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St. John’s hosts Monmouth: Preview

Fresh off a weekend win the Johnnies hit the court to host the Hawks

NCAA Basketball: Fordham at St. John Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

How to watch Monmouth vs. St. John’s

Time and Date: Thursday, December 9, 2021, at 8:30 PM ET

Where: Carnesecca Arena, Queens, NY

TV: Fox Sports 1

Streaming: Fox Sports Go

Records: Monmouth (7-1) || St. John’s (6-2)

Rankings: Monmouth (#142 KenPom) || St. John’s (#69 KenPom)


Preview

On Thursday, St. John’s will begin their first of their final three non-conference games as the Johnnies play host to the Monmouth Hawks. St, John’s will be coming into this one fresh off of a 83 to 69 win over the Fordham Rams in which they looked a bit more dynamic and overall much more comfortable on and off the ball.

It seems in some ways that Mike Anderson and St. John’s are reforming themselves before the long slog of Big East games comes down the pipe. They looked improved on Sunday but now starting with Monmouth and ending with Pitt on the 18th of December are looking to close out this final slate with a bang, showing that they mean business in the games to come. While it is a great idea on paper, in practice it will be a curious sight, especially as St. John’s has not really pushed themselves in terms of non-conference scheduling this season. With the exception of their Gavitt Tipoff game against Indiana and their Big East-Big 12 Battle game against Kansas, there has been not much here on the schedule in terms of a challenge for St. John’s to take a real measure of their skills. The Johnnies are one of eight teams from a power conference not playing at least four other power conference opponents in non-conference play or not playing in a preseason tournament.

That might not be an issue for St. John’s, as the games against Indiana and Kansas showed that this team has issues that need ironing out, let alone some retooling and the remaining slate of games on this non-conference schedule present a perfect grouping of teams to work on the areas that St. John’s need to work on the most before there is an uptick in the challenge when it comes to the conference season.

That brings us to Monmouth. So far the Hawks are 7-1 on the season having played a mix of non-conference games and conference games. Their most impressive win so far on the season was a 61-59 win over the Cincinnati Bearcats. The Bearcats currently sitting on a #71 KenPom ranking not too far off for from where St. John’s are sitting at with #69 KenPom ranking.

The Hawks are also on a six game win streak, having not lost since their season opener against the Charlotte 49ers. Since then they have been red hot and overall pretty solid. They are one of the favorites this season in the MAAC and so far their play has justified that prediction. The Hawks are led by the play of George Papas who so far this season has averaged 17.3 points per game, 6.5 rebounds per game, and 2.6 assists per game.

Perhaps the most notable Hawks player and one with some intimate history against St. John’s is Shavar Reynolds who spent the better of four seasons with Seton Hall from 2017 to 2021 before graduate transferring to Monmouth for a fifth year. Reynolds, in his time with the Pirates, rose from a bench player to a key rotation player by the end of his career in South Orange came to an end. Perhaps his most crucial contribution, and one which is most likely seared into the memory of St. John’s fans, was the buzzer beating three pointer that he hit at the Prudential Center back in 2018 not only giving Seton Hall the win but also ringing in the start of Big East play. Currently with the Hawks, Reynolds has been as good as he was with the Pirates averaging at the moment 15.8 points per game, 3.4 rebounds per game, and 1.8 assists per game. His 15.8 points per game is the second best scoring per game on the team, second only to the play of Papas.

Rounding out the Hawks is the play of Walker Miller who is averaging 14.6 points per game, 7.1 rebounds per game for the team lead, and 1.1 assists per game, and lastly there is Marcus McClary who is averaging 11.5 points per game, 4.6 rebounds per game, and 1.6 assists per game.

As mentioned earlier St. John’s might not have had a challenging schedule in non-conference this season, but this Monmouth team presents a tough task. Hopefully the play against Fordham will carry over as Posh Alexander took a more front footed approach to scoring a backseat to Dylan Addae-Wusu to take over the duties of moving and spreading the ball over the court. Naturally Julian Champagnie will provide his normal scoring touch but the changes in play that Anderson made last game allowed Champagnie to play his game while also adding accomplishes to boost the overall production of the team instead of relying on just one or two players to carry the load. In this case it was the Alexander-Champagnie combination that carry that load early on. Now things seemed to have sifted to a three to four player reliance now.

In all, it should be a fun game against an opponent that has been hot so far this season. Monmouth is a solid challenge for the Johnnies to handle as they tinker and retool before their first Big East game.