Oh, that tricky schedule. St. John’s had contests against Connecticut and Butler scheduled.
Now the Red Storm kick off the Big East play’s opening weekend with Seton Hall and Georgetown. As many might remember, the Johnny's started conference play a couple of years ago at Seton Hall and it turned out...
That game may be etched in many people's memory. But now there is a new head coach for the Red Storm, and almost entirely new set of players, and of course, no fans.
Can the Johnnies kick off conference play with a road win?
Who: St. John’s Red Storm (5-1) vs. Seton Hall Pirates (3-3)
When: Friday, December 11, 2020, 4:30 PM
Where: Prudential Center
TV: CBS Sports Network | online
Scouting St. John’s
The Red Storm want to play a fast-paced style filled with high-pressure moments, allowing their defense to generate offense through steals. The Johnnies return three starters in Julian Champagnie (F), Greg Williams Jr. (G) and Rasheem Dunn (G), though Dunn has been sidelined since the middle of the first game with a concussion.
Julian Champagnie has been very good the Red Storm, a steady scoring presence whose shot looks smooth. He also gets into the paint. His rebounding has been decent, but not elite.
When Greg Williams Jr. is active in the game, good things seem to happen for the Johnnies. The athletic guard has improved his moves off the dribble and forces steals. But Williams can also be quiet in games. We noted that he and Champagnie can be better when the Red Storm are playing organized offensive basketball; both are solid at executing the offense.
Posh Alexander has managed to defensively replicate some of what former St. John’s guard Nick Anderson did as a defensive pest last season. Alexander’s ability to not give up on a play when beat, his doggedness to making an opponent’s possession miserable, is a driving force for the team.
Dylan Addae-Wusu’s defensive energy and John McGriff’s quickness combine with Alexander’s energy to make a solid (though inexperienced) set of backcourt 94-feet defenders. On the other side, Seton Hall injuries leave them with Shavar Reynolds as the main ballhandler, logging a lot of minutes.
St. John’s can create a good deal of chaos on defense, and has the depth to do so; most players on the roster have been positive in creating the atmosphere that the head coach wants to see on defense. Note that somehow, Seton Hall big man Ike Obiagu had five turnovers in the Hall’s win over Wagner. And also note that Seton Hall is a team that does like to prepare and execute set plays. Blowing up some expected openings will create more chaos.
A number of new players means that the Red Storm are also acclimating to playing differently. Most of the roster is figuring out how to play best in their roles, when the right time to aggressive drive and when to shoot the jumper, and who is the go-to player in situations.
Between Isaih Moore’s acclimation/ consistency, Marcellus Earlington getting back to how he played last year, Josh Roberts’ limited playing time and Arnoldo Toro’s foul trouble/ offensive effectiveness, the group in the paint have struggled to score consistently and have struggled against height.
Teams are scoring 55% inside the arc (not great) and the Red Storm are not clearing the misses they force on defense with rebounds. The rebounding issue is likely a feature of the style, but the 2-point defense should improve.
Clearly, this is a game where the frontcourt will be key. Sandro Mamukelashvili is a strong scorer inside and out, and Iko Obiagu is 7’2” and knows it. Tyrese Samuel is an athletic forward who will also be there in the paint battling on the glass. St. John’s has to defang those threats.
St. John’s played badly against both height and zones. Moving the ball faster, making threes, and making better defensive rotations to minimize gaps will be key. Vince Cole can create off the dribble, but is far better stepping into a three off of penetration.
Against Seton Hall, St. John’s want to keep an eye on Myles Cale shooting in the corner off of a pass from the paint, and also for Takal Molson, who is not shy about putting up shots.
Scouting Seton Hall
Seton Hall have started the same starting five in all six of their games, and have mostly stuck to a seven-player rotation; Bryce Aiken, the talented guard who transferred from Harvard, is sidelined with an injury.
Sandro Mamukelashvili (#23) is the star, an inside-outside 6’10” player who is playing with a lot of confidence.
Jared Rhoden (#14) is a 6’6” wing who gets to the line and blocks shots. He is tough and physical. Myles Cale (#22) and Takal Molson (#15) are wing shooters; Cale tends to spot up and Molson is a bit more of a driving player.
Shavar Reynolds is the team’s point guard, and is third on the team in minutes after Mamukelashvili and Rhoden. Foul trouble for him doomed the team against Rhode Island. His backup is freshman Jahari Long, who Willard said was “mentally lazy”, which he blames on the “idiotic” 14-day quarantine. Long played 17 minutes in their last game against Wagner.
Ike Obiagu is a large fellow at 7’2”, but not particularly mobile. Tyrese Samuel, a little guy at 6’10”, has committed too many fouls but remains a major part of the rotation inside.
Keys to the Game
Frontcourt contributions. The game cannot be won without strong, smart contributions from the Red Storm bigs. Not one-dribble pull ups from 19 feet; good hands, post plays, defense, beating Seton Hall’s forwards to the offensive glass and in transition.
MB means Move the Ball. St. John’s has to make sure the ball does not get stuck with players dribbling for better looks. Faster ball movement and smart passing, like last year’s team, is a chance to find mismatches faster and put the defense on skates.
Defensive pressure. The defense should be the Red Storm’s calling card. How well will they create turnovers against a high-major team? Can they get easy buckets and run outs?
Prediction: Seton Hall pulls out a 69-67 win.