College Basketball Final Four Odds: St. John’s, Rick Pitino Worth Longshot Futures Bet?

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Written By Eli Hershkovich | Last Updated
College Basketball Picks

We’re 50 days away from the brackets and March Madness odds. In recent years, particular sportsbooks have opened a Final Four betting market at the start of the season — rather than waiting until right before the NCAA tournament. Typically, I only bet national title odds, but St. John’s caught my attention as a buy-low candidate among Final Four futures. I’ve added legendary NCAA tournament coach Rick Pitino and the Red Storm to my college basketball picks ahead of the Big Dance. Let’s explore why.

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College basketball picks: st. John’s to make final four

The Pitino Factor

After spending three seasons at Iona, Pitino headed 14 miles south to St. John’s — his first power-conference gig since he was canned at Louisville in October 2017. In an era dominated by the transfer portal, Pitino followed suit. The Johnnies brought in nine fresh faces while an identical amount headed elsewhere.

Their 7-3 record in non-conference play shouldn’t come as a surprise. Pitino’s calling card is at the defensive end, applying multiple looks with a dose of ball pressure, manufacturing turnovers, and frustrating opponents. No one on this roster played a single minute together at the collegiate level. Finding some semblance of continuity is an arduous task, even for a legendary coach.

Moreover, UMass transfer R.J. Luis, a highly sought-after piece in the portal, missed the first 10 games with shin splits. St. John’s wasn’t near full strength until the beginning of Big East play, and it owns a top-15 adjusted defensive efficiency (AdjD) from then onward. Within the conference, it’s compiling takeaways at the fourth-highest rate.

Overall, the Red Storm’s press usage ranks in the 98th percentile (per Synergy). This degree of havoc is difficult to prep for, especially in a tournament setting. They present the veteran depth to sustain it, touting the 82nd-highest percentage of bench minutes.

Scoring Upside

Granted, St. John’s recently endured a three-game skid against Creighton, Seton Hall, and Marquette. However, two of them came by a single point. That implies the possibility of positive regression down the road, particularly at the offensive end, as Pitino’s group irons out late-game situations.

Neither Pitino nor guard Jordan Dingle (COVID) made the trip for their 15-point loss to the Pirates, to boot.

Additionally, the Johnnies’ perimeter efficiency (or lack thereof), producing a 30.3% clip in league games, should eventually spike. Daniss Jenkins and Dingle have both underperformed despite shooting above 35% on a minimum of 155 attempts last season.

In the meantime, the Red Storm’s prowess in generating extra possessions is even more beneficial if their shooting goes cold. With Joel Soriano and Chris Ledlum leading the way, they’ve tallied the second-most quick points off second chances per 100 trips up-court against the average opponent (via Haslametrics). This metric measures scoring opportunities that happen five seconds or less after an offensive rebound.

Why Bet St. John’s Now?

Like any other market, an ideal time to wager on in-season futures is before a marquee game. If bettors back a team on the cheap, they’re bullish on its chances of delivering a sizeable upset. Hence, the investment comes before the price tag (hopefully) shrinks.

Pitino’s bunch will square off against top-ranked UConn on Saturday, which certainly fits the mold of the notion above. It’s a rematch of the Johnnies’ near-upset win over the Huskies on Dec. 23. UConn center Donovan Clingan (foot) didn’t suit up, but St. John’s has remolded itself into a more well-rounded unit — capable of finishing the job this time. If Soriano & Co. accomplish that feat, their Final Four odds will undergo a substantial alteration.

Final (Four) Thoughts

As of this publishing, the best available St. John’s Final Four odds are . If you missed out on +2200, join TheLines.com’s free sports betting Discord to receive an instant alert whenever I share new college basketball picks. Head over to the #roles server to enroll in the push notifications.

Outside Shots: TheLInes.com College Basketball Podcast

TheLines.com managing editor Stephen Andress joins me every Friday to preview the weekend action, including an in-depth discussion of UConn vs. St. John’s. Subscribe to the podcast below.

You can subscribe to the audio-only version of the show on AppleSpotify, or wherever you find your favorite podcasts.

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