last season.

Look for that pattern to continue here and for St. John’s to complete a season sweep of Xavier at home as the Red Storm take one step closer to an NCAA Tournament at-large bid on Monday.

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NCAA Basketball Pick: St. John’s -1½ (-105)