Where Did the Top 25 St. John’s Team Go?

Posted by Justin Kundrat on January 30th, 2019

It seems like just yesterday that the stars had finally aligned in Queens and St. John’s was staring at a long overdue appearance in the AP Top 25. The Chris Mullin era has been a roller coaster of volatility in his first four seasons, so this achievement — the Red Storm’s first ranking since the 2014-15 season — seemed significant. So it might now be surprising that, just a few short weeks later, St. John’s is so far removed from the rankings that it is no longer receiving any votes at all. How does a team that stormed out to an impressive 14-1 start now find itself 3-5 in Big East play? The answer lies not in team chemistry, injuries or key players going cold, but in roster depth.

The Johnnies are a curious case of a club that is not short on talent or offensive firepower, but one that simply struggles to close out individual games. In the early months of this season, St. John’s earned a reputation for struggling out of the gate before mounting furious second half runs to win (Georgia Tech, VCU, California), led by star guard Shamorie¬†Ponds. The team’s second half efficiency, however, has fallen off a cliff recently.

Prior to Big East play, St. John’s posted a whopping 1.21 points per possession (PPP) in the second half, a full 0.12 PPP more than it had in the first 20 minutes of its games. But when comparing the non-conference to the last five games, first half PPP declined by 0.04 points while second half production declined by 0.15 points. And while it is true that the Red Storm’s non-conference slate was significantly weaker than the quality of its conference foes, we would expect their first half numbers to show a similar decline. In other words, this team’s offense has become decidedly average at just 1.05 PPP and it doesn’t help that its defense has yet to turn a meaningful corner.

Maybe the last few games are just a blip and St. John’s will return to form over the next few weeks — or maybe the early season second half results were just a statistical aberration. But if it was the latter, then the team’s ascension to Top 25 status was just a case of being overrated. Regardless, the alarming truth is that St. John’s simply doesn’t have enough depth needed to succeed over the course of a full season. Four players are logging over 30 minutes per game and the team ranks 348th nationally in bench minutes, meaning there are only five teams in the country that play their starters more often than the Red Storm. Whether under-prepared or inexperienced, the imperative still exists: Chris Mullin needs to find ways to play his bench.

Justin Kundrat (166 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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