St. John’s Men’s Basketball: A dangerous bubble team

AP Photo via Frank Franklin II

When looking at the various bracketology predictions across many different websites, the St. John’s Red Storm are either one of the last few teams into the tournament or are one of the first teams on the outside looking into the tournament. This is nothing new for the Red Storm as two years ago in the last NCAA Tournament, St. John’s was one of the last four teams in, losing in the First Four to the Arizona State Sun Devils. After the season ended, head coach Chris Mullin resigned after four seasons with the team, prompting the Red Storm to replace him with former Arkansas head coach Mike Anderson.

Last season, Anderson attempted to rebuild the Red Storm in his first season with the team and rebuild a roster that lost several key players from their 2018-19 team, including leading scorer Shamorie Ponds and starting forward Marvin Clark II. St. John’s finished ninth in the Big East and finished the season against Creighton in the Big East Tournament, a game that was called at halftime, making it the last college basketball action in the 2019-20 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 2020-21 season started rough for the Red Storm as on Jan. 16, St. John’s lost at home against Marquette 73-71, dropping the Red Storm to 2-6 in Big East play and 7-7 overall. Since that loss, however, St. John’s has gone on a tear, winning seven of their last eight games, including a 70-59 win over the third-ranked Villanova Wildcats and this past Tuesday, a 93-84 win over the Xavier Musketeers. With this recent surge, the Red Storm find themselves in the tournament conversation.

The Red Storm are led by 6’8 guard, Julian Champagnie, who is the Big East’s leading scorer with 19.8 points per game (PPG). Champagnie is also the team’s leading rebounder with 7.3 rebounds per game, providing a physical presence in transition and inside the paint as a guard. Complementing him perfectly is speedy-guard Posh Alexander, who averages 11.7 PPG and leads the Big East in steals per game with 2.6. Three-point specialist Greg Williams Jr., slashers Vince Cole and Rasheem Dunn and forward Marcellus Earlington and Isaih Moore all have provided much-needed scoring depth to support Champagnie and Alexander, giving the Red Storm a deep roster as all five players averages at least seven points per game. For example, in St. John’s 93-84 win over Xavier, Dunn and Earlington stepped up with 17 and 16 points respectively, leading the Red Storm to one of their most important wins of the season.

When looking at the major team statistical categories, there are three that the Red Storm find themselves ranked in the top 40 in that will make them a dangerous team if they make it to the NCAA Tournament. First, the Red Storm have scored over 70 points in their last 11 games dating back to their 69-61 loss to Xavier back on Jan. 6, making them the 32nd highest-scoring team in college basketball. Also, with Alexander leading a tenacious group that excels at pressing and jumping the passing lanes, the Red Storm are eighth in steals per game with 9.32. The Red Storm also excel in transition and with an unselfish roster, the Red Storm are tied with Marshall for 18th in assists with 17.0 per game.

While the Red Storm don’t crack the top 100 in fewest turnovers per game and are tied for 163rd in rebounds per game with many teams, the Red Storm will be dangerous if they earn their spot in the NCAA Tournament. They have a dynamic scorer in Champagnie, a dangerous slashing guard in Alexander and many dependable role players, and with their unselfish play and emphasis in team ball, St. John’s will be a tough out for nearly every team in the NCAA Tournament.

St. John’s will look to avoid picking up another bad loss on their resume as they host DePaul on Saturday.

Published by Sean Clark

I am an aspiring sports journalist at Northern Arizona University. I am very passionate about sports such as football, soccer and basketball and I'm excited to use this platform to write about the sports I love.

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