When the news that four-star freshman point guard Marcus LoVett was ruled ineligible for this entire season went down on November 11, it seems like so did the Red Storm's expectations for the year.
Even with LoVett, St. John's was not expected to compete in the improving Big East this season. They were picked to finish last in the conference by Big East coaches in October. Now without a true point guard on their roster heading into the season, expectations for the Johnnies in Chris Mullin's comeback season were anything but bright.
But there is news circulating - which we have heard as well from sources - that Marcus Lovett could play this year. As in, next week.
Hearing St. John's PG Marcus LoVett has a 50/50 chance of being cleared next week after first semester grades are final. We shall see— J.P. Pelzman (@JPPelzman) December 8, 2015
How has St. John's been without the other ball handler Chris Mullin and his staff expected to have on the floor?
Led by a cast of characters--mainly Federico Mussini--playing out of position at the point, the Red Storm have gotten off to a decent start on the season.
However turnovers, and a lack of ball handlers, have already reared their ugly heads in the season's first eight games.
St. John's has averaged more turnovers (15) than assists (12) per game as teams begin to pressure the Johnnies not only with an occasional full-court press, but with pressure and trapping in their half court offense as well, forcing the ball handlers to make decisions and breaking up the flow of the offense.
As the Red Storm's main point guard, Mussini has been the culprit of a team-high 26 turnovers, but the blame cannot be placed on the natural shooting guard who is playing out of position in his first taste of the college game.
Veterans Felix Balamou (12 turnovers in five games), Durand Johnson (20 turnovers) and Ron Mvouika (16 turnovers) have all undertaken ball-handling duties for the Johnnies at one point or another when Mussini sits on the bench, however none of them have done an exceptional job keeping the ball safe.
Turnovers have been the main problem—or have been at least a part of the problem—for St. John's in each of their three losses on the year, as the Johnnies have had more turnovers than assists on each occasion.
Last week's road loss to Fordham was a major example of that, as the Red Storm turned the ball over a whopping 19 times and had just ten assists. Mussini would finish with a season-high five turnovers to just one assist in what was easily his worst outing on the young season.
A large amount of turnovers should be expected from a mostly young team that is still getting used to playing with each other on both ends of the floor. However, without a true point guard on their roster, the Johnnies have also struggled to get consistent good looks offensively as opposing teams make a point to put on pressure in the backcourt.
St. John's is currently shooting 34.5 percent from 3-point range this season, which ranks 152nd in the nation. Their effective field goal percentage (adjusted to weight three-pointers) of 48.3 percent is worse, sitting tied for 226th in the nation.
One of the fixes to these problems is an obvious one. The addition of Marcus Lovett - a true point guard with the ability to break down opponents and create mismatches - to this roster would instantly give the Red Storm the exceptional ball handler that they need, and it would free up Mussini in a spot-up role where he is more comfortable - allowing him to shoot more spot-up threes and fewer two-pointers. Ron Mvouika and Felix Balamou would spend a little less time creating their own shots.
LoVett is not a savior. As a freshman playing a higher level of competition, he will struggle with his own turnovers, the speed of the game, and understanding what he can and cannot do on this level. But he would help the team develop giving coach Chris Mulin options on the court.
If LoVett ends up not appearing in game action this entire season, at least Mussini will get a year of experience at the point by virtue of trial by fire. St. John's fans can also feel comfortable knowing that the point guard position won't be an issue in 2016-17, with LoVett being free to play and top-NYC combo guard Shamorie Ponds also making his debut in Queens.