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Are Big East teams feasting on the St. John’s defense?

[tl; dr? not conclusively, but...]

NCAA Basketball: St. John at Georgetown Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Something you may have missed in Monday night’s blowout loss to the Georgetown Hoyas:

That game was the St. John’s Red Storm’s BEST defensive performance in Big East play.

Measured by points per possession - which describes scoring efficiency in a way that can be better compared across games - the Johnnies were actually a notch better than their performance against Butler, but played a faster game.

After noting that DePaul scored their highest point total in conference play, I went to a table to see what the difference was between opponents’ points scored per 100 possessions in conference games vs. how those teams performed against St. John’s...

How much better have opponents performed on offense vs St. John’s?

vs St. John's Butler DePaul Creighton Xavier Georgetown
vs St. John's Butler DePaul Creighton Xavier Georgetown
In-conference offensive efficiency 108.1 95.1 116.2 111.2 101.8
Offensive efficiency vs St. John's 104.6 106.9 118.2 126.7 103.4
Difference -3.5 11.8 2.0 15.5 1.6
A look at how four of five St. John’s opponents have scored more easily against the Red Storm than their season average Norman Rose

Of note: the game against St. John’s was Butler’s second-worst offensive performance.

For the Hoyas and for the Creighton Bluejays, their performance was squarely in the middle of their performances over five games.

Xavier enjoyed their best performance in Big East play against the Red Storm, as did DePaul.

Which is to say, this isn’t as conclusive as a table that shows that every team has a career day against the defensive efforts of St. John’s, but that the defense is a significant issue.

This team is going to live and die off of the strength of offensive talents like Shamorie Ponds and Marcus LoVett, this is true. But getting stops is key in any comeback effort - and those stops power the hard-to-stop transition offense of St. John’s.

Remember, DePaul led and the half and up until the eight minute mark; and Butler led until the final minute of play.

St. John’s, as currently constructed, has some defensive flaws. Lacking strength inside means opponents know they can get advantageous matchups in the paint. Which means St. John’s often needs to compensate by having perimeter defenders keep an eye on what’s happening inside, so they can help with a double team.

Moving forward, Chris Mullin and his staff have to find better defensive play overall - but the team also needs to commit fewer live-ball turnovers, those miscues that lead to fast break run outs and layups/ dunks the other way.

Without those high-percentage shots, St. John’s defense isn’t enough to carry the team - but it’s enough to keep opponents close enough for the Johnnies to pull out late victories, like against Butler and DePaul.