The St. John’s basketball team fell in its first major test of the season against Michigan.
After a disheartening 89-73 defeat against Michigan, St. John’s basketball head coach Rick Pitino’s postgame reflections were punctuated by two poignant quotes, each revealing a layer of the team’s struggles.
Through a meticulous analysis of game clips, the defensive breakdowns in the frontcourt and the surprising offensive stagnation visibly caught Pitino off guard.
The Hall of Famer’s statement about the team’s defensive shortcomings was his first pointed response, resonating with the statement, “Our frontcourt depth is terrible.”
On the opposing side, the Michigan frontcourt, led by Oliver Nkamhoua’s nine points and seven rebounds, Taris Reed Jr.’s five points, 11 rebounds, three blocks, and Will Tschetter’s 10 points, exploited St. John’s defensive vulnerabilities.
The Red Storm’s inability to contain Michigan’s frontcourt trio underscored the pressing need for defensive improvement, particularly in the paint.
Adding to the challenge, St. John’s relied heavily on Joel Soriano, a key contributor last year. Soriano remains the sole player on the team with a Player Efficiency Rating (PER) above 20, boasting an impressive 36.14, according to The Athletic.
In comparison, Michigan boasts three players with PERs above 20, including prominent men Nkhamoua at 30.99 and Tschetter at 25.91.
St. John’s starting power forward, Chris Ledlum, was a non-factor, contributing four points on 1-of-7 shooting, five rebounds, and four turnovers in 25 minutes.
The lack of consistent production from the frontcourt and the defensive struggles painted a bleak picture for the St. John’s basketball team against a formidable Michigan frontcourt rotation.
St. John’s basketball looking for offensive turnaround
During Rick Pitino’s brief stint as the head coach of the Greek EuroLeague club, Panathinaikos, he had an offensive awakening.
“The passing, the cutting…They play with a 24-second clock, but they’ll move the basketball sometimes six, seven passes in a span of six, seven seconds, to create movement and good shots,” Pitino said to the New York Post.
“It may end up in a pick-and-roll like we do, but they’ll create all that movement because their defensive rules are just like college. They can sit in the three-second lane.”
He pledged to bring that type of system to Iona when he was hired, and the Red Storm faithful hoped it would follow to Queens as well.
However, the game against Michigan was a massive letdown. The shock in Pitino’s voice reverberated through his statement, “Our offense shocked the [expletive] out of me. Shocked the [expletive] out of me that we didn’t share the ball.”
The guards’ uneven performances epitomized St. John’s offensive struggles.
Jordan Dingle, going 4-of-10 from the field, managed 10 points with one turnover. Daniss Jenkins, with a 4-of-12 shooting record, contributed 10 points but also accounted for four turnovers and two assists.
The guards’ inability to find an offensive rhythm and turnovers highlighted the stark absence of cohesive ball movement.
Through two games, forward Glenn Taylor Jr. and center Soriano currently lead the team in assist to turnover ratio.
While the game has become more positionless in the modern era, Rick Pitino needs one of his guards to take the reins of this team if they expect to meet the lofty preseason expectations many had for them.
In the aftermath, Pitino’s emphasis on a prompt video review and the team’s potential humiliation serves as a stern reminder. While defensive woes are acknowledged, the focus on offensive shortcomings signals a critical area for improvement.
The St. John’s basketball team faces a pivotal juncture in their early schedule, where adjustments must be made swiftly to live up to the preseason hype. In the coach’s eyes, the film doesn’t lie, and the narrative must shift for the Red Storm to reclaim its footing in the competitive landscape.