After a lopsided win over Loyola (Md.) in the Johnnies’ season opener, the St. John’s Red Storm (1-0) return to action on Friday night, as they host the Bowling Green Falcons (1-0) at Carnesecca Arena in another preparatory game for the Legends Classic.
St. John’s left very little doubt, beating Loyola (Md.), 76-55 on Tuesday night. As for Bowling Green, it also won in convincing fashion to start the year. The Falcons enter Friday’s game after taking down Division II Tiffin University, 91-52.
How To watch, listen, and stream
Game Time: Friday, November 9, 2018, at 6:30 p.m. ET
TV: Fox Sports 2 (Rich Ackerman, Jim Spanarkel)
RADIO: 570 AM WMCA (St. John’s), WFRO Eagle 99 (Bowling Green)
Live Stream: Fox Sports Go (where available)
According to Oddsshark.com, St. John’s is a 16.5-point favorite to win over Bowling Green.
KenPom predicts St. John’s (92 percent favorite) to win 84-69.
This will be the sixth meeting between both teams. The Falcons currently lead the series, 3-2, over the Johnnies. Friday night will be the first time the two teams square off since 1994. St. John’s won that previous meeting, 77-64.
What to Watch For
Tempo and Turnovers
With the talent on this St. John’s team, head coach Chris Mullin hasn’t been afraid to play a run-and-gun style of attack. It certainly led to some highlight plays on Tuesday night, but this is a speed that is on pace to be the swiftest of Mullin’s tenure. It’s similar to the tempo from Shamorie Ponds’ freshman season, when St. John’had the 11th-quickest adjusted tempo rating, according to KenPom. In that 2016-17 season, the Red Storm held the ball for about 15.6 seconds-per-possession, the 30th lowest in Division I. With the athletes that St. John’s has, it’s a fitting strategy, especially with a weapon like Ponds that can generate turnovers and is lethal in transition. While the blazing speed was fun to watch, St. John’s had an uncharacteristic 18 turnovers in the win over Loyola (Md.). The Johnnies have typically done a solid job of taking care of the ball and boast one of the lowest turnover rates over the last couple of years. As St. John’s adjusts to two new starters in the lineup, L.J. Figueroa and Mustapha Heron, there will be some mistakes as the Johnnies become more cohesive and build chemistry. Aside from the new faces in the starting five, Mikey Dixon (Quinnipiac) and Sedee Keita (South Carolina) are looking like mainstays in their first season of eligibility after sitting out. 18 turnovers is alarming, but it might have just been one game as all these players play together for the first time ever. Will it be a trend, or just a one-time deal?
As rough as the 2017-18 season was for the Johnnies--between Marcus LoVett leaving midway through the year and that crushing 11-game losing streak to start Big East play--their defense was a consistent bright spot. They excelled on that side of the ball, ranking in KenPom’s top 30 for defensive efficiency. St. John’s was one of the best in blocking shots and generating steals, doing so at rates that placed the Red Storm among the top 10 in the country. However, on the other end of the court, it was a bit lacking. Outside of Ponds, who was the team’s main go-to scoring threat, St. John’s initially struggled to find another complementary scoring punch right after LoVett’s injury and departure. While it would eventually find the answer towards the end of the season, with an improving Justin Simon, Bashir Ahmed, and Marvin Clark II, at times it was a bit inconsistent. Ponds would continue to put up impressive scoring numbers, but the amount of help he got fluctuated. This year, that doesn’t seem to be the case. St. John’s made a firm first impression. Sure, Ponds led the way with 20 points in the victory over Loyola (Md.), but Heron, Figueroa, and Dixon impressed in their Red Storm debuts. Add that to the already existing and wiser Clark, Ahmed, and Simon--it doesn’t look like this team should stall offensively, when Ponds hits a cold spell. If Ponds can get consistent scoring help and St. John’s continues to be able to prove that the rest of its talented team can step up, this team will truly live to the hype and be a scary one come conference play.
Bowling Green might have easily dispatched the Tiffin Dragons to start the season, but with its opponent being a Division II school, it isn’t a true gauge of what this team is capable of doing. The Falcons took care of business, but also just dominated their opponents on the court. However, there were a couple of things for certain from that Tuesday night game. Junior guard Dylan Frye is ready for a much bigger role on the team and has improved as a scorer. Last season, Frye was a secondary and tertiary option for the Falcons. While he was one of their top shooters--especially from beyond the arc--he was a bit inefficient and inconsistent at times. In 2017-18, he finished with 11.8 points per game, while shooting just 37.7 percent overall and 35.3 percent from long range. He appeared more refined as a player and his experience and offseason work seems to be paying off. He led the Dragons with 20 points in the win over Tiffin, going 8-for-12 on the floor, including four made threes-pointers. His improvement will be crucial to making the Falcons more versatile and multi-faceted. Justin Turner is also back, after leading the the Falcons last season with 15.9 points per game. There’s also Demajeo Wiggins, a 6-foot-10 senior forward, who is a double-double machine. He averaged 13.7 points and 10.1 boards last season, and started this year right on brand, with a 12-point, 10-rebound performance.