As part of our mission of handicapping March Madness with our NCAA Tournament Picks, we focus now on St. Johns vs. San Diego St., paying close attention to the point spread.?
St. Johns (9) vs. San Diego St. (8) (-4) 9:40 ET CBS
East meets West in this 2015 NCAA Tournament matchup as the St. Johns’ Redmen (the No. 9 seed) square off with the No. 8 seed, San Diego St. Aztecs. This is a matchup which features a pair of divergent styles. Under 5th year HC Steve Lavin, St. Johns prefers a 94’ full court pace. On the other bench is 16th year HC Steve Fisher, whose Aztecs rely on controlling the tempo and playing great defense for the pointspread success. The team who gets their preferred pace in this game will most probably emerge as the victor.
St. John’s has suspended starting big man, Chris Obekpa, for 2 weeks for a violation of team rules. They are underdogs in tonight's NCAA Tournament Odds. This is a major blow to the hopes of the Red Storm, as Obekpa has recorded nearly 100 blocks for the season (fifth best in the nation). In a major contrast of styles between the up-tempo preferences of St. Johns and the pace-conscience style of San Diego St., the loss of Obekpa could clearly be felt. That slower tempo, defensive style coached by 16th year Aztec mentor, Steve Fisher, could easily frustrate the high-scoring senior duo of Harrison and Pointer, who will not thrive in a game at this tempo. In that regard, it should be noted that San Diego St. has allowed 64 or greater points, only 3 times. Loss of Obekpa further exacerbates the fact that St. Johns enters this event with a -3.8 rebound margin. As a result, the preference on these pages is for the defensive prowess of the Aztecs.
San Diego St., under the tight reigns of veteran mentor Steve Fisher allows just 53 PPG on 38% shooting and 30% from behind the arc. Though the MWC was a bit down this season, the Aztecs were steeled by a pre-season slate that included victories against both, Utah and BYU, as well as a 2 point loss to Arizona. Finally, with the 45-43 loss to Wyoming fresh in their mind, we must point out to those placing NCAA tournament picks that the Aztecs are 7-0 SU following each of their losses this season.
From a situational perspective, note that the Aztecs qualify in a better than 70% ATS situation that backs Round of 64 favorites to -16, who are coming off a straight up and ATS loss, if they are facing a sub.668 foe who is also coming off a defeat. Tough to call for a margin with a team that averages just 62 PPG. But, the Aztec rim rattlers in Shepard, Polee and Pope should do enough business down low to get the Aztecs this victory.
NCAA Tournament Picks: Take San Diego St. -4.5 at Pinnacle