How to watch and listen
When: 2:30 p.m. Eastern
Radio: UConn Sports Network
What to know
Line: UConn -10.5, O/U 143
KenPom Predicted Score: UConn 77, St. John’s 66
After a weeklong break because of Villanova’s program pause, No. 25 UConn men’s basketball has its first home game of 2021 on the horizon Monday against St. John’s. Head coach Mike Anderson’s Red Storm have hit a snag in conference play after a near-perfect non-conference run. They started the season 5-1, losing only to BYU, but have won just two of their first eight conference games, including a loss to Georgetown. They have yet to beat a team ranked in the top-90 in KenPom in six games so far.
The Red Storm have one of the top-scoring offenses in the Big East, averaging 79 points per game, good for third-best behind Creighton (81.9) and Villanova (80.1).
Most of that scoring has been from inside the arc, which may benefit them against UConn (7-1, 4-1 Big East) since that is also where the Huskies have allowed a majority of their scoring as well (55.1%), according to KenPom. It could also lead to their downfall in this game, though, since they have been blocked on 10% of their 2-point attempts this season. UConn is the No. 21 among the nation’s best blocking teams, swatting 13.7% of 2-point attempts.
The Red Storm have struggled to stop opponents so far this season. Through 12 games, they’ve allowed 78.5 points per game – including four games where their opponent scored 90 or more points. They especially struggle to limit 3-point scoring, allowing opponents to hit 37% from deep. If Tyler Polley can find his shooting stroke once again, the Huskies could separate quickly.
St. John’s also has the conference’s leading scorer in sophomore Julian Champagnie (20.7). The 6-8 forward is leading the Red Storm in points, rebounds, blocks, 3-point shooting, and free throw percentage. He has four double-doubles on the year and has yet to score less than 13 points in a game.
In terms of ball movement, Paul Scruggs is the best in the Big East – dishing 6.3 assists per game. St. John’s’ Posh Alexander is a playmaker as well, averaging 4.5 per game in one of the highest tempo offenses in the country. UConn’s defense is going to have to be active in transition for them to stifle Alexander and Champagnie.
Outside of Champagnie, this is a very guard-heavy St. John’s team. Their next best rebounder is Isaih Moore, who is averaging 5.3 boards per game to go along with 9.1 points. Moore is their tallest player at 6-10 and one of five players on their roster over 6-6, but he’s only 205 pounds so he could get pushed around a bit in the post. Between Isaiah Whaley, Akok Akok, Adama Sanogo, and Josh Carlton, UConn has a lot of options to go at the Red Storm frontcourt with size.
What to watch for
When UConn has the ball
This will be UConn’s third straight game without James Bouknight. In the past two games, Tyler Polley has stepped up and will need to continue his hot shooting against St. John’s. UConn needs to take care of the ball as well since St. John’s is the No. 6 defense in the nation in terms of steal percentage. Tyrese Martin has also proven to be a difference-maker for the Huskies, another trend that will hopefully continue at this time of need.
When St. John’s has the ball
Look for ball movement and shots in the paint. St. John’s has only relied on the three-ball for under 25% of their total scoring this season. They have a high-speed offense, with their average possession lasting just 14.5 seconds. Champagnie has the potential to score in bunches and from long range so they need to always keep an eye on him. UConn got drastically outrebounded last game as well, so they need to be more aggressive chasing defensive boards.
Final Score Prediction:
Final Score: UConn 87, St. John’s 76