After the heart-stopping ending of St. John's 77-74 season-opening win over Detroit, the Red Stormhopped onto a charter flight to Charleston, South Carolina for the eight-team Charleston Classic Tournament. No rest for the young - and slightly depleted - Red Storm, each of the teams play three games, win or lose.
For St. John's, the tournament is a chance to see new player combinations and build tournament-style experience against some very good competition. The names may not be Duke or Michigan State, but many of the teams are likely to be in NCAA Tournament conversation at the end of the year.
St. John's comes to South Carolina with some kinks to work out, and with two important members still missing as they wait for rulings on their classification - Orlando Sanchez and Marc-Antoine Bourgault.
With them, St. John's were predicted to have an 8.5% chance of winning the entire Charleston Classis. We don't have predicted chances of victory in the first two rounds, but know that Colorado, Baylor, and Murray State all stand a better chance of winning the tourney in South Carolina, per analyst and Basketball Prospectus contributor Dan Hanner.
From Hanner's look at early-season tournaments:
Murray St. won’t be able to duplicate last year’s 31-2 record, but with superstar point-guard Isaiah Canaan returning, Murray St. should have enough to beat Auburn and St. John’s. In fact, they might even face the College of Charleston in the semifinals.
Make no mistake, the College of Charleston could be a tough matchup. With England national team player Andrew Lawrence and Ivorian Adjehi Baru, the hosts bring experience and height to Thursday afternoon's game - along with a home town crowd. We will preview Charleston further tomorrow morning.
Remember that the Johnnies will have at three newcomers to college basketball in their second official game, and will be looking for players to step into the huge shoes of Moe Harkless.
Can D`Angelo Harrison, Amir Garrett, and Phil Greene lead the team to three victories in three nights? Will JaKarr Sampson emerge? Will Chris Obekpa continue to intimidate? If they can, there will be buzz around the Johnnies.
Charleston Classic: First round
The College of Charleston Cougars (1-0) are the hometown hosts of the tournament. New coach Doug Wojcik has a history of strong man-to-man defense and a team returning 4/5ths of its starting lineup. The roster includes a top-100 center in Adjehi Baru and Andrew Lawrence, who played for the Great Britain Olympic team. Post scorer Trent Wiedman is also a threat, and Willis Hall adds size inside. The Cougars were a poor outside shooting team that made plays with defense and interior scoring. [KenPom Rank: 132]
Charleston Classic: Second round
The Murray St. Racers (1-0) are well-known to college basketball fans after flirting with an undefeated record last season. The program that launched the careers of Cincy's Mick Cronin and Texas A&M's Billy Kennedy return All-America candidate Isaiah Caanan, along with wing Stacy Wilson, Edward Daniel, and a number of guards for their pressing man-to-man defense. [KenPom Rank: 102]
The Auburn Tigers (1-0) played solid defense for Tony Barbee; but years of sub-par recruiting left the Tigers with one of the worst offenses in major college basketball. Two players transferred, two were kicked off the team, and one left after being accused of point shaving. But Barbee has senior leaders in guard Frankie Sullivan and center Rob Chubb, along with a shooter in Noel Johnson. [KenPom Rank: 170]
Third round possibilities
The Baylor Bears (2-0), ranked #19 in the AP poll to start the season, trounced a decent Lehigh team that St. John's faced last year and demolished Jackson State. Former commit Rico Gathers combines with a huge front line and a dynamic backcourt in Brady Heslip and Pierre Jackson to form the most physically talented team in the Charleston Classic. [KenPom Rank: 19]
Colorado Buffaloes (1-0) won the Pac-12's automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament, and won a game over UNLV as well. The team returns a pair of dunamic wings in Spencer Dinwiddie and Andre Roberson, but coach Tad Boyle is also integrating a pair of freshman forwards. Last year's team was defensively stout and technically sound, and the Buffaloes seem poised to continue that style. [KenPom Rank: 57]
The Dayton Flyers (1-0) is led by Archie Miller (the brother of Arizona coach Sean Miller) and talented point guard Kevin Dillard, who impressed at the LeBron James Skills Academy over the summer. The roster has a former Big East players in guard Vee Sanford and a Big East signee in Alex Gavrilovic; forward Matt Derenbecker is a transfer from LSU, and a solid center in Josh Benson who returns from an ACL tear to boost an energetic, but at times defensively sloppy team. [KenPom Rank: 98]
The Boston College Eagles (1-0) struggled slightly with Richard Pitino's Florida International team, but space the floor well and can knock off oppoenents with the three-point shot. Former Cornell coach Steve Donohue's team is filled with shooting options, from freshman guard Olivier Hanlan to ACC All-Freshman forward Ryan Anderson. The Eagles were the second-youngest team in Division I next to St. John's. [KenPom Rank: 154]