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Preseason Preview: St. John’s

Markus Howard

Marquette Men’s Basketball

The first official practices of the 18-19 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. We will be releasing one a day ending the day before Marquette’s exhibition with Carroll. That’s right, when this series ends, Marquette basketball will finally be here.

Team: Saint John’s Red Storm
17-18 Record: 16-17 (4-14 Big East)
Postseason?: Nada
17-18 KenPom: 74
Date: January 01, 2019 & February 05, 2019
Location: Carnesca Arena (Queens, NY) & Fiserv Forum
Coach: Chris Mullin (4th Season)
Projected KenPom Range: 15-50
Projected Conference Finish: 3/10 in the Big East

Departures from 17-18
Marcus LoVett: Starting PG: 32.7 mpg, 14.9 ppg, 2.1 rpg, 1.7 apg, 2.1 spg, 0.0 bpg, 1.9 tpg, .419 FG%, .385 3P% in 7 games (Injured, then left to play overseas)
Bashir Ahemd: Starting SF: 30.2 mpg, 11.3 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 0.9 apg, 1.1 spg, 0.3 bpg, 1.5 tpg, .408 FG%, .344 3P% (Graduated)
Tariq Owens: Starting C: 30.3 mpg, 8.4 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 0.5 apg, 0.6 spg, 2.8 bpg, 1.3 tpg, .504 FG%, .324 3P% (Grad transferred to Texas Tech)
Kassoum Yakwe: 2nd Man off the Bench: 11.8 mpg, 2.2 ppg, 2.1 rpg, 0.2 apg, 0.2 spg, 0.8 bpg, 0.9 tpg, .457 FG%, .000 3P% (Graduate transferred to UConn)
Amar Alibegovic: 3rd Man off the Bench: 11.6 mpg, 1.6 ppg, 1.2 rpg, 0.1 apg, 0.3 spg, 0.4 bpg, 0.4 tpg, .271 FG%, .205 3P% (Graduated)
Boubacar Diakite: Benchwarmer: Appeared in 0 games (Transferred to Iona)
35% of scoring, 41% of rebounding, 16% of assists, 24% of steals, 79% of blocks, 34% of 3PM

Arrivals:
Mustapha Heron: Transfer SG from Auburn
Mikey Dixon: Transfer PG from Quinnipiac
LJ Figueroa: JUCO SG from Odessa College
Sedee Keita: Transfer C from South Carolina
Greg Williams: 3-star SG, ranked #156 by 247 Composite
Marcellus Earlington: 3-star SF, ranked #269 by 247 Composite
Josh Roberts: 3-star PF, ranked #271 by 247 Composite
Brandon Lawrence: Walk on PG, returns from redshirt

Probable Starters:
PG: Shamorie Ponds: 6’1” 175 lb JR: 37.0 mpg, 21.6 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 4.7 apg, 2.3 spg, 0.1 bpg, 2.7 tpg, .420 FG%, .253 3P%
SG: Justin Simon: 6’5” 215 lb RSJR: 36.1 mpg, 12.2 ppg, 7.1 rpg, 5.1 apg, 2.5 spg, 0.8 bpg, 2.9 tpg, .473 FG%, .417 3P%
SF: Mustapha Heron: 6’5” 220 lb JR: 28.2 mpg, 16.4 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 0.9 apg, 1.2 spg, 0.1 bpg, 2.1 tpg, .442 FG%, .331 3P% (stats for Auburn)
PF: Marvin Clark II: 6’7” 230 lb RSSR: 30.9 mpg, 12.5 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 1.0 apg, 1.2 spg, 0.2 bpg, 1.8 tpg, .458 FG%, .411 3P%
C: Sedee Keita: 6’9” 240 lb RSSO C: 9.6 mpg, 1.1 ppg, 2.0 rpg, 0.1 apg, 0.2 spg, 0.4 bpg, 0.5 tpg, .273 FG%, .000 3P% (16-17 stats for South Carolina)

Probable Bench:
Mikey Dixon: 6’2” 170 lb RSSO PG
LJ Figueroa: 6’6” 195 lb RSSO SG
Bryan Trimble Jr: 6’3” 220 lb SO SG
Greg Williams: 6’3” 190 lb FR SG
Josh Roberts: 6’9” 210 lb FR PF

Probable Benchwarmers:
Marcellus Earlington: 6’5” 225 lb FR SF
Brandon Lawrence: 6’2” 175 lb JR PG
Justin Cole: 6’2” 190 lb JR PG
Jay Camus: 5’10” 170 lb SR PG
David Caraher: 6’6” 220 lb SO PF (Redshirting due to NCAA Transfer Rules)
Eli Wright: 6’5” 190 lb JR SG (Redshirting due to NCAA Transfer Rules)

Notes:
• Another season and another hype train is parked right outside St. John’s campus. Every year they seem to have the talent to compete, but they have yet to put it all together. Last season, they appeared to be heading for a disaster of a conference campaign. They started Big East play with 11 straight losses with little hope for a turnaround. Then the impossible happened, the Red Storm rattled off four wins in a row, including two wins over top five teams. That was about all the magic they could muster as they went 2-4 the rest of the way. Their positive end of the season was enough to get them a top 75 KenPom rating. From that team they lose their enforcers down low and a starting wing but they gain a quartet of transfers and some freshmen with good upside. With all these pieces the Red Storm should have enough talent that not even they can mess this up.
• The biggest reason for St. John’s late season surge was Shamorie Ponds entering “God mode.” The rising junior has been a stud since he arrived in Queens but he took it to an entirely new level over the last nine games of the season. During that stretch Ponds averaged 27.2 points, 4.9 rebounds, 4.8 assists, and 2.3 steals per game. To go along with those absurd numbers, he increased his 3P% to 36%. Now, he’s not going to keep those numbers up for an entire season, but with the influx of talent he won’t have to. If he can increase his efficiency while maintaining his volume from last season, he will be the Big East Player of the Year.
• Ponds’ partner in the backcourt last season was Justin Simon. Simon was a former 5-star recruit who originally committed to Arizona. He barely saw the floor for the Wildcats and decided to go cross country in search of playing time. After the redshirt year, he finally showed off the skills that made him a 5-star recruit. Simon led the Red Storm in assists, rebounds, and led the entire conference in steals. Where he can improve is his scoring. 12.2 points a game is solid but he needed a lot of shots to get there. Like Ponds, he should benefit from having a lot of extra weapons around him.
• Speaking of new weapons, the Red Storm are welcoming a trio of transfer guards to bolster their backcourt. LJ Figueroa is a big, high scoring guard from the JUCO ranks. He averaged over 21 points a game for Odessa College, one of the top programs in the NJCAA. It’s a long way up to the Big East but his outside shooting should make an immediate impact. Mikey Dixon is another guard coming from a more-humble program. He was the leading scorer for a very bad Quinnipiac team. He can score at all three levels and should provide the role of a microwave type player off the bench. The last and by far best piece is Mustapha Heron. Last season, Heron was one of the three star players of a top 25 Auburn team. As of this writing, he hasn’t officially been cleared to play but teammate Shamorie Ponds posted on his social media that he was before taking it down. Until we hear otherwise, we are assuming this gets done. Heron is a monster of an athlete who rebounds well and can score in variety of ways. Upon arrival, he immediately becomes one of St. John’s top two or three players.
• St. John’s features yet another talented high scoring wing on its roster in Marvin Clark Jr. Clark Jr started his career as a Michigan State Spartan. He carved out minutes early in Lansing with his efficient scoring and rebounding but he was never likely to be a starter with the constant recruiting of talented wings by Coach Izzo. He left after his sophomore year and found himself a starting role for the Red Storm. Clark Jr brings a level of accuracy and sharpshooting not seen in the other players on St. John’s roster. He led the Red Storm in both eFG% and 3PM. He plays an important role stretching out defenses to give all their talented slashers room to operate. Like Ponds, he also took his game to a new level in the last nine games of the season when they looked like a quality team. He averaged 16.3 points and 6.2 rebounds a night during those final games of the season. Expect him to fill in as the starting 4 and sometimes even as the de facto 5.
• To this point we have mentioned six members of the Red Storm, all guards or wings. St. John’s is lousy with talented backcourt players this season. They will be fast, they will score a ton, and they will be a difficult matchup. What they are lacking is any semblance of size. They only feature two players taller than 6’7” (and only four taller than 6’5”). One of those two is true freshman Josh Roberts, a skinny forward and the lowest rated member of their 2018 class. The other is Sedee Keita, a transfer who only averaged 9.6 minutes, 1.1 points, and 2.0 rebounds at his last stop while shooting an abysmal 27.3% from the floor. Keita will likely get the start but he’s an offensive liability and not that strong of a rebounder or rim protector. This may require a massive philosophical switch from the Red Storm. They have always been defined by aggressive guards and bad-ass ball swatting bigs resulting in one of the best 2P defenses in the conference. They have the aggressive guards in spades but without the rim protectors backing them will their defense still work? Or will opponents take advantage of the aggressiveness by turning blown steal attempts into layups? How St. John’s manages the 5 position could be the key to their whole season.

Prediction:

• St. John’s will look like nothing else that Marquette will see on the schedule next season. As a result, I don’t think the Big East opener in Queens is going to go Marquette’s way. St. John’s owns the first matchup, forcing a ton of turnovers on their way to a double-digit victory, dropping Marquette to 1-5 in Big East openers under Wojo. Marquette returns the favor on Al’s Night in Milwaukee. The Golden Eagles treat the Red Storm like a layup line, which only opens up the perimeter for more scoring. Marquette blows out the Red Storm in Milwaukee by as much as they lost by in New York, splitting the season series.

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Categories: Analysis, Home, Offseason, Previews

Author:Ryan Jackson

Texas A&M Professional, Marquette Fantatic

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