Is St. John’s a fluke or the beginning of a returning dynasty?
Heading into conference play, are the unbeaten St. John’s Red Storm as good as their record shows?
St. John’s moved to 12-0 after their 104-82 win over Sacred Heart last Saturday. This Saturday the Red Storm will travel to Newark, NJ to take on Seton Hall in the Big East opener for both teams. A question remains for this St. John’s team: How good are they really?
Chris Mullin’s team is averaging 84 points a game, good for 21st in the nation. Junior guard Shamorie Ponds, who almost left school for the NBA, is putting up 19 points along with six assists a game this season. Transfer guard Mustapha Heron, who was ruled eligible right before the season, gives the Red Storm a second offensive option as he is pouring in 15 points a game in his first season in Queens.
Although foul shooting is problematic (69 percent as a team), the Red Storm are shooting 48 percent from the field. Even more impressive is St. John’s shooting 40 percent from beyond the arc which is 16th best in college basketball. They are also getting contributions from everyone including Marvin Clark II (12.3 ppg) and L.J. Figueroa (15.4 ppg, seven rebounds). St. John’s has been Ponds-centric for the last couple of years so help was needed and Mullin delivered for his star player.
Defensively they are not the best as they allow 70 points a game. While they are scoring at a high clip, they will need a significant defensive stop at some point this season. The other issue is the Red Storm’s lack of size. Besides having long players such as Clark and Figueroa, their tallest player is 6’9” Josh Roberts. The problem? Roberts has played just 24 minutes in the first 12 games for St. John’s. They currently average only 35 rebounds per game, good for 249th in the nation.
St. John’s remains 1 of 5 remaining unbeaten teams in college basketball but a look at their schedule shows that they should be undefeated. Just three of their games thus far has been against teams from a Power 5 conference (Rutgers, Georgia Tech, California).
While you can’t fault the team for their schedule, the debate will come as to whether St. John’s deserves an NCAA Tournament berth. At this point of the season, should a St. John’s team that beat St. Francis (NY) and almost lost to Bowling Green get in over another team with a better resume? Look at Seton Hall who is only 9-3 in non-conference but defeated Kentucky (neutral site) and Maryland (on the road).
The Verdict For St. John’s
At this point of the season, there’s no way to gauge how good St. John’s is. Going into a grueling Big East schedule, Saturday’s game against Seton Hall will say a lot about this team. Can they figure out their rebounding problems when they take on taller teams? Will Chris Mullin have to extend his rotation past seven players later in the year? If so, how will those seldom-used players react to increased playing time? Can Ponds continue being the best player on the court game in and game out through March?
Time will tell as to whether the Red Storm is a legitimate NCAA Tournament team or not. It has been a great start to the 2018-2019 season for St. John’s, but their real work has not started yet. The journey begins at the Prudential Center on Saturday.
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