The college basketball weekend gets off to an exciting start on Friday night when the no. 8 Kansas Jayhawks travel East to take on the St. John’s Red Storm. The game is part of the Big 12-Big East Battle and will be played at UBS Arena, which is the new home of the NHL’s Islanders. On the road, the Jayhawks are favored by seven points with the over/under set at 157 points.
The Red Storm has gotten off to a 5-1 during the non-conference season. However, St. John’s has played a rather light schedule, losing to Indiana in the team’s only game to a power-conference opponent. Also, the Red Storm’s last two wins over St. Francis and NJIT both came by single digits.
The Jayhawks also head into Friday’s game at 5-1, although they’ve gotten there a little differently. Kansas opened the season with a convincing win over Michigan State and has had an easy time in their other four wins. The only game the Jayhawks have lost this year came against a good Dayton team on a last-second shot by the Flyers.
The Old and the New
Bill Self has done a nice job of putting together a roster that blends returning stars and new faces. It starts with Ochai Agbaji, who led Kansas last year with 14.1 points per game but has taken things to another level this season, averaging 22.5 points per game. Christian Braun has also taken a step forward as the team’s second-leading scorer and top rebounder, averaging 13.8 points and 7.2 rebounds per game.
Among the new faces, Arizona State transfer Remy Martin has fit in right away, averaging 12 points per game and giving the Jayhawks another proven scorer. However, Kansas has had some problems with its veteran frontcourt players. Production from David McCormack and Jalen Wilson is down significantly with Wilson only playing in three games since returning from a suspension.
The Red Storm lost a handful of key contributors from last year’s team, although they do bring back Julian Champagnie, who leads the team with 21.3 points and 6.8 rebounds per game. He’s a stat-stuffer who makes an impact on both ends of the floor. Sophomore guard Posh Alexander has been Champagnie’s running mate early in the season, running the offense with 14.6 points and 6.6 assists per game while also leading the defense with 2.4 steals per game.
Meanwhile, the Red Storm’s roster is supplemented with five players who transferred from other Division I programs. Rutgers transfer Montez Mathis and Vermont transfer Stef Smith are both averaging double figures and have proven to be capable passers, helping Alexander in the backcourt. Finally, Fordham transfer Joel Soriano has given St. John’s a strong interior presence, especially on the defensive end of the floor.
St. John’s came up two points shy of a comeback win over a solid Indiana team, so the Red Storm isn’t going to be intimidated to face a top-10 Kansas team. Also, the Red Storm has good guard play and is a bonafide star in Champagnie. With Kansas dealing with some issues in the frontcourt, bet on St. John’s to at least keep this game close and beat the seven-point spread.
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