Preseason Preview: St. John’s

Hauser Anim Heldt

Photo by Anthony Giacomino/ Paint Touches

The first official practices of the 17-18 college basketball season are in the books and Paint Touches is celebrating by counting down every Marquette opponent from worst to first. Each preview will contain a look at how the opponent did last season, who they lose, who they gain, reasonable expectations for their season, and our own prediction of how their matchup(s) with Marquette will go. This series will start with the most under of underdogs and progress all the way up to most unbeatable of opponents. Next up is team full of talented players but short on the bench and short in discipline, the ever-enigmatic St. John’s Red Storm

Team: St. John’s Red Storm
16-17 Record: 14-19 (7-11 Big East)
Postseason?: Not yet
16-17 KenPom: 99
Date: 2/10/18 & 2/21/18
Location: Carnesecca Arena and BMO Harris Bradley Center
Coach: Chris Mullin (3rd Season)
Projected KenPom Range: 50-100
Projected Conference Finish: 8/10 in the Big East

Departures from 16-17
Malik Ellison: Starting wing: 24.8 mpg, 7.4 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 2.5 apg, 0.9 spg, 0.2 bpg, 1.8 tpg, .419 FG%, .341 3P% (Transferred to Pittsburgh)
Federico Mussini: 2nd Man off the Bench: 18.6 mpg, 7.9 ppg, 1.7 rpg, 0.8 apg, 0.5 spg, 0.0 bpg, 0.9 tpg, .410 FG%, .427 3P% (Left to play professionally overseas)
Yankuba Sima: Backup C: 16.2 mpg, 5.5 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 0.5 apg, 0.4 spg, 0.5 bpg, 0.8 tpg, .447 FG%, .000 FG% (only appeared in 11 games) (Midseason transferred to Oklahoma State)
Darien Williams: 3rd Man off the Bench: 11.9 mpg, 3.8 ppg, 2.6 rpg, 0.2 apg, 0.4 spg, 0.5 bpg, 0.6 tpg, .540 FG%, .000 3P% (Graduate transferred to Nevada)
Richard Freudenberg: 5th Man off the Bench: 9.3 mpg, 1.3 ppg, 1.3 rpg, 0.5 spg, 0.0 bpg, 0.1 spg, 0.7 tpg, .250 FG%, .200 3P% (Left to play professionally overseas)
Elijah Holifield: Benchwarmer: 1.6 mpg, 1.1 ppg, 0.1 rpg, 0.3 apg, 0.4 spg, 0.0 bpg, 0.3 tpg, .667 FG%, .333 3P% (only appeared in 8 games) (Transferred to Prairie View A&M)
27% of scoring, 26% of rebounding, 30% of assists, 30% of steals, 13% of blocks, 34% of 3PM

Marvin Clark Jr: Transfer SF from Michigan State
Justin Simon: Transfer SG from Arizona
Bryan Trimble: 3-star SG, ranked #340 per 247Sports

Probable Starters:
PG: Marcus LoVett Jr: 6-0 180 lb SO: 31.6 mpg, 15.9 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 3.8 apg, 1.3 spg, 0.0 bpg, 2.6 tpg, .464 FG%, .382 3P%
SG: Shamorie Ponds: 6-1 175 lb RSSO: 33.6 mpg, 17.4 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 3.1 apg, 2.1 spg, 0.2 bpg, 1.9 tpg, .439 FG%, .375 3P%
SF: Bashir Ahmed: 6-7 210 lb SR: 26.7 mpg, 13.4 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 1.2 apg, 0.5 spg, 0.6 bpg, 2.3 tpg, .394 FG%, .354 3P%
PF: Marvin Clark Jr: 6-7 230 lb RSJR: 9.7 mpg, 3.9 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 0.3 apg, 0.3 spg, 0.4 bpg, 0.6 tpg, .542 FG%, .423 3P% (15-16 stats for Michigan State)
C: Tariq Owens: 6-11 205 lb RSJR PF: 18.8 mpg, 5.2 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 0.5 apg, 0.6 spg, 2.2 bpg, 0.9 tpg, .504 FG%, .000 3P%

Probable Bench:
Justin Simon: 6-5 215 lb RSSO
Kassoum Yakwe: 6-7 210 lb JR PF
Amar Alibegovic: 6-9 240 lb SR PF
Bryan Trimble: 6-3 220 lb FR SG

Probable Benchwarmers:
Justin Cole: 6-2 190 lb SO PG
Brandon Lawrence: 6-2 175 lb SO SG
Mikey Dixon: 6-2 170 lb SO PG (Redshirtting)
Sedee Keita: 6-9 240 lb SO C (Redshirtting)
Boubacar Diakite: 6-8 185 lb FR SF (Redshirtting)


• St. John’s had a confounding season last year. They had a losing record in the non-conference season, losing to the likes of Old Dominion, LIU Brooklyn, and the most unforgivable, Delaware State, quite possibly the worst loss in Big East history. But a funny thing happened in Big East play…they weren’t terrible. They managed 7 wins, including beating #13 (at the time) Butler, Providence on the road, and smacking Marquette by 14 at Madison Square Garden. Their uptempo, playground style confounded a lot of teams but also led them to be on the receiving end of a lot of beatdowns (22 @Marquette, 24 @Butler, 28 @Georgetown, etc). In fact, only one of St. John’s 11 conference losses was by single digits (5 vs Xavier) and only 2 of their 7 conference wins were by double digits (10 vs Depaul and 14 vs Marquette). So, when they were good, they were passible and when they were bad they were very bad. With most of their core returning and two impact transfers becoming eligible, the Red Storm look to be significantly improved, but are likely still a year away from a return to the NCAA tournament.
• Any conversation about St. John’s starts and ends with their dynamic backcourt. Marcus LoVett and Shamorie Ponds were an unstoppable scoring duo, together averaging 33.3 points and 6.9 assist per game. This made them both unanimous picks for the Big East All Freshmen team. Both players are three level scorers that use quickness (both handling and shooting the ball) and athleticism to embarrass defenders. LoVett Jr is the superior slasher and floor general, using penetration to collapse defenses before finding open teammates. Ponds is the superior athlete and shooter, sinking 75 deep balls last season and displaying inhuman levels of body control. Defensively, both employed an in your face, junkyard dog style approach that resulted in a lot of turnovers and transition points. Ponds was especially strong in this area averaging over 2 steals per game.
• The frontcourt for St. John’s isn’t that shabby either. Tariq Owens and Kassoum Yakwe don’t put up much in the way of points or rebounds (combined for 9.4 points and 8.4 rebounds per game last season) but what they do they do very well. The Swat Brothers are elite rim protectors, each sending back around 2 shots per game. They will likely split time at the five meaning that it will never be completely safe for opposing guards to venture into the lane. The other member of the Red Storm frontcourt is Bashir Ahmed. He doesn’t have the rim protection of the other two, but he was reliable third scorer behind Ponds and LoVett. He featured a soft touch from outside, some nice mid-range ability, and enough strength to post up smaller defenders. He especially loves drawing contact leading the team in the very important free throw rate stat.
• After their prized top 100 recruit Sid Wilson decomitted, the Red Storm class of 2017 is looking pretty thin with only a low level three-star recruit in tow. But they do have two traditional transfers coming off redshirts who should make immediate impacts. First up is Justin Simon. Coming out of high school Simon was a highly coveted top 40 recruit. He ended up with the Arizona Wildcats where he was the last man off the bench. When you are sharing the backcourt with Gabe York, Allonzo Trier, Kadeem Allen, and Parker Jackson-Cartwright, that can happen. With three of those players returning for the next season and a recruiting class featuring two 5-star guards coming in, Simon decided to transfer to St John’s to find playing time. Simon is an ultra-athletic scoring guard. His jump shot is a bit of question mark but his slashing ability allowed him to shoot 51% inside the arc as a freshman and draw an impressive number of fouls. Playing with shooters like Ponds, LoVett, and Ahmed could make Simon a deadly weapon on the wing.
• The other transfer is Marvin Clark Jr from Michigan State. Clark Jr comes from more humble beginnings than the highly ranked Simon. He was a three-star ranked just inside the top 200 coming out of high school. He was a pleasant surprise for the talented Spartans bringing solid rebounding and scoring even as a true freshman. He saw limited minutes due to the sheer talent around him but he shot 60% inside the arc and 42% outside it while grabbing 19% of opponent’s misses. Those are fantastic efficient numbers for a player that only average around 10 minutes per game. As a member of the Red Storm he should prove to be a very valuable piece even if he doesn’t put up the flashiest numbers.
• Depth is going to be the question for St. John’s this season. They have a pretty solid top 7 but not much after that. Now a senior, Amar Alibegovic has a proven that he simply is not a high major caliber player. True freshman Bryan Trimble looks more like a project than an immediate impact player. The rest of the roster is either a walk on or on a mandatory redshirt. 7 players that you can count on is not a lot for a team that likes to run all game and commits a lot of fouls. One injury…to any of their top 7…and St. John’s could go from an NCAA hopeful to competing with Georgetown and DePaul for the cellar.

Marquette’s 14-point loss to the Red Storm is still burned into this blogger’s memory. Looking back, it seemed like young Markus Howard and not as young Haanif Cheatham were simply caught off guard by the intensity of Ponds and LoVett on the press. This led to sloppy turnovers and an early deficit that couldn’t be overcome. The next game they look much better prepared and demolished St. John’s with ease. I think that preparedness carries over into this next season and Marquette goes 2-0 against Mullin’s squad. A solid 15-point victory at home, and a gritty hard fought win in the Big Apple, likely on a Sam Hauser three at the buzzer.

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Categories: Home, Offseason, Previews

Author:Ryan Jackson

Texas A&M Professional, Marquette Fantatic


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