College Hoops Net has started their previews of the top 144 basketball teams (in their prediction)... and the second major conference team after Colorado is St. John's, at 142. Ouch. Even last year, the Red Storm were 131 with a class of all freshmen coming in. Those freshman are sophomores.
Without factoring in the advances of other teams, and fully acknowledging that the Johnnies will not be a top Big East squad on the hardwood next year, let's follow the rationale and speak on how a team with 9 returnees, most of whom started last year, gets a bottom-of-barrel scrape, deciding which factors are real question marks.
- The team is still young, though the freshmen did play a lot and Mason can be a game changer when healthy: agreed. And his health has been enough of an issue that it is a question mark.
- Replacing Eugene Lawrence at point guard is a concern, despite his inconsistencies; he was a good leader: agreed that the point guard spot will be a concern; Geno did some things well on defense, though he couldn't hang with the quicker players in the league. His scoring was inconsistent, but he will be replaced by an even worse scorer in Boothe, unless Boothe improves. I don't want to rip on the departed players, but Geno's leadership seemed to include not passing to some guys in the post, and sometimes taking a bad shot instead of looking for another player to pass to. Boothe should speed the tempo, and "lead," but he may be similarly inconsistent. Another question mark; he needs to improve.
- Larry Wright was the most consistent shooter but will not be with the team: It's true, he was the most consistent shooter. He developed a runner between freshman and sophomore years (or maybe he just used it more), and one hopes that Paris Horne can add the same to his game. Question mark.
- The backcourt gets depth with Quincy Roberts and TyShwan "Stop Spelling My Name Wrong" Edmondson. Phil Wait is an intriguing prospect: here's where this preview gets wonky to me. The team certainly hopes Roberts is a shooter. But Edmondson's scoring prowess is unproven (why was no one on this guy? Makes an outside observer suspect of his talent, and I hope to be proven wrong), and he is much more needed to play point guard, because Boothe can't play 40 minutes every game. Wait is 7 feet tall, and I hope that at 21 and with years of practice, he can play a few minutes and divert some shots. But he is a project for the time being. Less of a question mark here, because the fortunes of the team roll with the returning players.
- Are Boothe/ Kennedy/ Horne ready to take over a majority of minutes: Note that Boothe had a better assist to turnover ratio only in-conference, not overall. Boothe is certainly in the flow of things, having played a lot of pg last year. Horne has to show something in the halfcourt sets, like the ability to get his shot off. And he has to become the defender Coach Roberts thinks he is. Less of a question mark; they all played a significant amount, even if they weren't world beaters.
- Kennedy proved to be a capable scorer going to the basket: Kennedy was a capable scorer when he chose to go to the basket, but disappeared in some games. I like him to be more consistent this year, but he has to learn to take more shots with Mason on the floor. Kennedy played a good number of minutes; he needs to bring a little more to the table - lockdown defense, steals, passing, and some aggressive drives. And a capable standstill outside shot when he's left alone on the wing. Big question mark here. Kennedy was a double double threat in the beginning of the year and disappeared midseason. I think his numbers showed signs of fatigue, but I'm not his doctor.
- The frontcourt is full of talented youngsters who need to turn talent into production: very true. Question mark.
- Dele Coker was starting to look more comfortable around the basket at the end of the year: I must have missed those games. I thought he looked a little lost, but also didn't get a lot of minutes. He's a question mark, for sure.
- Add Rob Thomas... and the frontcourt might be looking good: agreed. Question mark, because it involves a return to health.
- ...experienced senior Tomas Jasiulionis: we'll just forget about that part. Unless Tomas comes back with some long-hidden game - and I firmly believe players improve between their first and second years, mostly - TJ needs to wave that towel from the bench and give some minutes when the Big East's big men are mauling Coker, Evans, and Wait.
It's all the "ifs" and the lack of sure things that make projecting this team positively to be difficult. There is some talent, but no faith that the staff can develop said talent. A lot of question marks, all around, and no answers.