Big East Preview: St. John’s Red Storm

 

Record last season:  17-16 (Conf: 8-10)

Postseason:  NIT Second Round

Coach:  Steve Lavin

Coach’s record at school:  40-28

Offensive efficiency:  97.0 (237th in the country)

Defensive efficiency:  92.6 (32nd in the country)

Returnees:  D’Angelo Harrison (17.8 PPG, 4.3 RPG), JaKarr Sampson (14.9 PPG, 6.6 RPG), Phil Greene IV (10.1 PPG, 2.7 RPG), Sir’Dominic Pointer (6.9 PPG, 5.5 RPG), Jamal Branch (6.1 PPG, 2.4 RPG), Chris Obekpa (3.9 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 4.0 BPG), Marco Bourgault (2.9 PPG, 1.0 RPG), Christian Jones (2.5 PPG, 1.2 RPG), Felix Balamou (2.0 PPG, 1.0 RPG)

Notable losses:  Amir Garrett

Newcomers:  Rysheed Jordan, Orlando Sanchez, Max Hooper, God’sgift Achiuwa (back for his senior season after red shirting last year)

Projected lineup:

G:  Rysheed Jordan

G:  D’Angelo Harrison

F:  Sir’Dominic Pointer

F:  JaKarr Sampson

C:  Chris Obekpa

Outlook:

I didn’t want to pick St. John’s to finish 7th when I did my preseason predictions two weeks back.  There was a time not too long ago that I even thought about picking the Johnnies to win the league.  But when I sat down and mapped out my predictions for the season that are sure to be terrible, that is where they ended up.

There’s no denying that St. John’s has a talented roster.  There are those that even believe they have the most talented roster in the Big East.  But having the most talent doesn’t always translate to having the best team. 

Coach Lavin is a really good coach, and youth may have played in big part in last year’s struggles, but this team needs to get better on the offensive end.  They settled for far too many jump shots and were awful from behind the arc (27.1% which ranked 343rd in the country).  Pulling up for as many jumpers as St. John’s did last year is not ideal, and it’s especially the case when you aren’t very good at obtaining offensive rebounds (which they ranked 212th at). 

I’d expect the number of jump shots to dwindle this year, which will be aided by the arrival of Rysheed Jordan.  Jordan is a big point guard who can break down his man off the dribble and get into the lane with ease.  That will create space on the court, and especially in the low post.  Players like Sampson (Big East Rookie of the Year last year) and Obekpa should get a lot more opportunities for easy flushes.  And with Harrison back, and seemingly on good terms after being suspended at the end of last year, the Johnnies still have a deadly sniper from the outside. 

Defense last year was the strength of Lavin’s team, which should no doubt continue into the upcoming season.  The length, speed and depth of this squad is impressive, and will give opponents fits on a nightly basis.  And with Obekpa protecting the rim as the best shot blocker in the country, other defenders can afford to be aggressive and gamble at times. 

There’s a lot to like about this team.  I didn’t even mention the two incoming transfers – Sanchez and Hooper – who will likely have fairly significant roles in the season afoot.  But there is a heaping of other good teams in the Big East who have had more success in the recent past.  Don’t get me wrong, this is a team that should go to the NCAA tournament this season, and anything less than that will be a disappointment.  This team will no longer get a pass for its youth.  It’s time for the Johnnies to realize the immense amount of talent on this roster and break through. 

Projected Big East finish:  7th

Topics: Basketball, Big East, Chris Obekpa, D'Angelo Harison, Jakarr Sampson, St. John's Red Storm, Steve Lavin

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