Rejoice St. John’s fans! Tonight, the 2016-17 regular season will commence for the Red Storm, wiping the slate clean from last year’s 8-24 season.
Supporters in Queens are more than prepared to move on from a lackluster 2015-16 campaign, welcoming new players to the fold and watching returning players develop after a season of training.
Hopefully, much like against Baruch, this exciting and young team can come out strong and show the nation their improvements.
Who: St. John’s Red Storm versus Bethune-Cookman Wildcats
Where: Carnesecca Arena, Queens, NY
When: Friday, November 11th, 9:00 PM ET
TV: YES Network in NY; Fox Sports 2 in other places; Fans can find the channel guide here.
Audio: St. John’s TV All-Access will provide free audio for the contest. That station can be found by clicking here. Also live game audio can be found on 570 WMCA.
Tickets: You can secure your seat by clicking here.
Twitter: Follow @rumbleSBN and @StJohnsBBall for updates.
Last Meeting: On December 14th of 2008, St. John’s topped Bethune-Cookman in Queens by a 77-59 score.
Head coach Gravelle Craig enters his 6th season at the helm of Bethune-Cookman’s basketball program in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference. Craig has yet to guide his team to a postseason tournament and has finished a season with an overall winning record once; the Wildcats have had two winning records in conference.
Barring unsuspected contributions from newcomers, Craig’s Wildcats’ will once again struggle to find wins in their non-conference season - playing most games on the road for the money, like other MEAC squads.
Bethune-Cookman returns only two starters from last season’s team, which won 14 games. For the Wildcats to succeed, seniors Jordan Potts, Diamante Lewis and Reggie Baker must perform exceptionally.
Potts is the most established guard the Wildcats have. After transferring from UNC-Greensboro and sitting out a season, Potts made his mark at Bethune-Cookman last year, rarely leaving the floor and leading the team in assists. The high-scoring first-team all-MEAC player is out for tomorrow’s contest, however, with a broken foot.
In response, Bethune-Cookman will start one player who had spot minutes (Josue Salaam, who had some starts) last season, two redshirted players who have not yet seen time for the WIldcats and two new juniors.
Diamante Lewis, a 38% three-point shooter, is the sole returnee from last year’s starting lineup, but will come off the bench.
Scoring guard Reggie Baker will look to handle the scoring load. Brandon Tabb, a 6’5” wing, will look to score from outside the arc. For size, the Wildcats will start redshirt freshman Ulmer Manzie, who is 6’9”, 240 pounds.
Three Things to Watch
Crippling Bethune-Cookman: As college basketball season begins, many upper level schools will square-off with weaker opponents, like Bethune-Cookman - a team that KenPom ranks 333rd out of 351 DI teams.
Good teams know how to keep inferior opponents down, and dilute their strengths. Bethune-Cookman will try to shoot many shots from behind the arc and pressure for turnovers - despite slowing the pace of the game. The Johnnies must contain their shooters and get moving up the court for early-offense opportunities.
Incorporation of newcomers: You probably know that Chris Mullin’s team will be riddled with new faces, many of which are highly touted.
“I mean I think we've upgraded this year in terms of new talent in the locker room and experience.” St. John’s guard Malik Ellison told to reporters. “I think it will be a great year."
Mullin and staff should consider the Bethune-Cookman game a smashing success if they can secure a comfortable lead - which will mean additional minutes for newcomers like Shamorie Ponds, Bashir Ahmed and Richard Freundenberg.
Good Vibes: In sports, momentum and energy is never discounted. As Drake says, “got a lot of people trying to drain me of this energy.”
This program desperately needs a breath of fresh air, an influx of positive energy. Many believe that Chris Mullin will one day provide this once elite basketball program, that zest it has lacked recently. The foundation of that needs to start against Bethune-Cookman. After all the hype around St. John’s and their reinvigorated roster, if fans leave Carnesecca Arena feeling let down by their beloved Johhnies play, there is more work to be done than we thought.
Victory on Bethune-Cookman’s side seems highly unlikely, despite numerous holes on the rebuilding St. John’s squad.
Sima and Yakwe will make a second-half difference to wash out any success from the Wildcats big men. Using the advantage down low, watch for St. John’s to expose their mismatch against a weaker back court. Anything less than a sound victory would be disappointing.
Final Score: 82-60, St. John’s