One thing about building up after a terrible year is that there is so much to prove and so much that needs to change, that the preseason pundits don’t see a sudden leap.
In Athlon’s college basketball preview, released this month in anticipation of the college season, the Johnnies land second to last, in front of only DePaul in Chris Mullin’s second year.
The Athlon predicted order of finish:
- Seton Hall
- St. John’s
This second year follows a season where the Red Storm were (by tempo-neutral statistics, which account for the difference in pace between teams) statistically the worst offensive team (by a lot) and second-worst defensive team.
And as a result, Athlon predicts “more growing pains” despite being more competitive, and a need to shed the “losing mentality” in Chris Mullin’s second year. “The guys understand what it takes to win,” Mullin is quoted as saying, “and they know how much it hurts to lose. Sometimes that’s what gets your attention the most.”
Hopefully that attention equals a drive to get better in scrimmages and practice, to get more shots up and to use film to find ways to attack more instinctively.
The preview notes that Marcus LoVett and Shamorie Ponds provide an immediate upgrade to the backcourt, which is true - both should be able to get their own shots off the dribble.
Up front, Athlon notes that Yankuba Sima and Kassoum Yakwe showed flashes of promise, and will have more help than just Amar Alibegovic. Bashir Ahmed should join the starting lineup in their estimation, and Tariq Owens and Richard Freudenberg add some depth, and Darien WIlliams’ health is a wild card.
In the “superlatives” section covering the conference, Athlon predicts Kassoum Yakwe to be the league’s best defensive player. That’s an ambitious goal for the athletic Yakwe, who was an excellent undersized shot blocker and a fine athlete - and that could be an indication of where his true potential lies, in being a defender who creates turnovers and ends opponent possessions and can athletically finish on offense.
Did Athlon get it right?