The Red Storm are finally back on the court in an official game, kicking off the season with a 6:30 pm tilt in Queens against the racing Loyola Greyhounds of Maryland.
Shamorie Ponds is back, the Johnnies are believed to have the firepower to make a considerable leap. The Red Storm’s new-look roster welcomes an opponent with a new head coach. (You can read our recently-posted season preview.)
But new coach doesn’t mean that the Greyhounds can’t pose a challenge for the Red Storm at their best — and real danger if St. John’s doesn’t put its best foot forward in Queens. Even against the most supposedly lowly of opponents, a few threes and some lackluster play can make the end result a real surprise.
Who: St. John’s Red Storm (16-17 in 2017-18) vs Loyola Maryland Greyhounds (20-8 in 2017-18)
Where: Carnesecca Arena
When: Tuesday, November 6, 6:30 PM
TV: YES or FSN outside NY area (Announcers: John Fanta & Sarah Kustok)
Audio: 570 WMCA
Last meeting: St. John’s and Loyola MD have not since the Great Depression was in full swing. The teams played 10 times between 1920 and 1932, winning 49-32 on December 14, 1932.
This game is part of the Legends Classic tournament on-campus games. The main “championship” bracket will be played on Monday and Tuesday, November 19-20 in Brooklyn against California and either Temple or VCU.
Rankings & School Notes
Last season final KenPom Ranking: 323 | Preseason KenPom Ranking: 298
School size: 6,050 (4,000 undergraduates)
School is academically known for: the Sellinger School of Management. The CFO of JUUL Labs is a grad, for e-cigarette fans.
Notable alumni: Tom Clancy, basketball coach Skip Prosser (R.I.P.)
Scouting Loyola MD returning scorers/ impact players
Loyola, the Patriot League squad from Baltimore, will enter the game with a new head coach who is familiar with the Red Storm under Chris Mullin. Tavares Hardy, the former Northwestern player and assistant coach, was an assistant under john Thompson III at Georgetown until 2016.
With the Hoyas, Hardy was instrumental in recruiting some of their best talents and was also said to have worked with their post players. With assistant coach work at Georgia Tech under Josh Pastner (after Georgetown), with the Hoyas and with Northwestern, Hardy will be able to find academically-minded players who can compete on the court...
...but this year, Hardy is working with the remaining players from a Patriot League team that one just a single Division 1 non-conference game last season while being coached by GG Smith (Tubby Smith’s son).
Still, players like Chuck Champion (all-name team candidate), Isaiah Hart and Andrew Kostecka return, part of the 60% of minutes coming back for the Greyhounds. Each of those three guards were slashers, taking 71% of their shots inside the arc and drawing fouls in an aggressive, dribble-drive offense. Kostecka earned all-defensive team honors in the Patriot league. Champion looks to be the featured scorer on this team, while Isaiah Hart was the team’s point guard.
Forward Kayvaughn Scott returns as part of a front court that rebounded the defensive end well. Forward Brent Holcombe, who added to a decent paint attack but can shoot from distance, returns as well for a sophomore season. He came on late as a freshman last year, and the Greyhounds expect bigger things from him.
With pressure, the Greyhounds tried to defend well... but allowed opposing guards to feast inside.
How different will this team look? There are new players, such as freshman wing Jan Dornik, and freshman guard Jaylin Andrews, who could factor into the new Greyhounds attack.
What we expect to see from St. John’s
For the first time, fans will be able to see Mustapha Heron suit up in a real live game for the Red Storm. Will we see an offensive rhythm from Ponds or Heron attacking off the dribble, or will the players press as they get used to the timing of their teammates and work on communication?
On defense, the Johnnies could look better defending the three-pointer, since the Greyhounds were not great outside shooters last season. The Greyhounds could have, of course, improved in the offseason; we will see how St. John’s adjusts to what Loyola brings to Carnesecca Arena tomorrow.
The Red Storm also hope to find some efficiency and consistency; shot selection and general defensive chaos caused by the Johnnies will be necessary. If the team finds itself in a controlled half-court game, the score will be closer than expected.
St. John’s starts decently and runs away late in the first half. The getting to know you phase will look awkward, like a first date, but this should be a smooth game. 79-56, St. John’s.