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Best Bets: Eight flawed teams that are dangerous enough to win title

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Yesterday, we took a look at the six teams that can legitimately be called national title contenders as well as the three teams that are a small tweak or two away from joining them.

Those nine teams should be the consensus best in college hoops.

Today, we’re going to take a look at the rest of the teams around the country. Here are eight teams that are seriously flawed but dangerous enough to win six games come March. 

FLAWED BUT DANGEROUS

NEVADA (+3000)

THEY CAN WIN IT ALL BECAUSE: There is not team in the country that has as many tough shot makers on their roster as Nevada does. Jordan Caroline, Caleb Martin, Cody Martin. All three of those guys are capable of taking a game over and carrying Nevada to a win, and what makes that so relevant is that that trio — particularly Caroline and Caleb Martin — can do it regardless of the defense that is being played on them. Case in point: The Wolf Pack reached the Sweet 16 last season as an iso-heavy, jump-shooting team with wins over Texas and Cincinnati, two of the top ten defenses in college basketball.

When they get it going, they have the horses to beat anyone in college hoops.

BUT THEY’RE IN TROUBLE BECAUSE: Realistically, how often will the Martin Twins and Jordan Caroline go into their unguardable mode? Will it be often enough for a team that likely won’t end up as a top two seed to win four games in March, let alone the six games they need to win to win a national title? That’s a tough ask.

The other part of this is that Nevada just is not as talented as people think they are. Where is the NBA player on this roster? Both of the Martin twins and Caroline are fifth-year seniors that would have left school last year if there was a demand for them at the next level. They’re back in school. Nevada is loaded with veterans and grad transfers from smaller programs, but there’s a reason those guys were at smaller programs to begin with. Jordan Brown is a McDonald’s All-American, but if he going to be a one-and-done player if he can’t beat out Trey Porter for a starting spot?

WHAT NEEDS CHANGING?: The tournament needs to start. I’ve said this before, but I wonder just how much Nevada actually cares about the regular season. They’ve won the Mountain West already, and the three best players on the roster probably wish they were playing in the NBA right now. What they haven’t done is get past the Sweet 16, so I wonder if we’ll see a different Nevada team show up once the postseason kicks off.

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MARQUETTE (+8000)

THEY CAN WIN IT ALL BECAUSE: Markus Howard is not the only guy on this team that can takeover a game.

Howard is, as we’ve discussed many times in this space, the single-most dangerous scorer in college basketball. He’s popped off for 45 points twice this season, and that doesn’t include when he broke his own Big East record by scoring 53 points in a win at Creighton this month. The issue with Marquette is what happens on the nights that he doesn’t play well or runs into one of the nation’s elite defenders, and we now know: Sam Hauser can win them a game. He went for 31 points at Georgetown on the night where Howard injured his back, and he went for 25 points in the next game when Howard looked like he was still slowed with the injury.

If the Golden Eagles have an answer when Howard is not living his best life, they become much more dangerous.

BUT THEY’RE IN TROUBLE BECAUSE: Part of the reason that I was so high on Marquette coming into the season was that I thought the addition of Joseph Chartouny was the piece Marquette was missing. His addition would give them another perimeter defender and a playmaker that would allow Howard to move off the ball. As it turns out, Chartouny is not as good as we expected defensively and has been a turnover machine.

WHAT NEEDS CHANGING?: The big thing with this group is the turnovers. They rank 225th nationally in turnover rate, which is part of the reason that they’ve dropped from being a top 12 offense to the No. 39 offense, according to KenPom. I’m not too worried about that side of the ball, however, because I think we all know what their ceiling is offensively, and with their defense much improved this year, they don’t need to be quite as hyper-efficient to win games.

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AUBURN (+6000)

THEY CAN WIN IT ALL BECAUSE: They are just so dangerous when they get it rolling offensively. It came in a loss, I know, but we all saw what they did in the second half against Kentucky, turning a 16 point deficit into a lead in the span of about 15 minutes. Bryce Brown is arguably the best shooter in America when he gets it going, and Jared Harper has been dominant at times as well.

BUT THEY’RE IN TROUBLE BECAUSE: No team in the country gambles more defensively than Auburn does. They lead the nation in defensive turnover rate, they lead the nation in block rate and they’re fourth nationally in steal rate. The problem with that is that it has led to them giving up too many open threes, too many layups at the rim and too many free throws. Their defensive possessions either end up in a turnover or points for the other team, which is not the best way to beat the elite of the elite — the reason that pressing teams have a limited upside is that they rely on forcing their opponents to make mistakes, and the thing about really good teams (who typically have really good guards) is that they don’t make too many mistakes.

WHAT NEEDS CHANGING?: Chuma Okeke and Anfernee McLemore need to get back to being the players they were early in the season. What makes those two so valuable is that they are both versatile defenders with some size, strength and athleticism that can protect the rim, rebound the ball and stretch the floor offensively. McLemore hasn’t quite looked like himself coming off of last year’s horrific ankle injury, and Okeke’s work on the defensive glass is nowhere near what it was a season ago.

(AP Photo/Mic Smith)

VIRGINIA TECH (+6000)

THEY CAN WIN IT ALL BECAUSE: The Hokies have what may amount to the best backcourt in the ACC and are the nation’s third-best three-point shooting team. It’s really as simple as that. The combination of Justin Robinson and Nickeil Alexander-Walker gives Buzz Williams a pair of elite playmakers that thrive in ball-screen whom he can surround with 40 percent three-point shooters. You can’t ask for much more than that, and on the nights when they get it rolling, they are going to be able to score with anyone.

BUT THEY’RE IN TROUBLE BECAUSE: They haven’t exactly done anything of note this season. Yes, that win over Purdue is going to hold up well because Purdue’s computer numbers will get inflated playing in the Big Ten, but that’s their only win that matters right now. They also lost to Penn State (who is 7-12 on the season, 0-8 in the Big Ten and has not beaten another team in the top 100 on KenPom) and in the last nine days got embarrassed by both Virginia and North Carolina.

Granted, all three of their losses came on the road, but at this point all the positivity I have regarding Virginia Tech stems is a theory. They’ve done nothing on the court to prove themselves a top ten team to date.

WHAT NEEDS CHANGING?: The Hokies have to be better defensively. Getting to the defensive glass more will help, but the big thing is running people off of the three-point line. Virginia shot 13-for-24 from three against them. North Carolina shot 16-for-34. As a team, they rank 198th nationally in defensive three-point percentage. Monmouth — who is 286th on KenPom — is the only team in college basketball that gives up a higher percentage of points allowed from beyond the arc.

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VILLANOVA (+3000)

THEY CAN WIN IT ALL BECAUSE: Are you going to be the guy betting against the team that has won two of the last three national titles?

We knew at some point that the Wildcats would figure it out, and it looks like they have. They’ve won seven straight games since losing at Kansas and are the only undefeated team left in the Big East. Some of that is due to their inexperienced role players getting more comfortable with what Jay Wright is asking of them — specifically, Collin Gillespie has really been shooting the ball well — but the big difference is that both Eric Paschall and Phil Booth have played like all-americans for the last month. During this winning streak, Booth is averaging 20.9 points, 5.4 assists and 5.1 boards while shooting 49 percent from three while Paschall has posted 20.6 points, 7.7 boards and 2.3 assists while shooting 42.6 percent from three.

When those two playing like that, Villanova can hang with anyone.

BUT THEY’RE IN TROUBLE BECAUSE: This entire seven-game run has come against six Big East teams not named Marquette as well as UConn. That’s not exactly a murderer’s row. We know about the issues facing the Big East conference this season. Before league play started, we said that there probably wasn’t a top 25 team in the conference, and now that Villanova is running roughshod over a bunch of teams that we know aren’t top 25 teams, we’re supposed to believe this team is suddenly as good as the Villanova teams of the last three years?

WHAT NEEDS CHANGING?: The biggest thing with this group is that they can’t simply be a two-man team. Jermaine Samuels, Cole Swider (when he gets healthy), Dhamir Cosby-Rountree. They have to be impact players. Beyond that, Villanova just needs to be better defensively. They currently rank 88th in KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency metric. That’s not good enough.

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IOWA STATE (+4000)

THEY CAN WIN IT ALL BECAUSE: Iowa State has a roster that is built precisely the way that modern basketball is supposed to be played. They have five perimeter players (Marial Shayok, Nick Weiler-Babb, Tyrese Haliburton, Talen Horton-Tucker, Lindell Wigginton) that can on or off the ball — running ball-screens and spacing the floor with their shooting — who are all switchable defensively. They have a pair of big bodies (Michael Jacobson, Cam Lard) in the frontcourt that can score 1-on-1 in the paint, rebound the ball and protect the rim. They have NBA talent on their roster, and are probably the most talented team in the Big 12.

They create matchup problems offensively and have just enough size and versatility defensively that they can matchup well enough with just about anyone.

BUT THEY’RE IN TROUBLE BECAUSE: Injuries keep sapping their depth. I’m not sure there is a team in college basketball that has dealt with more key pieces missing significant stretches of games than the Cyclones have, and where this really shows up …

WHAT NEEDS CHANGING?: … is with Wigginton and Lard. At one point during Big 12 play last year, Lard was playing like the best big man in the conference. Wigginton was thought to be the best returning perimeter player in the conference. Lard has dealt with off-the-court issues (he was suspended to start the year) and an ankle injury and has yet to play more than 16 minutes in a game this season. He had five fouls in six minutes against Kansas on Monday. Wigginton has been equally ineffective. He’s shooting 31.9 percent from three and 37.5 percent from the floor and looks like a man devoid of confidence. Iowa State needs those two to play like they’re capable of if they have any hope of reaching their ceiling.

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TEXAS TECH (+3000)

THEY CAN WIN IT ALL BECAUSE: They are, quite simply, the best defensive team in college basketball. As of today, they rank No. 1 in KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency metric as well as No. 1 in raw points-per-possession allowed. That defense isn’t going anywhere.

BUT THEY’RE IN TROUBLE BECAUSE: The Red Raiders are really struggling to get anything going on the offensive end of the floor. Jarrett Culver has been sensational this season, but he’s more or less the only player that Chris Beard can rely on to create shots for his team. Personally, I think Culver is good enough to do that. People that I’ve talked to around the Big 12 think so. I’m sure Beard thinks so. The problem is that the only person that doesn’t realize just how good Jarrett Culver is is Jarrett Culver.

WHAT NEEDS CHANGING?: With the way that Texas Tech can defend, they don’t have to be great offensively to be able to make a run in March. Remember, in 2017, a South Carolina team that was not as good as this Texas Tech team reached the Final Four and lost to Gonzaga by four for the right to get to the national title game. This is doable, but the only way that can happen is if Culver decides to start playing like a guy that can take over games and has NBA teams considering him as a top ten pick. He makes teammates better, he’s a tough finisher around the rim, he can create out of ball-screens and he’s more-than-capable as a shooter. When he starts playing like that, Tech will snap out of this three-game losing streak.

(Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

SYRACUSE (+6000)

THEY CAN WIN IT ALL BECAUSE: It literally does not matter what Syracuse does during the regular season. Jim Boeheim has proven this over and over again, sneaking into the NCAA tournament when we did not think he deserved to be there and then putting together a run that no one saw coming.

There’s a reason for this, too. That zone that the Orange play is so difficult to figure out if you’ve never seen it. There is so much length and so much size that it’s almost impossible to pass through the zone. They don’t let you get the ball to the short-corner. If you get the ball to the high-post, all those arms makes it like trying to play basketball in the middle of a bush. They dare you to shoot over the top of the zone, but you never get  shot in rhythm and their length allows them to contest even when it looks like they’re playing off you.

There isn’t a team in the country that they can’t frustrate, and that’s what makes them such a nightmare to see in March.

BUT THEY’RE IN TROUBLE BECAUSE: They still can’t shoot. Elijah Hughes is shooting 35.7 percent from three this year, and he’s far and away the best shooter on the team. Boeheim’s three best weapons offensively — Tyus Battle, Oshae Brissett, Frank Howard — all shoot under 30 percent from three. That’s not their only issue offensively, either. Howard is this team’s point guard, but he can be turnover prone. Ask Tre Jones.

WHAT NEEDS CHANGING?: Nothing’s going to change. This is who Syracuse is.

Coach K screams at Duke fans, defending Jeff Capel

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In one of the stranger things that we’ve seen in college basketball this season, Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski went off on the Cameron Crazies for what he believed was a shot they were taking at former Duke player Jeff Capel.

The crazies were chanting, “Jeff Capel sit with us.” Coach K thought he heard something else.

Check out the video:

After the game, Coach K acknowledged that he misheard what the fans said, adding that he will apologize for the mishap.

“I made a mistake,” he said. “But I’d rather make a mistake for the protection of my guy.

“I love Jeff. I erred on that side. I just hope the ACC doesn’t fine me like they did [Mike] Brey.”

He ended the back and forth with this: “Jeff can sit with me anytime.”

 

Tuesday’s Things to Know: Villanova gears up for big stretch, Auburn wins ugly in 2OT and Rutgers keeps rolling

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The headliner of Tuesday night was Virginia regaining an NCAA tournament pulse with a win over No. 5 Florida State, but there were plenty of other developments on the bubble across the country.  Here’s what else you need to know:

1. Villanova runs streak to seven ahead of grueling stretch

Jay Wright’s team had little trouble winning its seventh-straight Tuesday with a 79-59 victory at Madison Square Garden over St. John’s. Saddiq Bey was brilliant, scoring 23 points on 8 of 14 shooting, including 5 of 9 from deep. Collin Gillespie was equally great, going for 17 points, 13 boards and six assists while Jeremiah Robinson-Early had 13 points and 14 rebounds. Cole Swider and Justin Moore both had 11 to put all five Wildcat starters in double-figures to help offset the absence of the injured Jermaine Samuels.

The victory, while unremarkable given St. John’s mediocrity, keeps momentum for Villanova heading into a huge stretch that very well could decide the Big East. They’ve got Creighton at home Saturday before a trip to No. 16 Butler and then back-to-back home games against No. 10 Seton Hall and Marquette, which handed the ‘Cats their lone conference loss this season.

How Villanova emerges from this four-game stretch – and subsequently what the Big East landscape looks like – will likely be determined by a couple of things. If the ‘Cats are going to make it through in the conference driver’s seat, it’ll probably because Villanova’s defense proves for real. The Cats’ defense this season on the whole has been fine, ranking 60th nationally on KenPom, but it’s been the best in the Big East during conference play. They’ve been stingier both inside and outside the arc while improving on the glass. They’ve kept opponents from launching a lot of 3s and have mostly kept them off the line.

Wright’s team is going to be fine offensively, even if they haven’t been elite in Big East play yet. If the defense holds up, the ‘Cats are going to be sitting pretty come March.

2. No. 17 Auburn comes from behind to win in 2OT

Things were looking pretty dire for Auburn. The Tigers narrowly avoided a third loss in four games over the weekend when they blew a big lead to a sub-.500 Iowa State team, and then they fell behind by 19 in the second half Tuesday at Ole Miss.

It turned out to be nothing to be worried about, unless you were on your couch hoping to watch good overtime basketball.

The Tigers narrowly escaped, 83-82, against the Rebels, overcoming a huge deficit and mistakes of their own making that could have negated their comeback but instead will be footnotes.

Auburn shot 56 percent from the field and 46.2 percent from 3-point range in the second half to mount its comeback while Ole Miss shot just 33 percent. They nearly gave the game away, though, after taking a two-point lead in the final seconds of overtime. The Tigers missed a jumper that would have put them up four with 25 seconds left, but the shot missed and they inexplicably fouled on the rebound to allow Ole Miss to tie the game with 22 seconds left on free throws. After a missed 3 in a tie game by Danjel Purifoy, Ole Miss gave Auburn a gift it just wouldn’t accept. Devontae Shuler’s inbounds pass under the basket with 2 seconds left went astray and was headed out of bounds, which would have resulted in no time coming off the clock and Auburn getting the ball on the baseline, but Isaac Okoro, for some reason, grabbed the ball, waited a second and called timeout. Samir Doughty’s forthcoming 3 out of the huddle as time expired miss to send things to 2OT.

Ole Miss led by as many as four in overtime, but Auburn took the lead with 1:41 left. The two teams traded missed opportunities for the remainder of the game, leaving the Tigers with a win.

College basketball: Not always pretty, but rarely boring.

3. Rutgers continues to build its case

It’s been 29 years since Rutgers last made the NCAA tournament. It’s been 13 since the Scarlet Knights even finished above .500 in a season. Both those streaks seem incredibly likely to fall in just a handful of weeks.

Rutgers ran its overall record to 16-5 and its Big Ten mark to 7-3 with a 70-63 victory Tuesday at home against Purdue.

Steve Pikiell’s team is building a bulletproof resume after losses to St. Bonaventure and Pittsburgh in the first month of the season made it seem as the status quo would be very much in place in Piscataway this winter. Since then, the only three losses Rutgers have taken have all been on the road to high-quality opponents, with Michigan State, Illinois and Iowa the only teams able to get the best of them.

Rutgers is doing it o the strength of a top-10 defense that overcomes an offense that can be clunky at times, especially at the 3-point line. Defense as stout as the Scarlet Knights are playing, though, makes up for a lot of deficiencies on the other end.

Bubble Banter: Virginia, Mississippi State the biggest winners of the night

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It was a wild night on the bubble on Tuesday night, as 12 teams with their NCAA tournament hopes still up in the air were in action.

A full bubble watch breakdown can be found here. Here are tonight’s winners and losers:

WINNERS

VIRGINIA (NET: 58, NBC: Off the bubble): It is impossible to overstate just how big a win over Florida State (15) for a Virginia team that entered the night without a top 50 win to their name. They had one Quad 1 win on their resume — at Syracuse (64) — to go along with wins over Virginia Tech (50) at home and Arizona State (56) on a neutral floor. That’s it. When combined with a pair of Quad 3 losses — South Carolina (89) at home and at Boston College (153) — there’s a reason that the Wahoos were completely out of the NCAA tournament picture entering the day.

And to be honest, I’m not sure that a win over a top 20 team at home is really going to change all that much. But with just three more games against the top of the ACC left on their schedule, this was an opportunity that could not slip through their fingers.

MISSISSIPPI STATE (NET: 48, NBC: Off the bubble): The Bulldogs added a critical road win on Tuesday night, going into Gainesville and knocking off Florida (37). It’s the second Quad 1 win in six days for Mississippi State, who needs to add some pop to the top of a resume that includes a pair of Quad 3 losses. This will help.

MICHIGAN (NET: 35, NBC: 10): Michigan entered Tuesday night having lost four games in a row and five of their last six and were playing without Isaiah Livers and Zavier Simpson at Nebraska (158). They could not lost this game. They did not.

RHODE ISLAND (NET: 47, NBC: First four out): Rhode Island is in a spot where they probably cannot afford to take a loss to anyone other than Dayton (5), who they play twice, the rest of the season. On Tuesday night, the Rams beat George Mason. Next up: VCU (39) on Friday night.

LOSERS

TENNESSEE (NET: 55, NBC: Next four out): The Vols took a loss that they just could not afford to take on Tuesday, falling to a bad Texas A&M (149) at home. It’s their first Quad 3 loss, meaning that now half of their eight losses are outside the Quad 1 level. With just two Quad 1 wins, neither of which came against a top 35 opponent, Tennessee is backing themselves into a corner. The good news? They still play eight Quad 1 games, and that doesn’t include Florida at home. The Vols can survive this if they get hot.

SYRACUSE (NET: 64, NBC: Off the bubble): The Orange saw their five game winning streak come to an end on Tuesday as they fell at Clemson (81). This is not a terrible loss, but for a team that is already trying to make up ground on the field, these are the kind of losses that really hurt.

RICHMOND (NET: 54, NBC: First four out): Tuesday’s visit to the Siegel Center was Richmond’s last shot at getting a Quad 1 win dueing the regular season. They lost to VCU (39) by 17 points. For my money, the Spiders’ at-large hopes are more or less dead.

ST. JOHN’S (NET: 67, NBC: 10): The Johnnies lost for the seventh time in their last nine games when Villanova (14) waltzed into MSG and beat the Red Storm by 20. That’s not ideal. St. John’s is still in the mix because of wins over West Virginia (7) and Arizona (10), the latter of which came on a neutral court. But with road games left against Villanova, Seton Hall (12) and Butler (9), Mike Anderson’s club has backed themselves into a corner.

LEFT TO PLAY

PURDUE (NET: 36, NBC: Next four out)

VIRGINIA TECH (NET: 50, NBC: First four out)

GEORGETOWN (NET: 52, NBC: Next four out)

UTAH STATE (NET: 62, NBC: Off the bubble)

Virginia upends No. 5 Florida State, 61-56

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Remember back to the season’s opening night? Nearly three months ago? That was when Virginia embarrassed Syracuse in a 48-34 win. That game foretold a lot of the season up to this point for the Cavaliers. Their title-defending team would have the defense that’s defined Tony Bennett’s program while the offense, well, that would be a bit of a struggle. What it did not predict was more Quad 1 wins, as the Cavaliers, despite a dominating defense, failed to rack up another such victory after that season-opener.

Until Tuesday.

Virginia injected some life into its NCAA tournament hopes with a 61-56 win over fifth-ranked Florida State in Charlottesville to pick up a critical victory in an ACC that offers far fewer marquee opportunities than in years past.

The victory was exactly what Bennett’s team needed to help buoy that resume before the start of February. January was extremely rough on them with a 3-4 mark before the win over the Seminoles put them at .500 for the month. With only four chances left against the ACC’s best of FSU, Duke and Louisville, beating the Seminoles at home may not have been an absolute-must for the Cavs, but it sure makes it a lot easier to chart a path to the tournament now, even if it’s still a rocky road, than if they had dropped the game.

Point guard Kihei Clark scored 11 of his 15 points after halftime, changing the game offensively for the Cavaliers with his dribble penetration into the middle of the Florida State defense. He wasn’t wildly efficient, but his ability to get into the teeth of the defense – creating some buckets and free throws for himself and chances for his teammates – provided just enough lift for the offensively-challenged team. His beautiful reverse layup with a minute left gave Virginia a lead it would not relinquish as it closed the game on an 8-0 run.

Mamadi Diakite had 19 points and nine boards for Virginia while Braxton Key had 13 points and nine rebounds.

The loss stops a 10-game winning streak for the ‘Noles, who led for most of the game but could not ever find any meaningful separation. Devin Vassell had 17 points to lead Florida State, which had two shots to tie the game in the final seconds but missed both 3-point attempts horribly. If Virginia can surge a little in the season’s final month, this win won’t be much more than a missed opportunity for the Seminoles, but if it proves to just be a blip on the radar for Virginia, Florida State may have done some damage to its seed line Tuesday.

No. 8 Villanova pulls away from St. John’s 79-59

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NEW YORK (AP) — Saddiq Bey scored 23 points, Collin Gillespie had 17 points and 13 rebounds, and No. 8 Villanova easily handled St. John’s  on Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden to win its seventh-straight game, 79-59.

Justin Moore, starting for injured forward Jermaine Samuels, added 11 points and fellow freshman Jeremiah Robinson-Earl had 13 points and 14 rebounds as the balanced Wildcats (17-3, 7-1 Big East) won for the 13th time in 14 games.

Samuels, a 6-foot-7 junior averaging 11.1 points and five rebounds per game, was a game-time decision and sat out with a sprained left foot after getting hurt during Saturday’s victory at Providence. His absence hardly hindered the Wildcats, who quickly recovered from a slow start and opened a 24-point bulge in a second half that was never competitive.

Rasheem Dunn had 24 points for St. John’s (13-9, 2-7), the only Big East team to beat Villanova in each of the past two seasons. Mustapha Heron was held to three on 1-of-7 shooting — he entered averaging 14.3 points per game, including 18.7 in the previous three.

The schools play again Feb. 26 at Villanova.

St. John’s jumped out to a seven-point lead in the first three minutes, but the Wildcats took control with a 13-0 run that gave them a 28-19 advantage. Moore had five points and Bey drained two 3s during the spurt as the Red Storm went scoreless for 4:28.

Villanova closed the first half with seven consecutive points and was ahead 39-26 at the break. The 6-foot-3 Gillespie had nine rebounds and five assists to go with his four points in the first half.

BIG PICTURE

Villanova: Chasing another Big East title, the Wildcats moved within a half-game of first-place Seton Hall in the conference standings. The 10th-ranked Pirates, yet to lose a league game, host last-place DePaul on Wednesday night.

St. John’s: After going 11-2 out of conference with wins over West Virginia and Arizona, the Red Storm’s only two Big East triumphs have come against DePaul — including a victory Saturday that marked their first true road win of the season. But they were unable to follow it up against a top opponent. St. John’s plays three of its next four at home, all against teams currently unranked, and probably needs at least a victory or two to maintain reasonable hopes of a postseason bid in Mike Anderson’s first season as coach.

THINKING OF KOBE

Before the game, a moment of silence was held for Kobe Bryant, his daughter and the seven others killed in a helicopter crash Sunday in California.

UP NEXT

Villanova: After winning two road games in four days, the Wildcats return home to face well-rested Creighton (16-5, 5-3 Big East) on Saturday afternoon. Villanova won 64-59 on Jan. 7 at Creighton, which has won three straight and sits just outside the AP Top 25 this week.

St. John’s: Hosts high-scoring Georgetown on Sunday afternoon as Hoyas coach Patrick Ewing returns again to Madison Square Garden, where he was an NBA star for the New York Knicks. The Red Storm were routed 87-66 at Georgetown on Jan. 8.