Team: St. John’s Red Storm
2017-18 Record: 16-17 overall, 4-14 Big East
2017-18 Big East Finish: Tied for last with DePaul
Final KenPom Ranking: #74
Postseason: Nothing, despite taking down Duke and Villanova in a four day span.
Key Departures: Marcus LoVett (14.3 ppg, 2.1 rpg, 1.7 spg), although he only played seven games during the season due to his long lasting injury/being a drama magnet; Tariq Owens (8.4 ppg, 2.8 bpg, 5.9 rpg), left to transfer to Texas Tech, will be a huge loss on the defensive side for the Johnnies; senior Bashir Ahmed (11.3 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 1.5 apg)
Key Returners: Shamorie Ponds (21.6 ppg, 5 rpg, 4.7 apg, 2.3 spg); Justin Simon (12.2 ppg, 7.1 rpg, 5.1 apg, 2.5 spg); and Marvin Clark II (12.5 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 1.2 spg)
Key Additions: The obvious big addition is Auburn transfer Mustapha Heron who averaged 16.4 in the SEC. Heron applied for a hardship waiver due to his mother’s illness and is awaiting an NCAA decision for this season. Besides Heron, Sedee Keita (1.0 points, 2.0 rebounds) is a big man who sat out last season due to his transfer from South Carolina, LJ Figueroa is a Junior College transfer who was one of the best three point shooters in the country and Mikey Dixon (16.5 points, 3.7 rebounds, 2.3 assists) is a transfer from Quinnipiac who won MAAC Freshman of the Year for the 2016-17 season. Figueroa is part of 247 Sports’ #59 ranked recruiting class, which is sixth best in the Big East, but has no top 150 high school prospects.
Outlook: As AE’s resident Marquette/St. John’s fan I believe both teams should be at the top of the Big East in 2018-19. Shamorie Ponds should be the Big East Preseason Player of the Year (only Jessie Govan and Markus Howard are true contenders against him) and St. John’s returns their three best players. Thus, I believe Chris Mullin has all the pressure in the world to finish at the top this season. It does seem like he’ll benefit from addition by subtraction with the official departure of Marcus LoVett from the locker room. While the on-court team may have suffered due to the loss of his talent, there always seemed to be an air of tomfoolery coming from the LoVett camp that may have been a bit of a drag on everyone else. It’s probably not a coincidence that Ponds went GOD MODE after LoVett was (mostly) gone.
The big question for St. John’s is an obvious one: Is Mustapha Heron going to play this season? Heron transferred from Auburn to come closer to home to be with his ailing mother. He applied for a hardship waiver and is awaiting to hear from the NCAA on whether he will be allowed to play. Unfortunately, I do not have high hopes that he will be allowed to play due to the NCAA being a cold blooded organization.
I also believe Chris Mullin is on the hot seat if the team does not perform up to standards this season. It’s one thing for Marquette to be patient with a proven assistant coach, but St. John’s took a gamble on hiring their most famous alumnus with no coaching experience, and it needs to pay off sooner rather than later. This will almost assuredly be Shamorie Ponds’ last season in Jamaica as he is a near-lock to go to the NBA next season.
I have high hopes for both Marquette and St. John’s next year, but I already know only one team will perform up to standards next season.