This year I was lucky enough to have my favorite team kick-off the college hoops season. I feel it gives me an excuse to post specifically about the game under the guise of posting about the start of the basketball season.
St. John's is chock full of interesting stories: 9 new players, top 3 recruiting class, 3 of those players not being eligible to start the season, walk on tryouts out of necessity because they couldn't even run a 5-5 scrimmage at practice and last but not least, Steve Lavin's prostate cancer surgery. Being largely a team of newcomers I'm fully expecting a very frustrating season which I'm okay with thanks to last year and the promise of the future of St. John's hoops.
Tonight's win, I feel is going to be a microcosm of their season. It was a nice 15 point win over a team with a style that does (did) give St. John's fits. Instead of me rehashing the whole game, you can check out the boxscore of the 74-59 win HERE. But I would like go over things I liked and disliked from the game tonight:
Free throw shooting - There is nothing in sports more frustrating than a team who can't hit free throws. For the game they were 12-25 (48%). I can't take that. At one point I realized I was only 23 minutes in to the college hoops season and I was already angry. And on such a glorious opening night of basketball too.
The dreadful ESPNU logo - I love everyone else's logo but St. John's is the worst. It has to do with being the Red Storm (which is ridiculous and a whole different post) but it's just terrible and makes no sense.
Three point defense - This may seem like nitpicking since they did only hold William & Mary to a shade under 35% for the game but they started missing some as they heaved them up in late desparation. They scramble and gamble a lot with their full court pressure which leaves them out of position a lot to jump out and contest a lot of 3s. With 7 guys getting regular minutes I wouldn't mind seeing them call off the pressure sometimes for now. Most of the guys on the floor seem quick and long enough to still get their hands on some balls in the half court defense. I know full pressure is the style but I can't see keeping that up with this little depth.
Rebounding - Like everything in the 2nd half, it got better. But they were out rebounded for the game but closed the gap in the 2nd half. That could largely be attributed to them shooting just about 68% in the 2nd half but it's obviously going to be an issue this year.
Three point shooting - I'm not in panic mode or anything after one game but do you know the last time a St. John's finished the season shooting better than 35 percent for a season?......Neither do I.
The 2nd half defense - Obviously. But what I liked about it is that they got over their jitters and completely overwhelmed William & Mary with their superior athleticism after being down 7 at the half. William & Mary is the anti-St. John's or St. John's 2010-2011 with them returning 12 players and 4 starters from last year. With that kind of experience, it wouldn't have surprised me in the least if the Tribe we able to salt that victory away so it was nice to see St. John's literally take the victory tonight.
JUCOs - During the offseason everyone liked to talk about the freshmen. But this game St. John's was led by God's Gift and Nuri Lindsey. A lot of GG's rebounds were uncontested but he shot a high percentage from the floor and looked the most comfortable at the FT line. He also drew some charges and only commited 1 foul which is going to be very important for this team o have him not foul out. Lindsey on the other hand I was very frustrated with in the first half. Who cares if a guy could get to the line if he couldn't hit any free throws. His FT does need work but he was able to get to the rim and finish a lot and also shot a high percentage when all was said and done. 5 steals didn't hurt either.
4 Turnovers!!! - To me that's amazing for such an inexperienced team playing their first regular season game together. I don't believe they turned it over at all in the 2nd half either. That was a +17 differential for the game.
I didn't really mention any of the freshmen but this is getting long and I'm not going to get too excited or panic too much based on one game.