How to Watch
Time: 2:30 p.m. ET
Stream: FOX Sports Go
Location: Gampel Pavilion
Records: UConn 7-1 (4-1) | St. John’s 7-7 (2-6)
Spread: St. John’s +9.5
ATS Records: UConn (7-1) | St. John’s (6-8)
KenPom Rankings: UConn – 21 | St. John’s – 88
St. John’s and UConn go way back, having played a total of 63 times. Currently, St. John’s holds the series edge: 35-28. This record is heavily skewed from the early Big East days though, when UConn lost 17 straight from 1981-1989. However, the Huskies are 7-3 in their last 10 matchups against the Red Storm but lost their last Big East match up in February 2013. Now that the Huskies are back in the Big East, I would look for this series history to turn around and for UConn to ultimately take the all-time edge within the next several years.
The Red Storm have had a rough start to Big East play with their only wins coming in home matchups versus Georgetown and Butler. They have been competitive and kept most games close but have struggled to get over the hump and close out wins. St. John’s is led by Julian Champagnie (20.7 PPG, 7.3 RPG). Champagnie can be a matchup nightmare for teams; he is a 6’8” guard who can score at all levels. Who will UConn use to stop him? My guess is a combination of Tyrese Martin and Tyler Polley, but this will be an interesting matchup to watch. St. John’s game plan starts and ends with defense. Their guards play pressure defense for 40 minutes and are constantly looking to turn you over; St. John’s is averaging just over 10 steals per game. They ranked 6th in the country (per Kenpom) in steal percentage. The Husky backcourt will have to limit turnovers and be smart with the ball.
UConn will once again be without sophomore star James Bouknight. Who will step up this game? A trio of Tyrese Martin, Tyler Polley, and Isaiah Whaley have emerged as the go-to guys in Bouknight’s absence. The Huskies will look for others, such as RJ Cole and Jalen Gaffney, to continue to improve their play on offense. Still, UConn will look to set the tone with their defense. The Huskies have the top-rated adjusted defense in the conference (per Kenpom). I would also look for UConn to be aggressive on the glass, after getting outrebounded in their win over DePaul.
This game most assuredly won’t be an offensive masterpiece from either team. UConn has had a week to prepare an offense without Bouknight though. I expect this to be a defensive matchup that favors UConn. Both teams look to win with their defense, but simply put, the Huskies have the more dominant defense and a more potent offense, even without Bouknight. Huskies continue to win, even without Bouknight.