On Tuesday, the opening night of college basketball, St. John’s will open their season against the Mississippi Valley State Delta Devils at Carnesecca Arena.
The contest will be the first time the Johnnies have played a home game that counts in front of fans since March 11, 2020, when they came back to beat Georgetown in the Big East Tournament.
The Johnnies will look very different from last season, having only three returning scholarship players, and employing a group filled with freshmen and transfers. They took care of Division III Baruch College in an exhibition match, but did lose by 2 to URI in a closed-door scrimmage, for what it’s worth.
The Johnnies will look to start the season by taking care of the Delta Devils, predicted to be one of the weakest teams in Division I.
Who: St. John’s Red Storm (Big East, 16-11 last season) vs Mississippi Valley State Delta Devils (SWAC, 2-22 last season)
When: Tuesday, November 9, 2021, 7:45 PM
Where: Carnesecca Arena, Queens, NY
TV: FS1* | online
Radio: XM radio channel 389 | SiriusXM app channel 979 | TuneIn
Odds: St. John’s -42.5
*The Big East will try to focus on the excitement of opening night, and will whip coverage around from location to location. If you want to see the game in its purest form, and only St. John’s, you will need to watch on the FoxSports App.
Scouting the Delta Devils
Of the 358 Division 1 basketball teams ranked by Ken Pomeroy, Mississippi Valley State is ranked 358. The Devils, who play a number of “buy” games to start the season and fund their athletics, should provide the Johnnies with a win to start the season. The Delta Devils are coming off a 2-22 record in the 2020-21 season, and the oddsmakers seem to think St. John’s is going to blow them out by more than 40 points.
Mississippi Valley State is returning three of last season’s starters, and 59.6% of last season’s minutes. Some key players they lost from last season are 6-6 guard Keiondre Jefferson, who averaged 11.7 points in the 10 games he played in last season, and 6-7 guard Kam’Ron Cunningham, who averaged 10.0 points in the 18 games he played in last season.
Two of the three returning starters are guards, 5-10 sophomore Caleb Hunter and 6-3 senior Terry Collins, who both averaged 12.3 points in over 20 games each last season. Their other returning center is the 7-1 250 lb freshman center Lee’Andre Howard, who averaged 3.9 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 1.1 blocks last season, providing the Delta Devils with some valuable size.
In terms of returning supporting cast players, the Delta Devils have three. Most notable of that group is freshman Devin Gordon, 9.6 points in 13 games last year (due to COVID-related extra eligibility, he is still a freshman). They also have Jordan Johnson and Quorien Waldon, the former of which did not appear in any games last season, and the latter appeared in 23 games but only averaged 6.8 minutes.
Mississippi Valley State has eight newcomers for the 2021-22 season, two of which being freshman guards Jay Barnes and Elijah Davis, who are 5-8 and 6-1, respectively. They also have three freshmen in the frontcourt, two of which being 6-6 wing Gary Grant and 6-8 forward Akot Aguer. The other is 6-6 265 lb center Daniel Umoh, who like Lee’Andre Howard, provides size. There are also three transfers for the Delta Devils, 6-0 guard Kadar Waller from Collin College, 6-5 guard Tyler Foster who played at East Carolina and Youngstown State, and 6-7 forward Robert Carpenter who played at St. Bonaventure and Pearl River Community College.
Keys to the Game
Get ahead early. The Red Storm should look to jump out to an early lead which they can hold onto, as they should not allow Mississippi Valley State to ever be in the game. This is an inferior opponent, and the Johnnies should make sure this is known.
Use depth. Mike Anderson gave non-garbage time minutes to ten different guys in the exhibitions vs Baruch and URI, and this does not include Dylan Addae-Wusu, who might be playing tomorrow. Anderson should use all the weapons he has to run out a bunch of different looks and keep the Delta Devils on their toes.
Let Champagnie eat. No one on Mississippi Valley State and no zone defense they could run is a good matchup against Champagnie, so the Johnnies should let him play his game and score on inferior opponents.
St. John’s takes care of business and beats Mississippi Valley State 94-68.