St. John’s Basketball: Getting to know the New Orleans Privateers
DAYTON, OH - MARCH 14: Erik Thomas #14 of the New Orleans Privateers shoots the ball against Miles Wilson #10 of the Mount St. Mary's Mountaineers in the second half during the First Four game in the 2017 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at UD Arena on March 14, 2017 in Dayton, Ohio. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

On Friday night, St. John’s Basketball begins their regular season against the New Orleans Privateers, a team that made the NCAA Tournament last season.

The 2017-18 regular season officially gets started for St. John’s tonight at Carnessecca Arena when they take on the New Orleans Privateers. This year is a year full of high hopes for the Red Storm, as they try to make it to the postseason in Chris Mullin’s third year as head coach.

While St. John’s went 1-1 in their two exhibition games, they saw a good backcourt trio form in Justin Simon, Shamorie Ponds, and Marcus LoVett that will be tough for opposing defenders to stop. Plus, Marvin Clark II showed that he can do a little bit of everything on offense and defense once that three-point shot starts falling.

As for their opponent tonight (7 p.m ET, FOX College Sports), St. John’s is facing the team that won the Southland Conference regular season and tournament last season. Now, the Red Storm haven’t had the best luck against that conference in the past when you consider they did lose to Incarnate Word last season.

The Privateers got to the NCAA Tournament in 2016-17 for the first time in school history and lost to Mount St. Mary’s in the First Four. This year, they were picked to finish sixth in the conference in the Southland preseason poll.

Since arriving in New Orleans, forward Travin Thibodeaux has been improving. In each of his three seasons, his points per game, rebounds per game, and assists per game have increased. He shot 51 percent from the floor, was tied for the team lead in steals per game, and was second in rebounds.

Thibodeaux is one of only two starters returning from last year’s team. The other starter is 6”9 forward Makar Puou. In his first season with the Privateers last year as a junior college transfer, he had 41 blocks and made over 55 percent of his shots. Those two forwards can at least give the team points in the frontcourt, but what about the outside shot?

There is only one game of exhibition season to go on for New Orleans, but senior guard Jorge Rosa had three threes in that game on nine attempts and shot 39 percent from downtown last season.

One other name to watch is Michael Zeno. The senior forward only got four starts last season, but he made five of his eight shots in the exhibition game and got to the free throw line 12 times. If that trend continues Friday night, he could create foul trouble for some of those St. John’s players in the frontcourt.

All in all, this is a game that St. John’s should be able to win, but keep an eye on if there is early foul trouble because the Red Storm don’t have much depth in the interior even with Kassoum Yakwe back from injury. In the end, the guards should do enough to carry the team to a season-opening win.

I graduated from St. John's University with a degree in sports management. I previously wrote about the Johnnies at Rumble In the Garden.