We're getting closer and closer to basketball season - only 36 days, Jon Rothstein's Twitter feed tells me. News bits are seeping out, sites are thinking about breakout players, we've unveiled a new logo (and some other changes are still to come).
It's high time we took some looks back on last St. John's men's basketball season - with that Rumble in the Garden staple of number-crunching - and quantify what we all saw. It's good for the memory, and even better for those of you who tuned out during the season or didn't want to wrap your head around the follies of youth without Steve Lavin's quotes.
Last season, St. John's and Coach Steve Lavin had the surprising luxury to play a roster filled with his own players in his second year on campus.
"Luxury", in this case, was also a struggle. Except in rare cases, a team of new, talented players without Division I experience is not a recipe for winning. The ingredients might be excellent, but they need seasoning.
It's late on a Friday afternoon. Take a few minutes to kick back. Read about the Red Storm in St. John's 2011-2012, a statistical retrospective, and discuss.
.045 years of experience
St. John's was the youngest teams in the country last year. By minutes-weighted height* (per Ken Pomeroy's site), the Red Storm squad was just below Boston College and Rutgers in their complete lack of experience on the floor in any given game.
*Note: Minutes-weighted height gives more credit to freshmen who played minutes rather than just freshmen, sophomores, et cetera on the roster. Freshmen have 0 years of experience, sophomores 1, juniors 3 - even if they haven't played D-I ball yet.
Six scholarship athletes finished the year on the roster. Nurideen Lindsey left the Red Storm in October, despite having all the playing time he could handle in a top conference. In terms of experience, that may have been for the best. Nurideen Lindsey may have wanted to play a different style of basketball, and Phil Greene had a chance to work on his point guard skills. Lindsey will suit up for the Rider Broncs later this year.
Malik Stith also left St. John's in February, in the midst of the Big East season, searching for impact playing time. As reported on the Rumble first, Stith transferred to Division II Fairmont State in West Virginia. Amir Garrett joined the squad for the Texas Pan-American game in mid-December, and quickly became a strong glue player for the young Johnnies.
After a first-round loss to the Pittsburgh Panthers in the Big East Tournament, the Red Storm's record stood at 13-19, a far cry from the senior-laden team's finish the year before. Along the way, the team only spent 4 game days with Steve Lavin; assistant Mike Dunlap held the reins as Lavin regained his strength from his prostate cancer procedure.
Would the season have turned out differently? It's easy to imagine yes. But given the team's extreme inexperience, lack of rebounding options even if Norvel Pelle and Jakarr Sampson had been eligible to play last season, and general lack of bodies - even if Lavin was able to better integrate Nurideen Lindsey into the team - the Johnnies likely would still have been be relegated to a season hovering around .500. Or more likely, to 13-19.
-11.3, or, -7.7
The first number is the efficiency margin - the tempo-free difference between how many points St. John's scores per 100 possessions and how many points St. John's allowed in Big East play.
The second number is the the average points scored per game by St. John's minus the points allowed per game for Mike Dunlap's charges during the 18 game Big East regular season.
Both of those differentials were the second-worst in the league. But usually, the worst team by point differential also has the worst record. The Red Storm took their lumps and squeezed out quality wins against the scoring trend (at Cincinnati, against West Virginia, against Notre Dame, and out of conference against UCLA) to finish 11th in the Big East, giving the faithful fans glimpses of hope in a transitional year.
The number of points scored by the combination of Moe Harkless (15.5 points per game) and D`Angelo Harrison (17 points per game), earning both spots on the Big East rookie team - and earning Harkless the Big East's rookie of the year award. Harkless, drafted by the NBA's Philadelphia 76ers with the 15th pick of the NBA draft (and traded to the Orlando Magic this summer), also earned a spot on the Big East's Honorable Mention team.
The number of free throws the Red Storm players attempted in conference play, led by the crafty D`Angelo Harrison. The 4th highest mark in the Big East, Harrison's free throws helped keep the Red Storm within striking distance for periods of games - and helped keep opponents on their heels. And his ability to nail those gimmes at over 80% is helpful, too.
The number of free throws the Red Storm players allowed opponents to shoot in conference play. While sometimes running into foul trouble, the Johnnies usually finished with all six or seven players available. Combined with the yoga/ lack of serious injury, the staff and players managed a roster with a bench of two players at the roster's fullest very well. And allowing fewer free throws meant opponents had to score from the floor, not helped by defensive penalties.
The Johnnies only logged 11.6 assists per game in Big East conference play. The rate of assists on made shots (48.7%) was the lowest in the Big East. Some returning experience, better shooting, more patient passing, an emerging D`Angelo Harrison as a distributor, and the talent of Jamal Branch and Marco Bourgault could bring that percentage closer to the league average of almost 58%.
The percentage of Big East opponents' missed shots rebounded for additional offensive chances. St. John's worked hard to prevent offensive rebounds, but height often overwhelms fight on the glass. The Red Storm's inability to end possessions meant more scoring chances for opponents - especially the bigger, better-rebounding foes. God`sgift Achiuwa was game, batted some balls to teammates, but struggled to rebound against bigger opponents. Can the arrival of size and rebounding skill in the form of Orlando Sanchez, Christian Jones, JaKarr Sampson, and Chris Obekpa help returnee Achiuwa - who rebounded 5.8 misses per contest - turn that around?
The number of steals and the number of blocks by Sir`Dominic Pointer, a notable defensive pest and dogged defender. Both of those numbers were second on the Red Storm. The steals number was shared with Maurice Harkless, and was bested by D`Angelo Harrison (52 steals, but in 171 more minutes). The blocks total was only bettered by Harkless' 45 rejections; more on Sir`Dom's potential coming up next week.
That's the percentage opponents shot inside the arc, second highest in the league to DePaul - who allowed a bit under 54% shooting from inside the three-point arc in league play. DePaul's problems are deeper; the Johnnies deterred some opponents from scoring right at the rim, and forced more three-point attempts by design.
But the team defense has to be in a position where the unit can dictate where the opponent gets a clean look from. Last year, scrambling defenses, double-coverage, watching for foul trouble, and crashing the boards took precedence over the true level of defensive harassment Lavin has preached in the past.
The number of newcomers to the St. John's Red Storm this season, including:
- point guard Jamal Branch
- forward Orlando Sanchez
- forward JaKarr Sampson
- center Chris Obekpa
- wing Marco Bourgault
- wing Felix Balamou
- forward Christian Jones
- wing Max Hooper (who will redshirt this year per NCAA rules)
What stats stood out to you from last year's team? What aspect of the game is most likely to improve?