The tide has begun to finally turn back in UConn’s direction after the Huskies fell flat early in Big East play. They have big wins over Marquette, Seton Hall, and Providence in recent weeks and look like the Final Four contender we saw early in the season. UConn’s January slide included a home loss to St. John’s. Can the Red Storm notch a season sweep of the Huskies?
Let’s take a look at the odds and make some picks and predictions for Saturday’s matchup at Madison Square Garden.
UConn vs. St. John’s Odds
UConn enters as a 7.5-point favorite, sitting at -335 on the moneyline. The over/under is 152.5 points.
The Huskies continue to trend positively and enter as decisive favorites against a St. John’s team that just hasn’t played up to its talent level. The Red Storm did beat Providence two weeks ago, and they picked up a win over UConn in January. Are they due for more success, or is UConn officially back in business?
UConn vs. St. John’s Prediction & Pick
UConn is nowhere near the same team it was when it lost to St. John’s in January. The Huskies have bounced back strongly, even if some questions remain on the offensive end, and their defense has continued to make a difference against some of the Big East’s best teams.
There are no guarantees when betting UConn – it’s been tough to gauge which offensive options will show up, and when – but St. John’s poor defense should allow the Huskies’ shooters to have a productive day.
The Johnnies have picked up some wins lately, but huge questions are surrounding the program after two suspensions and hot seat conversation about Mike Anderson. Considering this isn’t a true road game for UConn (MSG should have plenty of Huskies fans), Dan Hurley’s group is poised for a sizable win. UConn -7.5 is the pick.
UConn vs. St. John’s Key Matchups
UConn was arguably the nation’s most complete team over the first six weeks of the season, but an inconsistent offense has doomed the Huskies even as their defense remains strong. The unit has shown signs of breaking out lately, scoring 80+ points against DePaul, Marquette, and Providence in their last six games, but UConn has still had its share of issues on the road. A matchup with St. John’s at MSG won’t be a straight road game, but it’s not Gampel Pavilion.
The offense still runs through Adama Sanogo, who had a quieter day with only 14 points against St. John’s the last time these two played. The Red Storm have played solid interior defense this year and can rebound as well as any team in the nation with Joel Soriano in the paint.
The Huskies will need something out of their secondary options. The key is likely Jordan Hawkins, who is coming off back-to-back 20-point games and exploded for 31 points against this team in January. UConn can’t afford an off night from Hawkins, and Dan Hurley’s team could really use better days from Andre Jackson Jr. and Tristen Newton (combined 2 PTS vs. St. John’s in January).
Newton has been too inconsistent this year, turning in a great stretch earlier in the month with two 20+ point games and a triple-double but shooting just 5-of-18 over his last three games. Opponents are shooting a strong 35% from beyond the arc against St. John’s, so this feels like a bounce-back opportunity for some of the Huskies’ unreliable shooters.
St. John’s has suffered on the defensive end, allowing 74.5 points per game, but the offense has been good enough. The Red Storm scored 85 points on UConn in January, which probably can’t be replicated but serves as a good sign. The Huskies will need to do a better job of containing Soriano, who has established himself as a walking double-double.
Posh Alexander will be a key scorer for St. John’s against this UConn defense that allows opponents to shoot just 40.9%. Don’t expect many threes from the Johnnies in this game. St. John’s ranks 332nd in three-point attempts and 2nd in two-point attempts, plus opponents are shooting under 30% from three against UConn. David Jones will get some shots up from long-distance, but Soriano and Alexander will handle most of the business for St. John’s closer to the basket.
It’s hard to imagine such a talented Huskies defense experiencing the same struggles against a one-dimensional offense. UConn similarly struggled with Seton Hall’s frontcourt in January and bounced back strongly last weekend. The Johnnies’ best bet is for Soriano to overpower the Huskies.