It’s been a long time. Very long. Perhaps as long ago as when Louie Carnesecca last patrolled the hardwood at Alumni Hall in Queens.
St. John’s is back and they may well be the best team in the metropolitan area. Only Seton Hall and Rutgers can lay claim to being their equivalent.
St. John’s had, to say the least a strange season last year. They raced off to an 10-2 start and top 25 votes. They then lost 11 straight Big East games, before defeating ultimate National Champion Villanova and Duke, both at Madison Square Garden. A bit schizophrenic? One might claim that.
Why the sudden optimism? Well, St. John’s had a lot of pieces coming back from last season, but then the NCAA gave Auburn transfer Mustapha Heron a hardship exemption and immediate eligibility.He averaged 16.4 ppg as a sophomore for the SEC school. The 6-5 guard can score inside and out and is a strong rebounder.
The Johnnies also return projected Big East player of the year, Shamorie Ponds.He averaged 21.6 ppg and torched Duke last February in the initial Garf Game for 33 points.The NCAA annointed Heron and Ponds as one of the top 1-2 duos in the country.
Justin Simon who averaged 12.2 ppg and is a strong defender also returns, as does Marvin Clark II.
South Carolina expatriate, Sedee Keita at 6-9 will help off the boards.
St. John’s played 6 men last year for over 80% of all games. Now they have the requisite depth to play 8 or 9.
Duke gets another shot at SJU at Cameron in February.St. John’s also plays a full Big East schedule, along with Call, Georgia tech and Rutgers in the Big Ten-Big East challenge. The Big East is strong, but not nearly as strong, top to bottom as last season. Villanova lost a lot to graduation and the NBA draft.A Big East title and the NCAA’s is a real possibility for St. John’s.