NCAAM Pick December 2, 2020 – St. John’s Red Storm at BYU Cougars

Our steaming hot start to the college basketball season continued yesterday when we backed the Oklahoma State Cowboys as underdogs against the Golden Eagles of Marquette. I felt that the Cowboys were being a bit underrated in the betting market and that the Golden Eagles were being a bit overpriced. The Cowboys won’t be dancing in March, as they are on a postseason ban this year, but I do feel that they have a talented roster and that they are going to cause issues for some of the top teams in the Big 12 this year.

The fact that they were underdogs against a Marquette team that lost their best player from last year, Markus Howard, with no real plan on how to replace his scoring production was a bit surprising. This wasn’t one of those slam dunk plays where I felt like I was printing free money, but I did feel like OK State was the better overall team and that the Golden Eagles were only favored because they were at home.

Whether it has been Duke losing at Cameron Indoor or Kansas losing at the Phog, we have seen that home-court advantage just isn’t holding up without fans in the stands, so I felt that this was a coin flip game at best, and fired on OK State getting +4-points.

The Cowboys led for much of the second half and found a way to win the game outright, as betting favorites. That stronger than most people realize Cowboys defense forced 24 turnovers and held the Golden Eagles to just 34% shooting from the field. Games like this one where nobody could hit a shot or bring the ball up the floor effectively is where Marquette is going to really miss Markus Howard this year, and while many people see the Golden Eagles as an NCAA tournament team this year, I don’t. For today’s free daily betting pick, we will breakdown the action between BYU and St. John’s!

Today’s Game

  • St. John’s Red Storm (3-0) at BYU Cougars (3-1)
  • Mohegan Sun Arena, Uncasville
  • 2:00 PM PST
  • TV: ESPN2

The BYU Cougars square off with the St. John’s Red Storm in a non-conference game between two teams hoping to play their way onto the NCAA tournament bubble this season. The Cougars started out their season beating up on weaker competition but ran into a buzz saw last night when they got blown out by the USC Trojans. A WCC title is likely not in the cards for BYU, with the Gonzaga Bulldogs having a firm grip on the league, so wins like this one in the non-conference are going to go a long way into the Cougar’s hearing their names called on Selection Sunday in March.

For St. John’s, the Red Storm have looked great so far this season, as they have run up an undefeated record at 3-0. They held off a late-surging BC Eagles team in their last game, nearly blowing a 13-point lead with under 3-minutes left to play, but holding on in the end for the win. The Big East is going to be challenging this season, and wins are going to be hard to come by for the Johnnies, they would love to pick up a top-100 victory tonight over BYU.

Spread:

  • BYU Cougars (-1.5)
  • St. John’s Red Storm (+1.5)
Money line:

  • BYU Cougars (-120)
  • St. John’s Red Storm (+100)
Total Points:

  • Over 152.5 (-110)
  • Under 152.5 (-110)

St. John’s Red Storm (3-0)

I am not convinced this St. John’s team is actually any good. But their run and gun tempo has led them to being one of the higher scoring teams in the country right now, at 85-points a game, and while none of their wins are overly impressive, they all came against teams inside of the top-150 nationally. They share the ball on offense, they hit their free throws, and they are well-coached and that has led to some early season success.

The Johnnies use one of the deepest rotations in the nation as they have 9-players that regularly see the floor. This allows them to play their very fast tempo without burning guys out. That is going to be key tonight against a BYU team that has a completely overhauled roster from last year.

Freshman point guard Posh Alexander has been a pleasant surprise for Mike Anderson’s team as he has played well and leads the teams in minutes per game. Anderson was not a highly recruited player out of high school, but the kid is homegrown from Brooklyn and has been solid for St. John’s. Alexander is averaging 14 points, and nearly 5 rebounds and 4 assists a game. If he can keep those numbers up, the Johnnies just might have a leader that can get them into the NCAA tournament this year.

BYU Cougars (3-1)

BYU has an entirely new team this season after getting gutted by the loss of five seniors last year. The Cougars have brought in a bunch of transfers to help fill that void, and for the most part, they have done a solid job. But when you look at their three wins this year, they all came to teams ranked in the 300’s nationally. Wins are wins early in the season, but none of those wins are going to help get BYU above the cutline in March.

The Cougars are scoring a lot of points, but they aren’t doing it very efficiently, as they are ranked just 87th in the nation in offensive efficiency per kenpom. If you compare that to last season, when they finished 7th in offensive efficiency, it tells me that BYU hasn’t found a way to replace all of that scoring production they lost from last year, despite scoring a bunch of points against bad teams. The high point totals have masked the struggles on the offensive side of the ball, and BYU head coach Mark Pope needs to find a way to be better scoring the basketball if they want to make the NCAA tournament.

Who Do I Like?

Yesterday, the public hammered BYU in their game against USC, moving the line four and a half points. I jumped on the other side and cashed an easy winner when the Trojans blew the Cougars out. Today, the Cougars again opened up as underdogs, and I guess the public hasn’t learned their lesson, as again, they are backing the Cougars heavily and have moved this number two points towards BYU.

I am going to go with an if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it approach, and again fade the public and the BYU Cougars. Stylistically this game should be fast-paced and high scoring. But when I look at the data, it tells me that St. John’s is better on both sides of the floor and against significantly better competition. St. John’s has an SOS of 137th, whereas the Cougars are sitting at 187th, playing a very soft slate of games thus far.

The Bet

This is another spot where the line move will dictate my play. Kenpom has St. John’s winning this game by three points. That gives us a four-and-a-half-point gap between what the data tells us and what the public thinks is the right number. That is a nice chunk of value and where I will make my stand. I do think that the Cougars have a higher ceiling than this St. John’s team does, as they have talent, they just hasn’t gelled yet.

If this game came in February, I might lean the other way. But the data tells me the side to be on is St. John’s, and I am going to fade the Cougars for the second consecutive night and expect the same outcome. Give me the St. John’s Red Storm tonight, getting a point and a half from the Bubble in Uncasville!

The Bet: St. John’s Red Storm +1.5

My Pick
St. John’s Red Storm +1.5
Jason Gray / Author

Jason is a true Las Vegas insider as he has called the sports betting capital of the world his home for sixteen years. Jason started out his career in gaming by running the biggest poker tournaments in the world and managing some of the biggest sportsbooks on the strip. Jason has transitioned out of casino operations and has been covering sports betting for the sports geek for just over two years. His main focus is on baseball, college basketball, and the NFL