It’s good to see St. John’s men’s hoops on some positive lists. Bleacher Report, for example, has the Red Storm on the list of Power Conference College Basketball Teams Guaranteed to Improve in 2017-18.
“Guarantee” is a big word, but it’s the internet, you can say anything!
St. John’s is the #10 team on that list, ranked in ascending order of how much the squad could improve - and their cut line is five wins, which would put Chris Mullin’s Red Storm squad at 19 wins.
A part we find intriguing/ not necessarily accurate:
Defense is the big question mark. Between Tariq Owens and Kassoum Yakwe, the Red Storm can block a ton of shots. However, they don't rebound well and don't defend the three-point line, resulting in a lot of points allowed. Rather than getting better, things were actually getting worse late in the season. St. John's gave up 90.3 points over its final seven games, including a nightmarish finish—allowing 108 points in a 68-possession game.
So, from the last assertion: yes, the last game against Villanova was just an awful defensive result, by far the worst of the season in a season filled with crooked numbers.
But the end of the season was indeed worse, but not notably worse. This team simply didn’t put up good defensive performances.
The seven-game stretch included a loss to Creighton where the Blue Jays were actually held to under one point per possession, while the performances against Providence were around the same in a win and a loss. Butler lost at St. John’s to begin the Big East season, but they were pretty effective from the floor in that loss.
The earlier assertion - indeed, this team does not rebound well. But the defensive issue for the Red Storm isn’t particularly the three point line. The Red Storm’s Big East opponents took the third-fewest three-point attempts in the league. the percentage of points scored by opponents from outside the arc was ninth in the league.
Where the team struggled most was keeping opponents from scoring in the paint (and also in staying foul-free).
The defense was solid at forcing turnovers, but when the team did not force turnovers - let’s use under 18% of opponent possessions as a cut off, since that’s around the midpoint of the league - opponents feasted inside the arc (except VCU and Fordham) and opponents started dropping 85 points or more.
The issue is all over the court, and the solution is that the defense has to get better across the board and control the game.