ST. JOHN'S RED STORM VS. OREGON STATE BEAVERS
RECORDS: St. John's (4-0) | Oregon State (2-1)
RANKINGS: St. John's (#45 KenPom) | Oregon State (#85 KenPom)
TIME: 2:30 p.m. ET
WATCH ONLINE: WatchESPN
SPREAD: The Johnnies opened as a 4.5-point fave. The line hopped up to 5.
O/U: The total opened at 152. It’s at 155.
RECORDS ATS: St. John's (2-0) | Oregon State (0-3)
ADVOCARE INVITATIONAL BRACKET: LINK
Over the past few years, the Beavs have hovered between middle of the pack and down in the doldrums of the Pac-12 Conference. From 2011-12 onward, OSU finished 8th, 12th, 10th, 7th, 7th and 12th. Mixed in there was an NCAA Tournament appearance in 2016. The stint was short though, as they lost to the VCU Rams that year. They are coming off a woeful year in which they went 5-27 with only one conference win under their belts. They were dismissed at the hands of the California Golden Bears in their Pac-12 Tourney opener.
A majority of that team is back, and Wayne Tinkle’s bunch is 2-1 to start the season. They’ve racked up wins over the Southern Utah Thunderbirds and Long Beach State 49ers, with a loss to the Wyoming Cowboys sandwiched between.
Tres Tinkle, Wayne’s son, has been their primary go-to option so far. The 6-foot-8 Missoula, Montana native has scored 20 points or more in their three games this year, with a 24-point outburst against Southern Utah to start the year. He has been quite adept at 3-point shooting, getting off to a 6-12 start. He’s been the best on an abysmal unit, as Oregon State has shot just 23.7 percent from downtown to start the year.
Drew Eubanks will be the Beavers’ primary option down low. Eubanks is 6-foot-10 and presents a matchup problem for the not-so-lengthy Red Storm. The pride of Troutdale, Oregon has scored in double figures in his first three outings this year. He put up 26 points on 9-12 shooting against Long Beach State, and went 8-8 from the free throw line. He also pulled down a season-high 11 rebounds and committed only one turnover in 37 minutes of action.
Given the fact that the Johnnies have hardly anyone who can match up with his size, Eubanks may have a field day down low if he performs up to snuff.
Stephen Thompson Jr. and Ethan Thompson will also be worth viewing in the backcourt. If those names sound familiar, maybe they should: Both are the sons of Syracuse Orange great, Stephen Thompson. The older Stephen is a junior guard while Ethan is just a freshman. Stephen scored 17 in OSU’s win over LBSU. Ethan went for 20 in the opener against Southern Utah, but scored just three and eight in the games that followed.
Sophomore guard Jaquori McLaughlin is the distributor for the Beaver offense. The Tacoma, Washington native has averaged 4.67 assists this season with an Assist Rate of 24 percent. He’s been known to pick a pocket or two, posting a steal rate at a clip of 3.7 percent in the early goings.
The St. John's backcourt has the edge in this matchup, though. Shamorie Ponds and Marcus LoVett are as good as it gets in the Big East, and nationally, they could have the opportunity to show out on a big stage this weekend. LoVett has gotten off to a monster start, shooting at a rate of 61.8 percent on eFG% and 62.9 percent on TS%. Ponds has taken a dip so far from his efficient ways as a freshman, but the points are piling up. He’s already gotten two 20-point games — 21 against the Central Connecticut Blue Devils and 22 vs. the Nebraska Cornhuskers.
Let’s put it this way when it comes to their output: the team has scored 307 points this year. Ponds and LoVett have accounted for 42.0 percent of those points (129).
Bashir Ahmed, Justin Simon and Marvin Clark II have each had their fair share too as complementary pieces. Simon and Clark are two high-profile transfers from Arizona and Michigan State. So far, each has been able to find a role and settle in pretty well. Each is shooting over 50 percent from the field while averaging 5.8-8 field goals per game. Ahmed is averaging 41.9 percent from the field, but has done well on the glass, averaging 6.1 rebounds per 40 minutes in the early stages of the year.
The main concern for St. John's is how they’re able to corral the lengthy Eubanks. 6-foot-11 Gligorije Rakocevic may pose a threat off the bench, although he’s only averaging 8.0 minutes so far this season and 3.0 field goal attempts per game, too. Kassoum Yakwe has been quiet again, and while Tariq Owens’ shot-blocking abilities and overall athleticism allow him to be a threat, he’s the only player besides the almost invisible Amar Alibegovic to be listed at 6-foot-9 or higher (Owens is 6-foot-11).
But while it’s true that Eubanks may have a big game, it’s relying on everyone else that’s the problem for them. Their worry is that St. John's doesn’t outclass them, which may very well happen in Kissimmee on Thursday morning.
The Red Storm have been a fun watch, and while they aren’t lighting up the stat sheet and aren’t as prolific as, say, a Creighton or Marquette in the Big East, they’re doing damn fine. They’ve also taken serious steps forward defensively, even if the competition has been subpar so far.
The Beavs’ young backcourt may be pressed to score in bunches, and the talent just might not be there.