Big East Preview Part III: Key Questions for St. John’s and Creighton

Posted by Justin Kundrat on October 30th, 2017

With the season just a few weeks away, Rush the Court’s Big East preview will tip off its coverage by posing season-defining key questions for each team. Today we tackle St. John’s and Creighton.

#6 St. John’s – Will new additions finally bring consistency to the Red Storm?

Chris Mullin returns a much more experienced team this year in the Big Apple. (Anthony Gruppuso/USA TODAY Sports)

Chris Mullin’s group was a fun team to watch last season, playing at one of the fastest tempos in the country and supported by a fearless backcourt duo of Marcus LoVett (15.9 PPG) and Shamorie Ponds (17.4 PPG). But their interest on the offensive end did not directly translate into an efficient half-court offense, nor did it carry over to success on the defensive end. So while the Red Storm were often competitive (7-11 in Big East play), the team’s offense came in spurts from its youthful backcourt or the sporadic contributions of junior Bashir Ahmed. That leaky defense of last season (131st nationally) often appeared to be a function of effort; the Red Storm ranked among the top 50 nationally in both steals and blocks, yet they were one of the worst in defensive field goal percentage (258th). Another year of experience for the youngest team in the conference will certainly bandage the consistency problem, and the biggest benefit should come in the form of its two transfers: Justin Simon (from Arizona) and Marvin Clark (from Michigan State). The duo will function as experienced plug-and-play guys at the forward spots, giving Mullin depth where he needs it most and additional scoring threats should the backcourt suffer an off night. If there’s one thing Johnnies fans have been asking for over the last several seasons, it’s an ability to sustain an occasional high level of play. With it, this team becomes a legitimate dark horse.

#5 Creighton – How does the offense transform without its interior scoring punch?

Marcus Foster will be asked once again to carry the load for Creighton. (Kelley L Cox/USA TODAY Sports)

Despite being such a potent perimeter team (the Bluejays collectively shot 39.8 percent from deep last season), the real bread and butter for the Creighton offense came in the paint. Supported by the highly efficient scoring of the now-departed Justin Patton, Creighton ranked 51st nationally in field goal attempts at the rim and 28th in field goal percentage there. Moreover, the interior game paved the way for perimeter spacing, enabling the team’s four 40%+ three-point shooters to continually torture their opponents. So while the team returns its offensive centerpiece, senior guard Marcus Foster, and adds a good mix of recruits and transfers (including former Syracuse guard Kaleb Joseph), the biggest question mark is how this team will replace the interior scoring of the first round pick Patton. Head coach Greg McDermott will likely turn to Toby Hegner and Martin Krampelj, the only two returning frontcourt Bluejays, even if both are more comfortable operating as stretch fours. Additionally, Hegner is coming off a surgery while Krampelj received inconsistent playing time last season. Unless one of the new signees demonstrates consistent shot-making abilities at the rim, it’s difficult to imagine Creighton overcoming its missing post production. Interior players or not, the fact remains that McDermott can still roll out a dynamic lineup of five legitimate perimeter threats at any time, and that will win a fair number of games by itself.

Justin Kundrat (122 Posts)

Villanova grad, patiently waiting another 10 years for season tickets. Follow Justin on twitter @JustinKundrat or email him at justin.kundrat@gmail.com


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