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Pomeroy predicts St. John's ninth in the Big East

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Time for the Johnnies to prove how good they can be.

St. John's Red Storm v Villanova Wildcats Photo by Drew Hallowell/Getty Images

It’s the time of the preseason where Ken Pomeroy releases the preseason rankings of all 351 college basketball teams. Think of it as an early look at how teams are projected to finish, based on knowledge of returning players, talent on teams, historical precedent and incoming athletes.

Noting that St. John’s is ranked 9th in the Big East - with a sizable gulf between 8th-place Providence and the Johnnies - is also to note where the rating system sees deficiencies in St. John’s. But it’s important to note that KenPom thought Georgetown would be a top-5 team in the Big East. The Hoyas bumbled to a bottom-four finish, with a squad that seemed to not all be on the same page.

Talent and experience matters - and that is where Villanova and Xavier start to grade out far better than the rest of the pack.

But chemistry also matters.

Growth also matters.

The ratings (which are sortable):

KP Rank Team Proj. W Proj. L Proj. Off. O-Rank Proj. Def. D-Rank Last Yr Final Rank
2 Villanova 15 3 116.3 2 87.5 3 1
11 Xavier 12 6 112.2 9 91.8 28 14
19 Butler 10 8 108.9 29 91.4 23 30
29 Georgetown 10 8 108.5 32 92.0 29 62
32 Creighton 10 8 109.9 20 93.9 55 40
38 Seton Hall 9 9 106.1 56 91.0 20 29
47 Marquette 9 9 107.5 40 93.4 45 97
63 Providence 7 11 103.7 86 93.5 47 44
108 St. John's 5 13 99.4 181 95.0 66 211
177 DePaul 3 15 100.5 151 101.4 208 182

St. John’s is projected to finish 5-13 in conference play, much better than last season’s 1-17 mark, but still pretty poor. But underlying this is the projection that the Big East, once again, will be a dogfight with few easy outs. There are only three teams projected to be below the top-50, only four projected to be out of the top-40. For comparison (not pictured), last season’s preseason rankings had only four teams in the top-50.

KenPom predicts the league to have a number of very good defenses, and for St. John’s defense to be a notch below the pack. But where the Johnnies are projected to struggle is on offense, where their projected offensive efficiency (in points scored per 100 possessions) lags behind even DePaul.

That’s not an unreasonable projection.

Last year’s offense struggled. And the team’s most reliable outside shooter (Ron Mvouika) is gone. The player with the best ability to put up shots without turning the ball over (Durand Johnson) is also gone.

The most offensively efficient returning player is Yankuba Sima, who did most of his damage early in the season against weaker opponents (though he was good against Providence). Federico Mussini struggled badly down the stretch, shooting 28% inside the arc and 28% outside the arc in conference play.

And the offense is hoping for a boost from a junior college player in Bashir Ahmed - but junior college players have been hit or miss in the conversion to NCAA ball. And the offense hopes for a new backcourt of a pair of 6-foot freshmen, Marcus LoVett and Shamorie Ponds; freshmen don’t usually start off their careers with high efficiency. And while shooting may translate, players like Malik Ellison and Federico Mussini show that interior scoring can be difficult for guards in their first year of Division-1 basketball.

Those are the bad points.

But the head coach has a year under his belt to refine his approach to teaching and player management, in a year where expectations are definitely higher. And it’s unlikely that NONE of the players will break out, given their experience in the system and the talent in the newcomers.

And given the number of open shots that team missed last season, and the weight of avoidable turnovers from bad passes and poor ballhandling that SHOULD be cured by LoVett and Ponds, this year should be better...

...and could exceed these projected expectations.