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St. John’s vs. Baruch (exhibition): what to look for tonight

Three things to look for tonight versus Baruch College.

NCAA Basketball: Seton Hall at St. John Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

With the first exhibition contest hours away, what are St. John’s fans to look for as the season begins?

Who: St. John’s Red Storm vs. Baruch Bearcats

Where/ When: Carnesecca Arena, Queens, NY / 7:00 PM

TV: ESPN 3 (online)

Twitter: Follow @rumbleSBN and @StJohnsBBall for updates.

ALSO READ: the Rumble’s conversation with Baruch head coach John Alesi.

Notes

  • The Baruch Bearcats went 17-14 last season and were led by the scoring of Chimaechi Ekekeugbor, who averaged 19 points per game, including 29 vs York College and 31 against Yeshiva. he also averaged 8.8 rebounds per game.
  • Bryler Paige and Doyin Isaac are the outside threats for John Alesi’s Baruch squad.
  • The Bearcats has a negative rebounding margin last season.
  • St. John’s Malik Ellison has missed some practice time and the scrimmage at Red Storm Tip Off.
  • Chris Mullin enters his second season at the helm of his alma mater, looking to improve on a 8-24 record last season - though playing with a team that returned 7% of the previous year’s minutes.
  • Tonight’s game will be the first for Mitch Richmond as one of the top four coaches on the court.

Watch for: the newcomers

Most attention will be given to the performance of the newcomers. There are high hopes for the guard tandem of Shamorie Ponds and Marcus Lovett to set the tone for the offense. Ponds, billed as a multi-faceted scorer, should bring an excitement for fans. He is a player who can score from the outside or on drives to the basket. Will Ponds be able to live up to what his exciting high school career would predict?

Marcus Lovett brings a most needed skill set to St. John’s after a year of practice during last year’s challenging season. One could expect Lovett to have a great familiarity with the system Coach Mullin is running and with the skills of his teammates. His performance is measured not simply in his individual statistics but in the performance of the team on a whole.

Bashir Ahmed brings a stellar career playing for Hutchinson Community College to Carnesecca Arena for his debut in a St. John’s uniform. His career suggests success as a slashing wing and as a dependable rebounder. Will we see both this evening?

Richard Freudenberg and Tariq Owens bring athletic skills and height to the team.

Watch for: the fast-paced offense?

Two years ago the squad, led by several seniors, brought a fast paced offense to the game. One memorable game found the team dropping behind Xavier 11-0 only to press and, before St. John’s fans knew it, take a double-digit lead on the way to a win over a ranked opponent.

However, despite the philosophy of using a similarly fast-paced offense, last year’s team did not perform so well, rarely scoring on the fast break. We know Coach Mullin wants to move the pace of the game to provide opportunities at higher percentage shot. One thing to look for this evening is the team’s ability to create in transition with the new ballhandlers running the attack.

Watch for: containment defense

Another challenge for the squad is the ability of the team - particularly the guards - to keep opponents from breaking them down. The miscues on the perimeter placed undue pressure on teammates under the basket to cover attacking perimeter players last season.

Moving the feet quickly to minimize these defensive breakdowns will allow teammates to contain their man. And along with being good, frustrating defense, preventing guards from easy penetration, allows the big men to remain in position to grab rebounds, eliminate put back baskets and to ignite the planned-for fast break.

In this first game fans can expect some moments of excitement and moments of frustration. The team’s ability to learn from both will generate anticipated improvement as the season progresses. It all starts this evening.