The preseason pot stirring has begun, and St. John's expected position in the ten-team Big East is under scrutiny.
If you understand the idea of a "power ranking" as a ranking of how teams will be predicted to finish (after all, we are concerned about the table of results, not what would happen if the teams armwrestled each other, right?), Jon Rothstein has St. John's last in the conference.
Big East Offseason Power Rankings: Villanova, Georgetown, Xavier, Butler, Providence, Marquette, Seton Hall, Creighton, DePaul, St. John's.— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) July 29, 2015
Now, now, let's not just throw hate out because you feel that your team can never be last, or because Jon Rothstein tends to be nearly universally positive, or because his work tends to feature superlatives, repetition, and easy player comparisons.
But he has a point. St. John's is in full rebuild mode.
Underneath that statement are two real truths:
in a college basketball world that values continuity, St. John's has nearly none. The previous regime wasn't preparing the remnants of last year's team to take on bigger roles this season, with the exception of Amar Alibegovic. Was it because they didn't have potential? Or because Steve Lavin was trying his damnedest to save his job? We will find out.
in a college basketball world where talented freshmen often struggle in one way or another, and in a world where sophomores make a leap, St. John's has a crazy collection of newcomers with experience who haven't played together - Durand Johnson, Ron Mvouika, and Darien Williams - while needing to lean heavily on their four freshmen.
Consider that Yankuba Sima is the team's lone true center. That Federico Mussini and Marcus LoVett - both undersized - are the team's only scholarship point guards. Consider that Malik Ellison may have a starting role, and wasn't a top-30 player - the kind of player who is expected to step in and start/ contribute heavily.
All of these factors lead to a prediction of -\_O_/- (did I do that right, Twitter symbologists? I'm trying to shrug the shoulders there).
And on teams with many more sure things - even DePaul has some talented pieces - it's hard to give a coherent, evidence-based reason for St. John's to be ranked anywhere but the bottom of the league.
But that also means that if St. John's ends up fifth or sixth, it also shouldn't be a surprise, for there might be talent on the team, even if the players don't know each others' names or Call of Duty playing skills.
For now, Rumblers, it's a time to wait and see, enjoy the process over the results. It's hard to imagine that Chris Mullin, Barry Rohrssen and Matt Abdelmassih will strike out on the recruiting trails as they rebuild the St. John's program, isn't it?