When it comes to college basketball, there are a few teams that just need to be good for the season to feel normal. Like in football, it feels weird when Michigan, Texas, Tennessee, and Miami all falter. In basketball, North Carolina, Duke, and Villanova all fit that role. Since the retirement of legendary coach Jay Wright, the Wildcats have severely fallen off in their first year without him. Can they bounce back against the hectic St John’s Red Storm?
Villanova Vs. St Johns Odds
Oddsmakers don’t think so as they opened Villanova as a +3.5 underdog. Bettors are in agreement, backing St Johns up to as high as -4.5 in some shops. Theye benefit from a great home court advantage as well as a stifling defense to shut down the Wildcats offensive production. While not a great offensive unit themselves, they benefit from going against an uncharacteristically poor Villanova defense that can make any anemic unit look good at this point of the season.
Speaking of poor defense, oddsmakers believe points are going to be scored at a blistering pace as they opened the total at 151. Bettors have yet to make a stand on either end, keeping the total the same as the open as of writing. This is an abnormally high number for a game that features St Johns, but justified nonetheless as the Villanova defense has been that awful when compared to their normal elite standards. Can St John’s capitalize on their poor defense and turn it into points at a consistent rate?
Villanova Vs. St Johns Prediction & Pick
The Pick: St Johns -4
I believe so and that is exactly why I am backing them at the current spread of -4. I would take them up to -5.5 for a much smaller wager, a number we may possibly see as this has already crept up to -4.5. Their offense isn’t pretty, but Nova’s poor defense gives them an opportunity to score at a consistent rate. They will need all the help they can get as St John’s offense currently ranks 71st in Adjusted Offensive Efficiency per Kenpom.
They play pretty deep into their bench, giving nine players meaningful minutes but their brunt of scoring comes from just three players in double digit figures. In the off chance they are slowed to a half court possession, they play a more old school conservative style as big man Joel Soriano runs the offense off the block by averaging 16.5 points per game. He possesses a strong finishing ability by shooting 62.4% and bringing in second chance points with elite rebounding.
Soriano will have his number routinely called upon once again as Villanova’s interior defense is atrocious. While their defense is awful as a whole per elite standards, ranking 160th in Adjusted Defensive Efficiency, they give up the highest opposing field goal percentage at the rim in the Big East. This bodes well for Soriano and company as they struggle to convert at the rim at a consistent rate. With a weak defense giving them little to no resistance, Soriano should be able to finish with ease.
Not only are they given the opportunity to convert at the rim at a high rate, but they will also be gifted open looks from the perimeter. A much-needed opportunity as the Red Storm lack a perimeter presence by shooting only 31.7% from deep as a team. Should Soriano be able to convert early and often, Villanova may sacrifice perimeter defense to help down low, giving the Red Storm open looks to convert on.
Villanova Vs. St Johns Key Matchups
Can St John’s limit the Villanova scoring production?
Villanova three-point shooting vs St Johns perimeter defense
While their defense is playing historically bad in comparison to their championship past selves, their offense has been able to somewhat maintain an efficient rate. They currently rank 30th in Adjusted Offensive Efficiency per Kenpom.
The scheme remains the same even under a new regime, looking for the best opportunity from the perimeter with elite ball movement. The difference this season has been that they have not converted at their usual rate, only converting at 33.5% from deep.
St Johns relishes in a Havoc style type of defense, flying around the perimeter and disrupting passing lanes. This will force Villanova into low quality looks and disruptions, giving St John’s the opportunity to turn defense into offense.
Back the Red Storm at no higher than -5.5 in what serves as an opportunity for their offense to find consistent scoring success while their defense limits Villanova’s scoring production.