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Big East Preview: St John’s

St John’s actually has an identity now and it’s really fun when you’re not on the receiving end of it.

NCAA Basketball: Big East Conference Tournament-St. John vs Seton Hall
Posh Alexander is really fast.
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Mike Anderson has been coach st St. John’s for just two seasons now and had established a new identity in the program. They play fast, aggressive and hound the opposition up and down the court. The team was only 16-11 and finished 69th (nice) in the KenPom last year but they were top 10 in tempo and steals. The thing that was absent from the picture though was consistency. Only a week after jolly-stomping Villanova the Johnnies lost to a miserable Butler team in OT and then lost to DePaul which never looks good. When forcing their tempo on the opposition St John’s can run with anyone but their offense can run them into trouble very easily.

Looking Ahead

Two of the biggest pieces last season for Mike Anderson were freshman point guard Posh Alexander and their leading scorer Julian Champagnie. Alexander was Big East DPOY and helped lead the defensive pressure St. John’s in known for. His shooting from deep isn’t the best but he distributes well and has incredible explosion and speed. Champagnie was THE guy for St John’s and for good reason. He’s long, athletic, and can score from everywhere while also rebounding and blocking shots on the defensive end.

St John’s doesn’t return many contributors outside of Alexander and Champagnie and the loss of Marcellus “Earhtquake” Earlington is sure to be felt in the coming season. A few transfers have helped to fill out the roster and should be major contributors. Joel Soriano comes in from Fordham and is a beast in the lane. He rebounds at both ends, shoots well inside the lane and blocks a lot of shots, but his range is comprable to that of Tyrique Jones so don’t look for him to spread the floor. Montez Mathis transfers in from Rutgers as an athletic wing. His shooting stats are quite poor but he is tough on defense so he’ll fit right in at St John’s. The other wing, Tareq Coburn, can shoot the ball a bit. Last season at Hofstra, Coburn shot 40% from 3, 82% from the line and took very good care of the ball. He’s not gonna be expected to go for 20 every game but he can get hot from 3 in a hurry and help bolster the half court offense when his name is called.

What’s the Verdict?

St John’s is an interesting case, they don’t return a lot from last season but the two guys coming back led the team in minutes. The transfers will have to help fill out the starting lineup from day one and and should help Mike Anderson continue to push the tempo on other teams. Champagnie will be the go-to guy offensively and will be a menace this season. Alexander will hassle opposition ball handlers and dish to open teammates but his shooting will have to make a jump as he doesn’t have the size to bully the opposition every time. Coburn and Soriano will help balance the offense out with Coburn spotting up and Soriano living in the paint. With all that said, this teams identity will still be to force a lot of turnovers and create easy buckets for themselves. They have the guys to execute this gameplan and will still cause every team in conference all sorts of issues. The supporting cast around Champagnie will have to offer enough support to keep the offense from stalling out and keep them punching with the top of the conference.