Marquette vs. St. John’s Pick NCAA – Jan 21st

We notched a second straight Big 12 winner last night, thanks to a solid effort on the road from a game Kansas State squad at Iowa State.   The Cyclones ended up with a 77-71 win but the result was still in question to the final minute of the game, just as expected. Kansas State is one of the few unranked teams in the conference, but has shown at 4-2 that they are going to be a factor in the race for the most balanced and deepest conference in the country.

Meanwhile, the Kentucky Wildcats once again showed why they are one of the more unpredictable wagers in sports (and why I have steadfastly adhered to the self-imposed “no betting UK games” rule). They put forth a sluggish and lethargic effort against Missouri, still winning comfortably enough, but never even coming close to the dominating performance a -22 line indicated was warranted. They barely showed up, as they have now three times in conference play and you just never know whether a 40-point muscle-flexing blowout is coming or of they will simply slumber through the motions.

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I think I am personally swearing off the SEC for a while in general. South Carolina, who I was high on a few weeks ago, has been dreadful lately, losing again last night, this time at home to Tennessee, to fall to 1-4 and last place in the SEC. The Florida Gators, who showed signs of turning things around and living up to their talent level, got boatraced by LSU 79-61, who looks once again like the team I thought could finish second in the SEC… in short, the conference is an unpredictable mess right now. I’m heading for more stable waters.

Today’s Free Pick:

Marquette Golden Eagles at St. John’s Red Storm -7

The Big Twelve is starting to get the national love, as well as mine, but it is worth noting that heading into conference play, no league had better acquitted themselves than the new-look Big East. They have five teams in the RPI top 25, seven teams in the Top 45 with St. John’s coming in at said #45. The Red Storm were nationally ranked and flying high until the Big East meat grinder chewed them up the last two weeks, sending them to 1-4 in league play and well outside the national rankings.

Marquette is ahead of St. John’s in the conference standings, but a little of that is a function of schedule. I expect the Red Storm to finish higher than Marquette when it’s all said and done. St. John’s has lost to Villanova and at Seton Hall and Butler. However, the most recent loss at DePaul is a little troubling. Marquette has beaten Providence and Creighton at home and lost all three road games.

What intrigues me is the competitive nature of Marquette’s losses. This team is unarguably still a year away from being good. However, Coach Wojo has instilled some of his trademark toughness in this year’s team and anyone hosting Marquette isn’t going to get the easy win they may have hoped for. In their losses at DePaul, Georgetown and Xavier, every game was still in question until the final minutes before falling by 3,6, and 4 points respectively.

I see no reason why they won’t put up a good fight again tonight in the Garden.

Free Pick: Marquette Golden Eagles +7

Chris Scheeren / Author