This past season's narrative was different for fans of the Johnnies, after a few years of winning seasons. Unlike past St. John's teams, which showed glimpses of hope, the Red Storm struggled all season and found themselves at the very bottom of the Big East, suffering blowouts and often looking a few steps behind the rest of the conference.
It's not like the adversity the Johnnies faced was a surprise. College basketball fans knew St. John's would struggle before the season even started. This past summer the Red Storm virtually had to assemble a team from scratch, losing more than 95% of the scoring and rebounding production from the previous season.
New head coach Chris Mullin did a solid job completing the roster with potential. Players like Malik Ellison, Yankuba Sima, and Kassoum Yakwe all flashed talent this season. When those players come back next season as stronger and more experienced sophomores, they will be joined by talented freshman such as Shamorie Ponds, Richard Freudenberg, and Bashir Ahmed - not to mention redshirted Marcus LoVett Jr. and his ball handling and passing skills.
Still, entrenched in the 2015-2016 season were some really rough memories, but also a few beacons of triumph. Before we wipe the 2015-2016 season from our minds, it is worth taking time to reflect on some key turning points, symbolic moments and valuable learning experiences.
Best: Mullin's first victory against Wagner
Chris Mullin's first ever game at the helm, depending on how his coaching career plays out, could be looked back on as the turning point for St. John's basketball.
In terms of the actual gameplay, nothing major stands out. Federico Mussini finished with 18 points and shot 6-11 from the field. Mussini showed off some crafty dribbling skills and a clean jump shot in his first collegiate appearance. Late in the game Mussini drilled a clutch three-pointer to silence the Wagner Seahawks.
Following the game, Lou Carnesecca and Chris Mullin shared a special moment. Their interaction symbolizes the passing of the program from Carnesecca to Mullin from mentor to protege… and the program hopes, to the savior that will lead the Johnnies back to the Final Four.
After the game Mullin disclosed his interaction with Carnesecca, "First thing [Coach Carnesecca] said to me is that I look sharp, but it won't last. Soon my shirt will be hanging out and my tie will be undone. He's had such an influence on my life. Just like when I was 10 years old, he guided me [today]. It was a blessing to have him here and it's been a blessing to have him in my life for the past 42 years."
Worst: St. Thomas of Aquinas exhibition pounding
Probably the most embarrassing performance of the season was a contest that did not count. Division II school St. Thomas of Aquinas visited Queens for an exhibition contest. The end result of the game was so surprising and upsetting many Johnnies supporters had to ponder if St. John's was even worse than expected.
From the get go, St. Thomas of Aquinas man-handled St. John's with their full-court pressure. The Red Storm turned the ball over 28 times, and left Carnesecca Arena losers by a score of 90-58. The only two players that played well were Frederico Mussini, and Christian Jones.
Reflecting back on the game after the season, it is still as ignominious as it was in November. This was one of the most concerning and surprising defeats of the season, even UConn fans were stunned.
November 5, 2015
Unlike Syracuse's loss to LeMoyne years ago, the defeat wasn't close, and it was a harbinger of struggles to come.
Best: Topping Syracuse 84-72 at Madison Square Garden
Arguably the preeminent moment of this season was beating Syracuse at Madison Square Garden. Conference realignment destroyed this great Big East rivalry. Going back to the beginning of the Big East, Syracuse and St. John's were major powers atop the conference. The success of the programs, the storied home stages where they go to battle, and the passionate New York City fans are factors that make this rivalry special.
With bragging rights for being "New York's Team" on the line, Mullin's bunch came through in a spirited victory. Mussini was letting them fly from deep, while Alibegovic was in the middle of the game of his life.
"This was amazing," said Mussini. "This was the best win of my life in "The World's Most Famous Arena" so nothing is better than this."
Defeating Syracuse certainly was a symbolic moment for the Mullin era. It shows New York City that St. John's will not be down for long. Chris Mullin is going to revitalize St. John's the proper way and make St. John's New York's finest once again. So take that Syracuse!
Worst: Back-to-Back losses to Incarnate Word and NJIT
Coming off an upset victory over Syracuse, many expected St. John's to dispatch this pair of low-majors with ease.
Instead St. John's disappointed losing a pair of games at home against teams ranked in the bottom 150 in the nation, according to KenPom. Despite both NJIT and Incarnate Word finishing ranked higher than St. John's, according to KenPom, playing arguably the worst coming off a season-best performance, one that gave hope to the fanbase, was terribly frustrating for Johnnies supporters.
Best: Snapping the skid against DePaul
Big East basketball and college basketball have meant so much to New York City for quite some time. When St. John's held the nation's longest winning streak, supporters in New York were frustrated and disgruntled. Not to mention how taxing losing 16 straight games was on the players.
The Johnnies didn't allow the skid to jump to 17 games and topped DePaul in Queens. Mussini scored all 17 of his points in the second-half en route to St. John's first Big East victory, and first win since juicing the Orange in early December.
"Excuse my French," Ron Mvouika added. "It's about damn time. But we knew we had to stick together. We had to have positive thoughts and a positive spirit.
Worst: Consecutive blowouts against Butler/ Georgetown; Creighton a few games later
St. John's hit a rough patch in early February. Coming off an inspired performance against highly regarded Xavier, the Johnnies had average Butler and Georgetown teams in their sights. Butler and Georgetown did not look average against the Red Storm. Butler romped the Johnnies in Queens by 33 points. Mullin's crew responded by losing at Georgetown by 25. Then, to top it off, St. John's was blasted by Creighton a few games later, losing the game 100-59!
That loss to Creighton wasn't just one of the worst moments from this past season, but one of the worst displays in St. John's history. The Johnnies tied a program record for largest margin of defeat. Frustrations boiled over in Omaha as Mullin was ejected for the first time as a head coach. In hindsight, it was probably better for Mullin to get tossed, who would want to watch their team get blown off the court? Blowouts can be tough to swallow, but these three in general were disgraceful performances.
Cheers to a brighter future!
Comment your best and worst moments or memories from this past season below!