St. John's - the second best per-possession defense in the Big East (to date)

USA TODAY Sports

The 4-3 Red Storm might give fans a sense of agita (we're going to see about adding a sponsorship for the Rumble game thread from Mylanta or Tums) at the end of games, but the fact that the Johnnies are tied for 4th place in the Big East is due solely to the team's stellar defense.

Of course, it's important to remember that the Red Storm have not yet faced Syracuse or Louisville, two teams head and shoulders above the league, or Marquette and Pittsburgh, who impose their will on opponents with physicality.

But so far, the Red Storm have posted the second-best defensive efficiency - in terms of points allowed per possession - in the league.

Currently behind Louisville - and while playing the second highest pace in the Big East behind DePaul - the Johnnies manage to allow 43% shooting on two-pointers and 29% shooting on threes. All of this occurs while sending opponents to the line 19 times per game, on average, and grabbing 68% of available defensive rebounds.

Last year's team snagged under 60% of defensive rebounds, giving opponents chance after chance to score on the small interior. Chris Obekpa and JaKarr Sampson - and some effort in getting back on defense by the whole roster - has helped make second chances harder to come by, and shots at the rim harder to slam home. (Being third in the league in blocked shot percentage also helps.)

The offensive struggles are an obvious problem. The Red Storm post the second-worst offensive efficiency next to South Florida, the league's worst free throw shooting percentage, and display a serious aversion to the three-point shot.

But progress is being made on the court, and when the offense comes around to the level of excellence of the defense - or at least competence - the Red Storm will find themselves in the hunt at the top half of the league table.

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