Big East Burning Questions: Seton Hall & St. John’s

Posted by Brad Cavallaro on October 29th, 2018

Over the coming weeks, the Big East microsite will be previewing all the teams, players and key storylines to watch as we approach season tip-off. Be sure to follow @RTCBigEast and its contributors Justin Kundrat and Brad Cavallaro to get your fix. In the spotlight today will be (alphabetically) Seton Hall and St. John’s

Seton Hall: Can Seton Hall’s pair of transfers fill the gigantic void left by its departed senior class?

Raise Your Hands if Seton Hall Will Miss These Guys (USA Today Images)

Seton Hall has enjoyed a recent period of success in large part because of its stellar 2014 recruiting class. The group of Angel Delgado, Khadeen Carrington, Desi Rodriguez, Ish Sanogo (and Isaiah Whitehead for two years) have transformed the team’s national perception in leading the Pirates to three straight NCAA Tournament appearances. Unfortunately for head coach Kevin Willard, these key players have exhausted their eligibility, leaving holdover Myles Powell as the team’s only returning starter. The junior guard appears poised to take a significant step forward this season, ready to become Seton Hall’s locker room leader and one of the best players in the Big East. In support of Powell, sophomore wing Myles Cale is an obvious candidate to put together a breakout season after his strong finish a season ago — 7.0 PPG in his last seven games — but Seton Hall’s season will ultimately come down to the performance of their two incoming transfers, Taurean Thompson and Quincy McKnight.

Thompson started as a freshman at Syracuse and put up solid offensive numbers there (9.2 PPG on 55% FG shooting), but he often drew the ire of fans with his defensive indifference and tendency to settle for contested mid-range jumpers. Scoring seems a strong suit, but will his defense, rebounding and overall floor game satisfy Willard? McKnight did it all for a terrible Sacred Heart team in averaging 18.9 PPG two seasons ago, but his assist-to-turnover ratio was putrid (0.65 ATO). He will need to upgrade his decision-making with the ball to stay on the floor against Big East competition, but hopefully last year spent practicing with a very talented team has allowed him to shore up that weakness.

Analyst rankings of Seton Hall this preseason seem to correlate with views on Thompson and McKnight. Those who think that both will become outstanding Big East players have Seton Hall returning to the Big Dance; those who have lukewarm feelings on the pair place the Pirates in the NIT; and those who are down on the duo have Willard’s club missing the postseason entirely. I have some optimism that Thompson and McKnight will become capable starters for this squad, but not necessarily good enough to push Seton Hall back into the NCAA Tournament. Expect a mid-level season for the Pirates.

St. John’s: Can Chris Mullin finally put it all together?

Chris Mullin Has St. John’s Heading In The Right Direction (Photo: Steven Ryan, Newsday)

When discussing St. John’s for the upcoming season, its detractors bring up two major related concerns. Is Chris Mullin a capable coach, and can his team finally put it all together? These are perfectly reasonable questions given that Mullin is entering his fourth season at the school with only 14 Big East wins to show for it, and his fourth team at the school is his most talented yet.

Big East Player of the Year front-runner Shamorie Ponds leads the way, but Mullin also has an all-SEC caliber talent in former Auburn forward Mustapha Heron (who fell into their lap), a stat-sheet stuffer extraordinaire in junior wing Justin Simon, and a tough skilled forward in senior Marvin Clark. Still, a very talented group last season ultimately fell flat, at one point losing 11 Big East games in a row before managing huge victories over top-five teams Duke and Villanova. Heron gives the Red Storm some additional star power to pair with Ponds and the bench is improved, but will it be enough to climb the Big East standings from a 4-14 finish?

In terms of sheer talent, St. John’s is a top-two Big East team. Cohesion and chemistry, however, are a different story with the addition of so many new and important pieces. The clock is also ticking for a head coach who will need to start showing some positive on-court results very soon. It says here that this is the year the Red Storm breaks through and returns to the Big Dance. Keep an eye on starting center Sedee Keita as a potential X-factor since he should be a key but often overlooked cog in the St. John’s lineup.

Brad Cavallaro (5 Posts)


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