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Preview: No. 4 Duke vs. St. John’s

The struggling Red Storm take on big, bad Duke on Saturday afternoon at MSG.

NCAA Basketball: Xavier at St. John Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

It’s a color-coded Saturday matinee! The St. John’s Red Storm (10-13, 0-11 Big East) will host the No. 4 Duke Blue Devils (19-3, 7-3 ACC) in a nationally-televised matchup at Madison Square Garden.

This will be the 23rd all-time matchup between St. John’s and Duke. Duke leads the series 16-6 and have won nine of the last 10 meetings. Their last face-off was on Jan. 25, 2015. That game, also at MSG, saw the Blue Devils defeat the Red Storm 77-68. Duke’s Grayson Allen and St. John’s’ Amar Alibegovic are the only holdovers from that game.

Major Keys

Time & Place: 12:00 PM ET, Madison Square Garden, New York, NY

TV: FOX (Gus Johnson, Jimmy Jackson, Shannon Spake)

Radio: 570 AM WMCA (John Minko, Brandon Tierney)

Streaming: FOX Sports GO

Gambling (via OddsShark): Duke opens as 11.5-point favorites. The Blue Devils are 13-8 against the spread this season, while St. John’s is 9-12.

About the Red Storm

St. John’s is having a very bad time right now. The Red Storm finished their non-conference schedule with a respectable 10-2 record, capping it with a 77-73 win over Saint Joseph’s in Uncasville, Conn. They have lost every game since, still sitting winless in Big East play. However, it hasn’t been due to a lack of trying. Eight of their 11 conference losses have come within single-digits.

They also find themselves in a pretty tough stretch of the schedule. Last Saturday they took a 25-point loss at Butler. That was followed up by a taxing defeat to No. 6 Xavier at home on Tuesday. Now, the Red Storm take a quick step outside of the conference gauntlet only to face another ranked behemoth in Duke.

Things don’t get much easier after this game, either. Their next opponent is No. 1 Villanova in Philadelphia on Tuesday night. This stretch of the season not only tests St. John’s on-court ability, but also their mettle from game to game.

Depth has been a glaring issue for much of the season. Losing Marcus LoVett for the season after only seven games has been a substantial blow to the Red Storm attack. The starting lineup (Shamorie Ponds, Marvin Clark, Justin Simon, Bashir Ahmed, and Tariq Owens) has tried to pick up the slack, but they can only do so much.

The starters are collectively averaging 65.4 points per game in conference play. However, their bench only averages 6.8 points per game over that same span. If St. John’s wants a shot at Duke, the entire team will have to step up.

About the Other Guys

Even with the Top 25 polls constantly changing, Duke has remained a top five team in the nation for much of the season. The Blue Devils hit a bump in the road last weekend when they lost at home 65-63 to No. 2 Virginia. However, they bounced back on Monday with an 88-66 win over Notre Dame.

Duke sports the second-best offense in the country according to College Basketball Reference. The Blue Devils average 123.2 points per 100 possessons. They are surpassed in offensive efficiency only by Villanova.

The charge is led by potential top NBA draft pick Marvin Bagley III. He has averaged 21.5 points and 12.1 rebounds per game in his last 10, all of which were ACC matchups. Teammate Wendell Carter, Jr. has also put up strong numbers in ACC play, averaging 15.0 points, 10.2 rebounds, and 2.2 blocks per game.

Additionally, Gary Trent, Jr. is averaging 18.0 points per conference game while shooting 49.3 percent from 3-point range on 7.5 attempts per night. Meanwhile, the infamous Grayson Allen has pitched in 11.8 points, 4.9 assists, and 2.0 steals per game in his last 10.

St. John’s will have to force at least two of the aforementioned players to have a bad afternoon in order to take down Duke on Saturday. It will certainly be a tall task. However, as evidenced by the many ranked upsets we’ve seen this season, anything is possible once the ball tips off.