Let’s break down the St. John’s Red Storm men’s basketball team for the 2021-2022 NCAA season! Last season exceeded expectations, as St. John’s men’s basketball team finished the season tied for fourth with Seton Hall last season and won the tiebreaker for the #4 seed in the conference tournament. Losing to Seton Hall in the quarterfinals of the Big East tournament and not being invited to the NCAA Championship Tournament stung after a solid season. The roster went through some significant changes this offseason, and they hope it leads to more consistency and getting back to the Big Dance.
The Red Storm came into last season with meager preseason expectations, but had some surprising wins down the stretch (9-3 after a 7-7 start during the regular season) and finished 16-11, 10-9 in the Big East (1st time since 2014-2015 they’ve won 10 conference games in a season). Unexpected significant contributions from Julian Champagnie and freshman guard Posh Alexander helped this team beat UConn on the road and Villanova at home in the 2nd half of the season. Still, it wasn’t enough to carry St. John’s to an NCAA tournament appearance.
Champagnie led the Big East with 19.8 points per game last season, en route to All-Big East First Team honors, and he shared the Big East Most Improved Player award with Xavier’s Zach Freemantle. Alexander was named the 2021 Big East Freshman of the Year after averaging 10.3 points, 4.3 assists, 3.4 rebounds, and a league-leading 2.6 steals. He shared Big East Defensive Player of the Year honors with UConn’s Isaiah Whaley. Dylan Addae-Wusu is the only other returnee of note besides Champagnie and Alexander – averaging over 20 minutes per game off the bench and playing in all 27 games as a freshman last season. Head coach Mike Anderson also won an award, being named the Big East Coach of the Year.
Arrivals and departures
The team underwent massive roster changes this offseason, as they lost several key players – including three players who averaged over 23 minutes per game last season – to transfer. St. John’s will need to replace Rasheen Dunn (transfer to Robert Morris), Greg Williams Jr. (Louisiana Lafayette), Vince Cole (Coastal Carolina), Isaiah Moore (Southern Miss), and Marcellus Earlington (San Diego). Josh Roberts also transferred (to Manhattan) for his senior season after spending his first three years with St. John’s. That’s over 60% of the team’s minutes played and tons of experience lost. In response, Anderson signed five upperclassmen in the transfer portal to offset those losses and play critical roles this season: Joel Soriano (Fordham), Aaron Wheeler (Purdue), Montez Mathis (Rutgers), Stef Smith (Vermont), Tareq Coburn (Hofstra).
Coburn averaged over 15 points per game last season and is considered the best shooter on the team (40% career three-point shooter). He is probably the best bet for offense behind Champagnie and Alexander. Mathis hasn’t put up gaudy stats, but he started 65 games in his three years at Rutgers and can be a solid all-around contributor for the Red Storm. Smith played a significant role the last three years as a scorer/shooter (13.5 points per game last season) at Vermont and is coming off an appearance on the America East Second Team. Soriano has the size (6’11) this team badly needed and should also be an immediate contributor. He is a solid rebounder and a double-double threat (10.4 points, 9.2 rebounds last season) who adds a much-needed presence down low the team lacked last season. Wheeler was a key rotational piece off the bench (18.4 minutes played in 28 games) for a Purdue team that was a four seed in the Men’s Championship Tournament and will probably play a similar role for St. John’s. Ideally, three-star freshmen signees Rafael Pinzon and O’Mar Stanley figure to be essential backups off the bench as well.
Bringing back two of the top players in the Big East in Champagnie and Alexander certainly helps, but there are still many questions to be answered. How will all these transfers mesh together? Who steps up as the third guy behind the Big Two? Will this new-look team be as versatile as it was last season? After so much roster turnover this offseason, chemistry will be a big concern early on for the Red Storm. Anderson has never had a losing record as head coach, but he will be doing a lot of lineups shuffling as the season goes on to find the right mix. St. John’s has enough talent to not only get a March Madness tournament bid but to be a real contender in the Big East as long as Champagnie and Alexander are healthy. Both will be on the All-Big East Team watch list, and Champagnie could be in the conversation for Big East Player of the Year again with another strong season.
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