There is much at stake in Saturday night’s Big East rematch featuring Seton Hall and St. John’s (Fox Sports 1, 8 p.m.).
Both teams have been in recent bubble chatter for the NCAA Tournament.
St. John’s is in better shape, but has some very ugly losses on its résumé. Seton Hall has little margin of error left after losing to Xavier on Wednesday night as a 5 ¹/₂-point favorite at home.
Both are in the quirky position of being tied for third place in a 10-team league despite not possessing a win-loss record better than .500 in conference action. The Big Dance selection committee has been known to frown on teams that suffered losing records in their conference.
Both are 7-7 with four games remaining. Time is of the essence, and will really be of the essence for whichever team falls to 7-8 with three games remaining.
We’ve discussed the amazing inconsistency of St. John’s a few times this season. Looking from a market perspective paints a stunning picture. Just in the past three weeks …
- St. John’s followed up an impressive 83-67 road win at Creighton (20-point cover) with a humbling 91-61 loss at Duke (13-point non-cover).
- St. John’s followed up an impressive 70-69 road upset of revenge-minded Marquette (7¹/₂-point cover) with a staggering 70-56 home loss to Providence (19¹/₂-point non-cover).
- St. John’s followed up an impressive 71-65 come-from-behind upset of Villanova (10-point cover) with a very ugly 78-59 loss at Providence (18-point non-cover).
The Red Storm’s 7-7 mark in the Big East includes a 3-1 record (.750) versus league powers Marquette and Villanova, but a 4-6 mark (.400) versus everyone else. Against the spread, it’s 4-0 ATS versus the powers, 4-5-1 ATS versus everyone else … which is 3-7 ATS in regulation, but 1-0-1 counting a pair of overtimes.
If you assume the yo-yo trend continues, St. John’s will be in bounce-back mode off that pasting at Providence and will have a revenge angle in its favor. Seton Hall won the first meeting this season 76-74, failing to cover as a 3-point home favorite. Note that the Red Storm kept that one close despite the fact Shamorie Ponds shot 2-for-13 from the floor, and Seton Hall had a 43-28 edge in rebounding.
Classic handicapping strategies will favor the revenge-minded home favorite in the bounce-back spot. Seton Hall, however, has the greater sense of urgency. The Pirates still must play rematches against Villanova and Marquette. A loss to St. John’s could put Seton Hall on the wrong side of the bubble very soon.
VSiN’s estimate of “market” Power Ratings shows Seton Hall hasn’t been getting much respect from the combination of oddsmakers and sharps that shape point spreads. Our latest neutral-site scale:
Villanova 83, Marquette 82, St. John’s 78, Butler 78, Creighton 78, Seton Hall 76, Providence 76, DePaul 76, Georgetown 75, Xavier 74.
Given talent and remaining schedule, St. John’s is clearly in much more control of its own destiny. It’s time to take a firmer grip.