Courtside: Staff Predictions for Men’s Basketball

Q1: Where will the men’s basketball team finish at season’s end?

Stephen Zitolo: “In Chris Mullin’s first season as head coach the Red Storm are going to have their share of growing pains. But with the addition of nine new players to a roster that didn’t see a lot of minutes last season it’s going to take time for the Johnnies to find their way. In my opinion, the team will win between 12-15 games and finish at the bottom of the Big East, but I do feel they will shock a few opponents late in the season when they get used to one another on the court.”

Brandon Mauk: “They will likely end up at or near the bottom of the Big East. If they play well in non-conference play and manage an acceptable conference record, however, don’t be surprised if they manage a berth in the National Invitation Tournament (NIT). That would be marked as a huge success in Coach Mullin’s first season. Don’t underestimate the effect of his presence.”

Carmine Carcieri: “With nine new players, the Johnnies will be building a foundation for the future, starting with a season that will be filled with inconsistent play. I’m expecting the team to finish with 10 to 12 wins and at the bottom of the Big East, but improvement will be the measure of success in Mullin’s first year.”

Troy Mauriello: “With so many new faces both on the court and on the sidelines, it’s hard for me to see the Red Storm finishing anywhere above the bottom three of the Big East this season. Chris Mullin’s squad will show solid improvement throughout the year, however their final win total likely won’t top 15.”

Q2: Who will be the X-Factor?

Stephen Zitolo: “Durand Johnson will be crucial to the success of the Red Storm this season. He is an experienced player with an uncanny ability to score in bunches and hit threes at a consistent rate. The Johnnies inexperienced roster will be looking for someone to lead them on the court. A player with the leadership and experience of Johnson will be just what they need.”

Brandon Mauk: “The season’s level of success will largely be determined by how Federico Mussini will fare being the primary ball-handler at point guard with Marcus LoVett ruled ineligible for the season. Mussini struggled in exhibition play, but that could have been simply nerves of playing in American collegiate basketball coming over from his native Italy.”

Carmine Carcieri: “The X-Factor will be freshman Yankuba Sima. The 6’11” big man from Spain has the length to defend the paint, alter shots and make up for the lack of foot speed on the perimeter. On the offensive end, Sima has a developing offensive game and a soft touch from the free throw strike.”

Troy Mauriello: “Freshmen and transfer students will make up the bulk of the St. John’s roster this season, and for that reason one of their few returning players, forward Christian Jones, will be their X-factor. Jones looked impressive in a pair of exhibition games, and Mullin may lean on him for big minutes early on in the season.”

Q3: What is the game that you are anticipating the most?

Stephen Zitolo: “The final game of the regular season for St. John’s is at Madison Square Garden versus Providence. This game will give the Red Storm fans a good look at the progression of the all of the youth on this team and how they will be set up for the 2016-17 season. Chris Mullin will have a year under his belt as a collegiate head coach and recruiter. Things can only get better and better from this point on.”

Brandon Mauk: “Either Syracuse on December 13 or Georgetown on January 13. Those rivalries are always entertaining, especially when our team takes those two on at the Garden. It’s great that we will still have a series with the Orange even after they left the Big East. Georgetown is still our biggest in-conference rival.”

Carmine Carcieri: “The game to circle on the schedule this year is the rivalry game against Seton Hall at Madison Square Garden. This is a late February game so the Johnnies could be playing their best basketball of the season. It won’t be an easy task though as one of the most talented point guards in the conference, Isaiah Whitehead, will be taking center stage.”

Troy Mauriello: “December 13 for another annual battle against Syracuse at MSG to find out who gets to brag about being “New York’s Team” for the next year. These two have played a pair of competitive games since the Orange left the Big East two years ago, and although the Red Storm will be young and inexperienced, I expect that trend to continue in this one.”