In years past, the Arizona State Sun Devils and the St. John’s Red Storm wouldn’t have had a lot to worry about when it came to getting into the NCAA Tournament. Both schools come from power conferences and ended up with over 20 wins and had multiple quality wins to their record. However, the Selection Committee has fine-tuned its formula in recent years, and the fact that both Arizona State and St. John’s had incredibly low NET ratings meant they were sent to Dayton instead of getting a full spot in the Field of 64. Now, only one team will be part of the Madness.
First Four Betting Line: Arizona State -1.5 vs. St. John’s, O/U 152 (From BetDSI)
The Red Storm looked like a lock to make the NCAA Tournament after a 15-3 start, but they had a rough last two months of the season and almost missed out on the tournament entirely. St. John’s lost five of their last seven games and four of those losses came to teams that missed out on the NCAA Tournament. A 3-1 record against Marquette and Villanova was what earned them a spot in the field, but a loss in one of those games would have had this team on the outside looking in.
The PAC 12 was abysmal this year, and Arizona State nearly paid a price for it. The Sun Devils were likely helped by the fact that they lost to eventual conference champions Oregon in overtime in the PAC 12 semifinals, or otherwise they might have been left at home in favor of another team. Victories over Mississippi State, Utah State, and Kansas were huge given how bad the conference was this season.
Arizona State still shoots a lot of threes, but the Sun Devils aren’t as dependent on the three ball as they were last year. The emergence of San Diego State transfer Zylan Cheatham as a double-double threat has given this team an interior presence that it lacked last year, and he will be key against St. John’s. The Red Storm aren’t a good rebounding team, so he could give the Sun Devils some extra possessions they normally wouldn’t have against taller teams.
The Red Storm have a great three-point shooter in Mustapha Heron, but no one else on the team has been better than average. Still, they aren’t afraid to bomb away with their top four scorers taking a combined 614 threes, but they have been more reliant on the triple than the Sun Devils have been this year.
Although neither team is particularly efficient on the offensive end, both teams play at a fast pace and take a lot of threes, so this one might get up there in terms of points. St. John’s and Arizona State each have one of the 50 fastest tempos in the country per Ken Pomeroy.
Over is the best play on the board because the style of game we’re likely to see, and I like Arizona State to cover too.
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