St. John's Laying Points To Penn State In Holiday Festival

Jay Pryce

Sunday, December 18, 2016 3:57 PM UTC

Sunday, Dec. 18, 2016 3:57 PM UTC

St. John’s is a 3-point favorite versus Penn State in the Holiday Festival at Madison Square Garden on Sunday morning (11 p.m. ET). Don't miss this early tip off. Read up on our game pick.

Penn State Nittany Lions (6-5 SU, 5-4 ATS)

Head coach Pat Chambers leads a Penn State team into the Garden that is 6-1 SU and 5-1-1 ATS against Big East opponents over the last decade. Scoring comes from all over the court. The team fields five players averaging double digits. Junior guards Shep Garner leads the squad in points (14.5) and minutes (34.0) per game. The Nittany Lions are undersized. Freshman Mike Watkins, at 6-foot-9, is the best player down low. He’s averaging nearly a double-double on the season with 10.2 points and 8.0 boards per game. Defense is his forte, swatting 37 shot attempts this season. Penn State is also good at applying backcourt pressure. It forces 15.5 turnovers per game. The UNDER is 7-2 when the Nittany Lions take the court this season. The only OVERs hit when forcing 12 or fewer freebies.

 St. John’s Red Storm (5-6 SU, 5-5 ATS)

The Red Storm blow into this matchup off an embarrassing 74-73 loss to cross-town rivals LIU-Brooklyn as 14.5-point chalk. The Holiday Festival might prove the perfect rebound situation; St. John’s has won six in a row at the event. Second-year head coach Chris Mullin has the squad emulating his former NBA play; everyone can drain 3-pointers. The Johnnies shoot 41.2 percent from downtown as a team. Big East freshman of the year candidate Shamorie Ponds is hitting nearly 45 percent from behind the arc. Ponds ranks seventh in scoring for frosh nationally.

The Red Storm are a force to be reckoned with in the paint defensively. Kassoum Yakwe and Tariq Owens have 33 and 30 blocks on the season respectively. Altogether, the unit has swatted 82 shots, second most in the country.

 Final Analysis

Both of theses teams are very young, and each has experienced a baptism by fire if you will with tough non-conference schedules. Penn State has tipped off against Duke, Cincinnati, and most recently Pitt, while St. John’s has faced Michigan State, Minnesota, and VCU. Neither squad won any of the aforementioned matchups. The Nittany Lions, though, are proving a tad more consistent overall. St. Johns has dropped four games versus sub-200 ranked teams in Ken Pomeroy’s ratings this season. One of these included a 79-72 defeat to Delaware State in late November. The Red Storm went off 22.5-point favorites for that one; it’s the Hornets only win this year.

The Johnnies have homecourt advantage and are boosted by the return of guard Marcus Lovett from ankle injury in this one. A bet against the spread is tough to pin down with two unpredictable shooting teams. The UNDER 148 presents the best value with a couple of cold stretches  bound to unfold.


Free NCAA Basketball Picks: St. John's -3.5Best Line Offered: at 5Dimes

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