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Know Your Big East Opponent: St. John’s

St. John’s will be looking to take another step up this season.

NCAA Basketball: St. John at Creighton
A St. John’s coach who knows what he’s doing.
Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

As the title implies we will be taking a look at our Big East opponents and what they will be looking like heading into the coming season.

Last Season

St. John’s welcomed new coach Mike Anderson in last year and he quickly implemented his style and philosophies to a team that clearly had no plan under the prior management. Namely, Anderson implemented his hyper aggressive defensive style to lift the Johnnies from 104th in defensive efficiency to 49th in just one season. A big factor was that the defense forced turnovers better than anyone else in the Big East and was also 22nd in the nation in that metric.

St. John’s went 11-2 in the non-conference with a couple good wins and a bunch of easy ones as well. In Big East play they went on 3 separate 3 game losing streaks that were broken up by wins against DePaul (twice), Providence and Creighton. The reason for the hardships in conference play was the offense. The offense was simply atrocious and St. John’s elite defense and break-neck pace weren’t enough to get the wins.

Looking Ahead

Coming into this season St. John’s will see a couple big contributors leaving. LJ Figueroa and Mustapha Heron were the leading scorers and took a bulk of the shots. Nick Rutherford is also out the door and was second on the team in assists but was most useful for his energy on defense.

St. John’s is returning a large core group of players. Their biggest returning scorer is Rasheem Dunn (11.9/3.8/3.4) who is a poor outside shooter but gets to the line well and converts at a good rate. Julian Champagnie (9.9/6.5/.8) returns after a freshman year where he developed into a good defender and started to refine his offensive game. Marcellus Earlington (9.0/4.7/.6) also returns after making a jump in both time and production last season. Champagnie and Earlington both showed flashes of offensive ability and rebounded very well for a team that didn’t have anyone taller than 6’9” and played on the run.

A couple other returners are Josh Roberts and Greg Williams Jr. Roberts rebounded decently but didn’t do much offensively. Williams has the ability to get hot from 3 but was very streaky in his preformances last season.

St. John’s also welcomes a pair of JUCO transfers to help fill out the roster. Vince Cole will come in as scoring guard after averaging 21ppg last season and gives St. John’s a legit scorer. Also joining is Isaih Moore who comes in as a forward who can play inside-out and averaged 16ppg as well as 9rpg. In addition to these transfers, freshman Posh Alexander also comes in and will look to make an impact. Alexander is only 5’11” but possesses the quickness to be a good on-ball defender.

Conclusion

Mike Anderson established an identity for St. John’s in his first season at the helm. Their aggressive defense and fast pace were their calling cards and Anderson will no doubt be looking to continue those themes this season. His returning and incoming players have the athleticism to keep that defensive intensity going. Offensively, the returning group has capable scorers that developed well last season and the addition of Moore and Cole will add more athleticism, depth and scoring potential. If St. John’s can impose their tempo they will be dangerous, if they can score efficiently they will be deadly.