Year 3 of the Chris Mullin Era commences on Friday night. The 2017-18 college basketball season gets underway with the St. John's Red Storm hosting the New Orleans Privateers of the Southland Conference. This is the first-ever meeting between these two teams.
Time & Place: 7 p.m. ET, Carnesecca Arena, Queens, New York
TV: Fox College Sports (Rich Ackerman, Sarah Kustok)
Radio: 570 AM WMCA (John Minko, Brian Mahoney)
Streaming: Fox Sports GO (where available)
Gamblin’ Info: Information via OddsShark was unavailable at the time of writing. However, St. John’s was 16-17 against the spread last season. New Orleans was only 2-2 against the spread.
New Orleans: The Privateers have been a feel-good story over the years. The program has had to regroup from Hurricane Katrina in the mid-2000s and from threats of transitioning down to D-III in the early 2010’s. Head coach Mark Schlessinger was able to build this team over six years and lead them to the NCAA Tournament last season, their first in 20 years. They lost their First Four matchup against Mount Saint Mary’s by a point, 67-66.
New Orleans returns only two starters from last year’s team: Seniors Travin Thibodeaux and Makur Puou. Four of the team’s top five scorers graduated, leaving both of them to patrol the frontcourt.
Thibodeaux is the team’s leading returning scorer. He averaged 8.7 points and 7.3 rebounds per game last year. He was able to pick up an all-conference defensive team selection in the process. The team has three more seniors that will look to step into bigger roles and help the Privateers return to the Tournament.
Also of note, junior guards Ezekiel Charles and Tyren Harrison hail from New York City. Charles is from Brooklyn while Harrison comes from Queens.
St. John’s: The Red Storm start Year Three of the rebuilding process against a team that will compete, but should ultimately be easy enough to defeat. St. John’s shouldn’t play down to their opponent, especially to start the season. That would set a darker tone for the rest of the campaign.
After a summer of plenty of roster turnover, there is a solid core of players that remains intact heading into the season. All eyes will rightfully fall on Shamorie Ponds and Marcus LoVett. This backcourt duo is primed for a big season. Bashir Ahmed and Kassoum Yakwe return as starters along with rotation players Tariq Owens and Amar Alibegovic.
Transfers Justin Simon (Arizona) and Marvin Clark II (Michigan State) have college experience and will greatly factor into this year’s plans. Freshman Bryan Trimble, Jr. will also join the rotation.
This home opener will give us a glimpse at how much the team has grown over the summer. It will also show how much further they have to go towards being Big East contenders.