Time and Date: Wednesday, February 28 @ 9 p.m. ET
Records: Butler (19-10, 9-7 BE) | St John’s (14-15, 3-13 BE)
Rankings: Butler (#21 KenPom) | St John’s (#76 KenPom)
TV Channel: CBS Sports Network
Watch Online: Here (cbssports.com)
Previous Match-up: Butler crushed St John’s at Hinkle Fieldhouse by a score of 70-45 on January 27.
ODDS AND ENDS
The Spread: Butler is a 2-point favorite
Over/Under: 148 points
After a four-game reign of terror, St John’s has reverted back to its original state, losing back-to-back games last week. Butler, meanwhile, has won two games in a row to follow a three-game losing skid. The two teams, who are headed in opposite directions at the moment, face off Wednesday in New York in what will be something of a homecoming for Butler guard Paul Jorgensen. Jorgensen, once dubbed the Prince Harry of Harlem, is from a suburb of The Big Apple.
Wednesday’s game has more pressing ramifications for the Bulldogs than the Red Storm. Butler is caught in the middle of a wild battle in the middle of the Big East conference. The Bulldogs could feasibly finish as high as the three-seed for the conference tournament or as low as the seven seed. Furthermore, Butler, who has probably played itself into a guaranteed NCAA Tournament bid, will be looking to build its resume and earn a higher seed in the Big Dance.
St John’s, barring a miracle, will have to play on the first day of the Big East Tournament (six teams get a bye) and would be lucky to snatch an NIT or CBI bid. Nevertheless, St John’s will be right at home during the tourney at MSG and since the Johnnies have pulled off some shocking upsets this season, they will likely be licking their chops at the opportunity.
Butler seems to be an overwhelming favorite, although Vegas has them as only a two-point favorite. Butler did lose at St John’s last year, but demolished the Red Storm by 25 earlier this year in Indy.
KEYS TO THE GAME
Butler: Don’t beat yourself
Butler is the better team here. No doubt about it. The way the Bulldogs could lose this game is to beat themselves by getting in foul trouble, turning the ball over, or playing lax defense. Butler has had (by my humble estimate) two games during the conference season where it largely beat itself (at Providence and vs. Georgetown) but as long as Butler plays intelligently, it should come away with the win.
St. John’s: Increase the tempo
Butler has played a quicker pace this year than Butler teams of the past, but the Bulldogs still seem to thrive in the half-court, especially defensively. If the Johnnies can get out in transition and get easy points, they can simultaneously rush Butler on offense and perhaps force them into some uncharacteristic errors.