#77 St. John's Men's Basketball 2015-2016 Preview

St. John’s Red Storm

2015-2016 Overall Rank: #77
Conference Rank: #8 Big East

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St. John’s won the press conference by hiring former Red Storm great Chris Mullin. It is certainly a questionable hire since Coach Mullin has little coaching experience and winning games is much more important than getting some good press in the offseason. But we will reserve judgement for now. On a team that returns no players who averaged over ten minutes per game last year, the judgement could come pretty quickly though. Even in the best case scenario, this is a team that will take a significant step back from a team that went to the NCAA Tournament in 2015.

2014-15 Record: 21-12, 10-8
2014-15 Postseason: NCAA
Coach: Chris Mullin
Coach Record: 0-0 at St. John’s, 0-0 overall

Who’s Out:
The Red Storm basically went six deep last year and all six of those guys are gone. D’Angelo Harrison was the leader on the floor, averaging 17.5 points and 5.5 rebounds. Harris was joined in the backcourt by Rysheed Jordan and Phil Greene. Jordan averaged 14.1 points, while Greene added 13.0. All three of those perimeter players were dangerous scorers from everywhere on the floor. Point guard Jamal Branch added much of the depth on the perimeter and even earned 14 starts during his senior season. The losses in the frontcourt are Sir’Dominic Pointer and Chris Obekpa. Pointer was a beast in the paint, averaging 13.7 points, 7.7 rebounds and 2.4 blocks. Obekpa was more of a defensive specialist, averaging 7.0 rebounds and 3.1 blocks. Myles Stewart, Christian Jones, Joey De La Rosa, David Lipscomb and Khadim Ndiaye, who all averaged fewer than seven minutes per game, are also gone.

Who’s In:
So the cupboard is bare and Coach Mullin had to go out and get some experienced players to field a competitive team. Durand Johnson is a great place to start. The 6-6 graduate transfer missed last season, but he was a decent scorer for the Panthers before an ACL injury. Ron Mvouika is another grad transfer and another 6-6 wing. Two years ago, before an injury drastically shortened his 2014-2015 season, Mvouika averaged 6.8 points, 3.6 rebounds and 1.7 assists. He has the size to shoot over defenders and enough speed and strength to attack the basket. He may not take the Big East by storm, but he can give Coach Mullins 20 or more solid minutes per game. Darien Williams, a junior college transfer, is the only other player with collegiate experience among the eight eligible newcomers. Darien Williams is in the mold of Johnson and Mvouika, and Coach Mullin for that matter; a big wing that can shoot. At 6-8 and 210 pounds, he is a tough matchup. The five incoming freshmen are Marcus LoVett, Kassoum Yakwe, Yankuba Sima, Federico Mussini and Malik Ellison. LoVett is the one to watch. The 6-0 point guard will likely step right into a starting role and not only dictate the team’s play on the floor with the ball in his hands, but also be asked to do quite a bit of scoring. Malik Ellison will add some depth on the perimeter. Kassoum Yakwe and Yankuba Sima will have to make a pretty big impact in the frontcourt. Yakwe appears more ready to make an impact right away, but Sima has the size (6-11, 215 pounds) that this team needs.

Who to Watch:
The only two returning players are Amar Alibegovic and Felix Balamou. Alibegovic, a 6-9, 230 pound sophomore, is another big guy who can shoot. Last year he averaged 1.5 points and 1.5 rebounds in 8.4 minutes per game. Balamou, a senior guard, averaged 1.3 points and 1.3 rebounds in 9.2 minutes per game. Alibegovic has the potential to be an important role player in the frontcourt and, if the freshmen are not ready, he will need to be more than that.

Final Projection:
St. John’s will have some buzz heading into the season because of their coach, but all of that could come crashing down fast. The early season could be a mess while Coach Mullin and company attempt to figure out exactly what they have. However, a month or two into the season, the Red Storm should start seeing better results. There really is some talent on this roster. Much of that talent has been under the radar due to injuries, but if they can stay healthy, this is a team that can compete in the Big East on a somewhat regular basis in 2015-2016. The ceiling may be the NIT, but that would be a great start for Coach Mullin and the young Red Storm.

Projected Postseason Tournament: NIT

Projected Starting Five:
Marcus LoVett, Freshman, Guard, DNP last season
Durand Johnson, Senior, Guard, DNP last season
Ron Mvouika, Senior, Guard, DNP last season
Darien Williams, Sophomore, Forward, DNP last season
Kassoum Yakwe, Freshman, Forward, DNP last season

By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 71.0 (80th in nation, 3rd in conference)
Scoring Defense: 67.9 (209, 8)
Field-Goal Percentage: 44.2 (120, 4)
Field-Goal Defense: 40.7 (75, 3)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 6.0 (213, 8)
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 34.8 (152, 7)
Free-Throw Percentage: 69.1 (175, 7)
Rebound Margin: -3.8 (306, 8)
Assists Per Game: 12.4 (184, 8)
Turnovers Per Game: 10.7 (28, 2)

Madness 2015 Men’s Basketball Recruit Rankings:
#85 Marcus LoVett
#114 Malik Ellison


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