After taking a tough road loss to Seton Hall in overtime, UConn men’s basketball will return home and look to take a win over St. John’s to get back to .500 in Big East play.
When: 8:30 p.m.
Where: Gampel Pavilion
Radio: UConn Sports Radio Network
Odds: UConn -11.5, Over/Under 150
KenPom Predicted Score: UConn 82, St. John’s 71
The Red Storm were hard-hit by COVID-19, as four games around the holidays were postponed, two more than UConn. While the Huskies have only played once since returning from a pause, St. John’s has played twice, topping DePaul Jan. 5 before losing on the road by 10 to Providence on Saturday.
When UConn has the ball
UConn looked impressive on offense against Seton Hall, shooting 14-23 from 3-point range and 47 percent from the field. Tyrese Martin and Tyler Polley each drilled three shots from beyond the arc and Adama Sanogo had eight offensive rebounds, creating several second-chance opportunities. As a result, the Huskies scored 87 points in 45 minutes of play against the Pirates — the highest against a non-buy game opponent since Auburn, which went to double overtime.
UConn had an opportunity to come out with the win, but with RJ Cole on the bench after having fouled out, the Huskies’ final possession was less than ideal.
St. John’s, ranked No. 106 according to KenPom in adjusted defensive efficiency, is much lower than Seton Hall’s No. 26 ranking by the same metric, so UConn should have opportunities to put up points, especially as those that were recovering from COVID-19 get healthier and stronger. While UConn has KenPom’s 27th-most efficient offense, it’s unlikely they’ll shoot more than 60 percent from three-point range again, so relying on Sanogo and Isaiah Whaley potentially playing more than 23 minutes should bode well for the Huskies.
When St. John’s has the ball
The Red Storm like to run. The Johnnies are ranked No. 3 in adjusted tempo by KenPom, with 74.7 possessions per 40 minutes. UConn plays at a snail’s pace compared with that, ranked No. 227 with 67.8 possessions per 40 minutes. Marquette is the only non-buy game opponent that Huskies have played that gets out remotely as fast as St. John’s. In that game, Dan Hurley was able to slow down the Golden Eagles, generating eight steals.
The Red Storm also can match UConn’s size, as Julian Champagnie stands 6-foot-8 and is a unique matchup problem as one of the conference’s best players. The junior averages 33.5 minutes per game and is among the league leaders in scoring, with 20.7 points per game. Champagnie’s size and skill is an even bigger problem for UConn given how Seton Hall’s Kadary Richmond — a similarly built player but probably a less talented one — torched the Huskies repeatedly in the second half last weekend.
Posh Alexander also plays more than 30 minutes per game and facilitates the offense, with 15.8 points and nearly five assists per game.
St. John’s is ranked No. 77 by KenPom in adjusted offensive efficiency, scoring 109.1 points per 100 possessions, while UConn is No. 29 in adjusted defensive efficiency, surrendering 94.3 points per 100 possessions. The Huskies have the second-best defensive efficiency of any Red Storm opponent, behind Indiana. They also played the Hoosiers on the road and lost by two.