St. John’s doesn’t have much time until the Big East season begins. There are only three games to begin Thursday with MAAC contenders Monmouth remaining until Red Storm Open Conference play on December 20 at No. 23 Seton Hall.
While much has been made of its soft non-conference schedule, St. John’s remaining three opponents—Monmouth, Patriot League favorite Colgate and ACC’s Pittsburgh—are improvements on the bulk of the starting slate (Indiana and Kansas not included).
With that in mind, here are three areas St John’s (6-2) should improve on before a performance against Seton Hall to avoid a bad loss and prepare for the upcoming Big East season:
Coach Mike Anderson called it the number 1 issue that needs to be cleared up.
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Kansas and Indiana, St. John’s top two opponents and the only team they lost, shot a combined 50.1 percent from the field and hit the free-throw line an average of 22 times.
St. John’s is 94th in defensive efficiency with .978 points per possession. Red Storm opponents are hitting 34.9 percent from the 3-point limit, a figure that places them 261st in the nation, and that number actually dropped when Kansas and Fordham played just 19 out of 59 in the last two games. Scored runs.
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The next two matches will show if St John’s has penetrated the defense of the 3-point arc and if giving mobile forward Esahia Nywe an extended minute is as important as it was in Sunday’s win over Fordham, when she scored a plus. -17 entered rating. Both Monmouth and Colgate shoot 39 percent above distance.
Anderson’s teams have traditionally taken care of the ball, impressive given the speed and pace with which they play. In his first year at St. John’s, the Johnnies made only 11.2 turnovers per game. Last year that number rose to 12.6. This season it is 15.9. This means that 20.7 percent of Red Storm’s assets are traded, up from 14.9 percent a year ago. So, although St John’s ranks 18th in the nation in forcing turnover at 18.1 per game, the plus-2.2 turnover margin is not the advantage it should be.
Some of that can be attributed to the new roster, with newcomers playing at a pace they are not accustomed to. But sophomores posh Alexander and Dylan Ade-Vasu are also turning the ball more than they were last year, averaging a combined six turnovers per game. Speaking to people around the program, this area is holding the team back more than anything, as it has too many mistakes and players are in the wrong places.
St. John’s best reserve, Addae-Wusu, is now a starter. Bench managed just 10 points in Sunday’s win over Fordham. The players expected to give Red Storm their best depth in the Anderson era – Tarek Coburn, Aaron Wheeler, Joel Soriano and Steph Smith – have struggled to find consistency. Smith and Soriano are coming off the bench for the time being.
During the Fordham game, Alexander and Champagnie each logged 38 minutes, which is not sustainable. Anderson’s system is based on depth, as is how fast his teams play.
He has repeatedly said that the strength of this group will be the bench. Maybe a change in the starting lineup will ignite transfers, or maybe they just need time to adjust to the style and system. Either way, they are essential to the success of this team.