At the beginning of 2021, St. John’s basketball was showing signs of regression in the Big East play as they dropped two winnable games to Marquette and Georgetown and were blown out twice by Creighton.
Now, St. John’s is on the cusp of being a ranked team with ranked wins over UConn and Villanova. St. John’s has been on a six game win streak with 5 of those wins coming over Big East opponents. In this time period St. John’s has moved from the 9th spot in the Big East which would mean playing on night one of the Big East Tournament, to having the third most Big East wins and the sixth highest winning percentage among teams. To quote the hit single off One Direction’s fourth studio album, Four:
The PC Friars got Smoked (then they came back to only get smoked again)
There is no better feeling in the world than seeing that stupid Providence Friar mascot sad. He is a top-5 creepiest mascot in college basketball and he has a face that will make your mother question what B-movie horror film you are watching whenever he comes on the TV.
The Johnnies came to play on Sunday in a big way. It is hard to remember a stronger start by the Johnnies in the Mike Anderson Era. The team was white hot from 3 to begin the game, hitting 6 of their first 7 threes before slowing down the tempo in the second half. The Red Storm went from scoring 75 on non-power five teams like St. Peter’s to the point where the offense is playing with fire and desire as they shoot 58% from the field and 52.6% from three.
Are these 3-point numbers sustainable over a longer period of time? Well no, BUT St. John’s has shown in the past two games that it has reached another level as numerous players are improving at making their own shot on the perimeter. Alexander, Dunn, Moore and Earlington have all stepped their game up in the dog days of Big East play and the team is winning because of it. Secondary scoring is crucial to this team’s success during the dog days of Big East play and Wusu, Moore, Cole, Dunn and Earlington have all had moments where they changed the momentum of the game.
The most impressive part of St. John’s performance was the ability to reset after a time-out once Providence took the lead early in the second half. Dunn showed tremendous leadership among the young group down the stretch as he did all of the little things correctly in order to secure the victory. He was the best player of the second half, as the senior from Brooklyn dished out ten assists to secure a double-double. This performance was obviously something I would love to see Rah build upon in the future and it reminded me of the promise the transfer showed last winter. Champagnie slowed down after a white hot start but secondary scoring was able to help secure the victory.
Walking Back A Bad Take
We released an article once with a bad headline. Have y’all heard about this? We compared some of the shortcomings this year’s early season to the lows of the Mullin Era. A lot of people may have misinterpreted the article as a call for Anderson’s removal as coach which was not the case for anyone who actually read the article. The article more or less was designed to evoke a question and discussion on whether the program was on the right track. Anderson answered the question with an emphatic yes through high level coaching over the past two weeks. This take came out way too soon and we wanted to just apologize for being overly critical of Iron Mike. I lived through the Mullin Era and it sucked and there was no light at the end of the tunnel.
Mike Anderson is like a father figure for this program and much like everyone’s real life father, it is easy to be reactionary and overly critical about the little things. The early season losses were like Poppa Anderson waking up at 6 AM before work and deciding to power wash the house which forces the family to wake up in a grumpy mood. He didn’t have bad intentions and was acting in the best interests of the family in the long run as a spotless clean house would be awesome. Now that the house is washed and everything is in order, Anderson is rewarding the SJUBB family with a resort trip to Cabo or taking us to Disney World which can be seen in our 6-game win streak. When things start going good, we are grateful for this trip and regret being mad about the little things. We love Iron Mike and are buying all the stock in $AndersonCoin but we just wanted to take a minute to walk back one of our worst takes.
40 Minutes of Hell
With that being said, Mike Anderson has transformed into being a dark horse candidate for Big East Coach of the Year. If Anderson is able to continue to coach the team at a .700 winning percentage down the stretch which is easily achievable, the team will finish top 4 in the Big East after a slow start. A narrative can even develop about Anderson utilizing the Covid stoppage in the season as a way to get back to basics and further instill his 40 minutes of hell style on players who were just entering his program for the first time like Cole, Wusu, Posh and Moore. Coach of the year does not always go to the coach of the best program, it is a narrative based award and Anderson can be rewarded for the low expectations set by college basketball writers at the beginning of the season.
Here is how the season would have to play out for Andererson to have a real shot at coach of the year:
W @ Butler
W vs Xavier
W @ Marquette
W vs Depaul
L @ Villanova
W vs Providence
W vs Seton Hall
W vs UConn ( if the make-up game happens)
This continuation of St. John’s winning form may seem unlikely but any combination of 5 or 6 of these 7 wins would elevate a team projected to finish bottom 4 in the Big East into the top 5 and a lot of the credit deserves to go to Anderson’s full court pressing scheme which has created a transition offence all season. The front runner should deservedly be Greg McDermott as his team has been an absolute weapon all season but Anderson’s case with a mostly new roster would be compelling to voters if this scenario plays out
Way Too Early: Should they stay or should they go?
Posh Alexander and Julian Champagnie look like players who have serious potential to ascend to the next level. Some people have begun to ask whether Champagnie, the leading scorer in the Big East, is ready for professional ball. I wanted to just take a second and address that both of these players would be better suited to stay an extra year at St. John’s based on the results from some of the past few Big East guards and forwards in the NBA. We will definitely come back and reassess closer to Draft time but the answer appears to be “Not Yet”.
Champagnie is dominant and his game. Julian will probably finish the year as an All-Big East First Team player and teams may see him as a value pick in the second round. Although there is still a ton of time left for Champagnie to improve his draft stock this season through a strong Big East Tournament performance, Julian should plan on staying another year with St. John’s program or entering the draft without an agent in order to feel out the NBA combine process. There are moments where Champagnie reminds me of Jason Tatum with his shotmaking ability but one more year of growth and development may allow him to enter the NBA as a rotational player rather than a long term developmental project. Bad NBA teams have a poor history of player development and moving on from previous projects to go chase the next big project in the NBA draft the next year. Champagnie would be better suited to go into the draft next year as a more finished product and two years of Big East dominance may establish him as a mid-late first round pick making much better money than a second rounder.
On the other end of the spectrum, Posh should not go into the draft this year even without an agent. Alexander was a diamond in the rough with tons of untapped potential. There is no need to go to the combine as a freshman when Alexander can come back next season bigger and stronger. Posh Alexander has grown from being a two way threat who’s offence primarily came from playmaking and the transition to a two way weapon with a solid three pointer. He reminds me a little bit of a slightly improved model of the last two years of Kris Dunn at Providence. We know what happened to Kris Dunn in the NBA albeit his high draft pick set expectations way too high. We’ve seen various Big East stud point guards struggle to find playing time in recent years be it Dunn, Ponds, Howard or Arcidiacono. It would be preferable for Posh.0 to focus on his physical development to make the All-Big East First team and potentially be an All-American next year than focus on the potential of glory in the NBA.
Preview/Drinking Game for Tonight against Butler:
On Saturday, I took a bullet for the #SJUBB community. I watched an entire Butler vs. DePaul basketball game. My reactions can be defined by the words YUCK and STINKY! Without three players, Butler struggled to find much offense outside Bryce Nze and Chuck Harris. If St. John’s can scheme around these players and force the rest of Butler to beat us, we have a solid shot at picking up a relatively relaxed victory tonight against this Butler group. Butler is favored right now at -3 but I would take the Johnnies to continue their run of form and win outright on the road.
Here is tonight’s Drinking Game for St. John’s vs Butler on FS1:
Take a sip once everytime Posh Alexander is referred to as Swanky P
Take two sips everytime Marcellus Earlington’s football background in mentioned
Take three sips if Posh and Wusu’s high school team is shown
Take four sips if St. John’s allows a run of 8 points or more when they have a lead
Finish your drink when St. John’s wins
Let’s Go Red Storm