Creighton @ St. John’s January 24 Free Pick

By College Basketball

Our underdog came through on Big Monday and we’re back in line for a late play on Super Tuesday. TCU won outright against West Virginia last night and we’ve got a similar play in the Big East tonight, taking a slight home underdog that I believe will win the game straight-up.

Free Pick

St. John’s hasn’t won a game in the conference yet but it’s coming. The Johnnies have been a tough out for almost the entire Big East slate thus far and they’re only getting tougher. After getting blown out in the opener, St. John’s lost by five at Seton Hall, seven at Creighton, had a head-scratching home game against DePaul and then continued losing competitively — by three against Georgetown, seven against Villanova, six at Xavier and four at Georgetown in overtime the last time they played.

So all told, St. John’s is 0–8 in the Big East but the losses, especially those to Xavier, Seton Hall and Villanova, mean something. Going back to the Creighton game, St. John’s had a ten-point lead with 15 minutes to play before Creighton came storming back. Now, that game was at Creighton’s place, which is one of the 50 toughest arenas to play at in the country. Creighton was also at full strength, which it is not anymore.

Martin Krampelj had been enjoying a breakout sophomore season (but his third year at Creighton) before he tore his ACL last week. He’s out for the season and his absence was apparent in the Blue Jays’ first full game without him on Saturday against Providence, a game the Friars dominated inside and won going away. Kramelj shot 6-for-9 in Creighton’s win over St. John’s a few weeks back and finished with 14 points and 11 rebounds. Now, the efficient scoring and strong rebounding is gone and Gregg McDermott’s team doesn’t have a good replacement option.

The best advantage Creighton has in this game is Khyri Thomas to defend Shamorie Ponds. Ponds averages over 20 points per game, despite shooting under 20 percent as a high-volume three-point shooter up until two games ago. He’s 5-for-13 in those last two, which might just be enough to turn this thing around for him. He’s not going to stop shooting so it’s just a matter of getting his confidence back, or not. Thomas has to harass him, which won’t be an easy job without his rim protector behind him.

Even with Thomas, Creighton faces a huge challenge against a hungry team playing, not at Madison Square Garden, but its campus gym. This was a coin flip before Krampelj went down. Now, St. John’s has to be the favorite, except it isn’t. Sprinkle some on the moneyline line, too.

Free Pick: St. John’s +2.5

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