The St. John’s Red Storm will now look to the 2018-19 season after their 88-60 blowout loss to Xavier Thursday afternoon.
For a half on Thursday afternoon, it looked like St. John’s had a chance to slay another giant in the college basketball world when they trailed by four at the half to Xavier. Then, the Musketeers found a second gear and outscored the Red Storm 55-31 in the second half en route to an 88-60 win in the Big East Tournament quarterfinals.
The loss put the end on what has been a confusing up-and-down season for St. John’s and their fans. At times, this team looked like it could beat anybody in the country such as when they beat Duke, Villanova, and Butler. At other times, they struggled with the likes of DePaul and Georgetown and ended up starting 0-11 in conference play.
When you look at Thursday’s loss, it was a pattern for St. John’s on offense that has been bothersome all season long. For a team that does its damage when attacking the basket, the Red Storm did not do that as often against Xavier as they took 27 three-pointers (only made six of them).
While Justin Simon once again was efficient for St. John’s with his 14 points (6-for-11 shooting) and Marvin Clark II picked up where he left off in the second half on Wednesday (16 points), they did not get the production they needed from Shamorie Ponds. Ponds was 4-for-14 from the floor (0-for-7 from downtown) and finished with 15 points and seven rebounds.
Another problem St. John’s had for most of the season was defending the three-point shot. In this new era of college basketball, defending the perimeter is critical now more than ever.
That problem came back to haunt them in the second half when Xavier made seven of their 11 attempted trifectas. Three of them came from Trevon Bluiett, who had a game-high 27 points as Xavier continues on their quest for one of the number one seeds in next week’s NCAA Tournament.
Since St. John’s finished the season with a 16-17 record, the NIT is not likely going to be a tournament the Red Storm will land in. Therefore, the focus shifts to next season. Every year, fans have heard wait till next year for the program to get back to prominence, but the end of the season brought reasons for optimism.
As the season came to a close, the Red Storm showed that they were a resilient bunch as they went from 0-11 in conference play to getting back to .500 with their overall record after Wednesday’s win over Georgetown. The key will be to bring everyone back for a run at the top of the Big East and continue the progress that was made at the end of the season.
Throughout the spring, all eyes will be on Ponds to see if he will return for his junior season or make the jump to the NBA. After Thursday’s loss, he said he will test the process, but as long as he does not hire an agent, he can still return to Queens next season if he chooses to:
Shamorie Ponds says he’ll sit down with his family to make a decision about future. He’s expected to test nba draft waters #sjubb
— Zach Braziller (@NYPost_Brazille) March 8, 2018
If Ponds decides to come back, the Red Storm will have everybody but Bashir Ahmed returning for 2018-19. They will have the depth that was needed this year badly when transfers Sedee Keita and Mikey Dixon join the squad along with freshmen Greg Williams, Josh Roberts, and Marcellus Earlington.
So, where should the expectations be for next season? Well, with the talent expected to come back, this should be a team that makes the postseason in year four under Chris Mullin. Clark II might have said it best after Thursday’s game when he said where the Red Storm need to finish next year:
The goal for @StJohnsBBall next year is already laid out — to finish in the Top 5 of @BIGEASTMBB. Marvin Clark II on #SJUBB: pic.twitter.com/77qWxrzbDA
— John Fanta (@John_Fanta) March 8, 2018
While St. John’s dealt with its fair share of adversity this season, they showed that the pieces are there to make a deep run next season. It may crush fans now to see a season end in no postseason. However, the optimism that was there during the preseason is starting to come back going into next year.