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St. John’s vs Baruch (exhibition) preview

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The Johnnies play a preseason tune-up against a Division II squad from Manhattan.

Wendell Cruz/ Finish First Photos

Sprinkle a few fans in with a bowl of Red Storm athleticism, plus a hefty helping of a local Division II team, and we have Preseasoning!

St. John’s gets back on the court for a game that won’t count in the standings, but will count in the minds of the fans who have been excited to see the new-look Red Storm on the court.

And it will count for the fans who have waited since March 2020 to sit in red seats, next to other people, and watch young college men play basketball.

Game Information

Who: St. John’s Red Storm vs. Baruch Bearcats

When: Wednesday, October 27, 2021, 7:00 PM

Where: Carnesecca Arena, Queens, NY (YES! fans! 5,602) | GMaps location

TV: ESPN3

Division III Baruch did not play basketball last year, which means they did not have to navigate the “will they play or won’t they play” experience of the 2020-21 season, filled with testing scares, contact tracing and empty arenas. In 2019-20, Baruch won 19 games and 22 games the season before.

This team is not tall; one player is 6’6” and five others are 6’5”. But with some experience and a solid coach, the CUNY squad should be a decent bit of competition.

Where one might see “blowout potential”, it is important to remember that tonight’s game is the first time most of the Red Storm roster will be playing in a competitive game, together, against another team.

The Johnnies will expect Posh Alexander and Julian Champagnie to perform under the Carnesecca Arena lights for St. John’s.

But what we all have questions about are the supporting cast.

Are Aaron Wheeler and Montez Mathis able to step in seamlessly? Will Dylan Addae-Wusu play, and show his versatile game? How will the shooters Stef Smith and Tareq Coburn do, and can they be the kind of two way player that can improve the team’s defense? Who plays backup point guard to give Alexander some rest (Rafael Pinzon? Smith?)? Will the size added will make a huge impact on the defense and rebounding — and can Joel Soriano and Esahia Nywie run with the rest of the roster? Can O’Mar Stanley and Drissa Traore make an impact?

The North of Queens Remembers

In an exhibition game against a lower-Division opponent, the fans (and maybe players) will expect the Johnnies to jump out to a businesslike 20-0 lead. But in reality, organized basketball on the college level still requires execution, making shots, and filling the open spaces on defense quickly.

Those who have followed this team under other coaches will remember that exhibition games are not a happy easygoing festival. Some may remember the so-so to mediocre performances, to the cringeworthy, to the downright horrifying — including a loss.

There was also the regular season game that counted against a Division II team that was much more of a nail-biter than expected.

Of course, the last exhibition against Baruch went quite well. So maybe all that warning is really for nothing.

Keys to watch for

How well does this team share? Is this team leaning on Julian Champagnie and Posh Alexander to generate scoring opportunities, or does the team make scoring easier on themselves by moving the ball well?

How is the defense? Baruch is probably too small to answer whether the defense has truly stepped up a notch from last year (more on that later this week), but a good indicator would be forcing turnovers, putting the clamps on transition opportunities, and rotating out on three-point shooters.

Shooters shoot. Will this team have shooters who are confident, in rhythm, and make enough threes that it looks like they should be taking those shots? Last year’s team had a few outside shooters who, perhaps, should have shot less, but the shots were there to be had.

Prediction

No prediction on the score, but some early predictions on personnel:

  • Aaron Wheeler will make some shots, but also look like a player feeling his way around while he gets acclimated to his role with the Johnnies.
  • Montez Mathis will impress, as will Stef Smith (as a shot creator) and Tareq Coburn (as a scorer who plays within himself).
  • Rafael Pinzon may make a few mistakes but will also show a lot of potential as a smart playmaker.
  • O’Mar Stanley will begin his path to “fan favorite”

What predictions do you have?