Ken Pomeroy's widely read and used statistical rankings are out.
St. John's looks better than they did at the end of last year... but still may need to beat expectations to get to where the team wants to be.
The KenPom rankings have the Red Storm at #39 nationally, and third in the conference behind Villanova and Georgetown.
What this means?
Not much, yet. The predictions are based on projections of the returnees and predictions about the newcomers - who are likely not considered huge factor this season in terms of minutes outside of Keith Thomas. Predictions, of course, don't always see surprising leaps and surprising declines - but they do have some merit.
Last year, St. John's started the year ranked at #47, went up to a high of #30, and ended at #61 (ok, they ended the Big East Tourney at 38. A loss to very lowly-ranked Robert Morris dropped them below #60. Because how can a good team lose to a seven-man Robert Morris, right?).
The rankings go up and down, but few teams can escape the gravity of prediction; there are a number of known quantities on any basketball team and coaches have their styles and tendencies.
Is #39... good? NCAA Tournament-worthy?
The #39 ranking last year would have made the Red Storm a likely NCAA Tournament team.
Only two teams with better rankings did not make the NCAA Tournament. One was Southern Methodist, where an impressively poor non-conference schedule coupled with losses to three of the bad American Athletic Conference teams kept the Mustangs out - and they went to the NIT Finals.
The other team was a very good Louisiana Tech team that lost in the Conference USA finals and only had a "marquee" win over Oklahoma.
This year, St. John's may have some cupcakes on the schedule, but there are marquee win opportunities - at Syracuse, twice against Villanova, against Duke at home - and a win over Minnesota coupled with a win over Gonzaga would be solid. (Georgia, ranked at #48, is no slouch either - the NIT Tip-Off quartet is far better than last year's Barclays Center Classic.)
Last year, Texas was #39 at the end of the year and a 7-seed in the NCAA Tournament; teams below #39 were 9-seeds or higher, except for the University of Massachusetts (6-seed) and Colorado (8-seed). Of note - both of those teams lost handily in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament.
Obviously, KenPom isn't factoring the awesome defense of --
Oh no, KenPom is factoring in that defense, with a preseason ranking of 19, assuming the team will be even more stingy on defense.
In fact, the ranking includes a positive bump for the offense, ranking the Johnnies at #72 - an improvement from 131 last year, but only in relative terms. KenPom is predicting about the same offensive efficiency - so I guess the rest of college basketball is going to fall off a touch. You know, because Doug McDermott is gone or something.
How can St. John's do better than their ranking?
Back to the "known quantities" part, though - the team's two best pro prospects, Chris Obekpa and Rysheed Jordan, are both expected to produce more this year. Obekpa will get more minutes, and Steve Lavin wants him to be more offensively involved. Rysheed Jordan is expected to make a jump as a sophomore who has his feet wet in college basketball, one who's gone back to the lab to improve.
The x-factors are likely: the team's shot selection, Keith Thomas' play, and what Sir`Dominic Pointer can bring.
What about the rest of the Big East?
I'm glad you asked!
Teams and rankings:
- Villanova | 9
- Georgetown | 22
- St. John's | 39
- Creighton | 47
- Providence | 53
- Xavier | 66
- Butler | 67
- Seton Hall | 85
- Marquette | 86
- DePaul | 197
Of interest: Creighton at four? Personally, I'd been saying on Twitter that Creighton might have some Notre Dame to them - the players change, but they run good sets and get good shots - and hit them. Pomeroy ranks their offense as second-best in the Big East in preseason, so I guess his system feels the same way.
(As much as a system/ simulation engine can "feel." Cue the Daft Punk music.)
Xavier's ability to get burnt from outside the arc likely drops them down a bit below popular predictions.
Butler's defense gets a high prediction as well, vaulting them into some solid territory.