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UConn men’s basketball 2022-23 opponent preview: St. John’s

After an up-and-down year last season, the Red Storm are looking to be a little more consistent in 2022-23.

NCAA Basketball: Big East Conference Tournament-Villanova vs St. John Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

Fast Facts

Head Coach: Mike Anderson (Fourth season as head coach)

2021-22 Record: 17-15 (8-11 Big East)

2021-22 Conference finish: Seventh

Final 2021-22 Ranking: No. 55

2022-23 Conference Coaches Poll Ranking: Sixth

2022-23 KenPom Rating: No. 37

2021-22 in review

Aside from its 21-point drubbing of Elite Eight participant St. Peter’s, St. John’s beat the teams they were supposed to beat in non-conference play in 2021-22 and lost to the teams with any sort of quality.

The Red Storm faced several sub-300 teams and handled them all, but took a close road loss to top-50 Indiana, got blasted by Kansas, and also fell at Madison Square Garden to Pitt, which was just inside the top 200 according to KenPom, in what was technically a neutral site game.

St. John’s also had its first four Big East games postponed due to COVID-19, leading to a layoff of nearly three weeks. While Mike Anderson’s team took victory in its first game back, taking down DePaul at home, consistency was an issue, as the Red Storm had just two winning streaks of two games each. Interestingly, the second win in each spurt was against Butler. While it is really hard to win on the road in college basketball, St. John’s was unable to steal games it should have won in visiting arenas, including to DePaul.

The Red Storm finished tied for seventh and earned the 7-seed in the Big East Tournament, doing away easily with DePaul in the first round, setting up a quarterfinal showdown with No. 2 Villanova in an attempt to extend their season. The underdogs led by seven at the break and extended that to as high as 17 early in the second half, but the Wildcats came back and ended St. John’s year, despite 23 points from Julian Champagnie in his final game before declaring for the NBA Draft.

2022-23 preview

Losing Champagnie, an elite scorer, is going to hurt but Aaron Wheeler is the only other departure that started more than 10 games for St. John’s last season. Several role players, such as Stef Smith and Tareq Coburn, also graduated, but Anderson will still have a solid bunch of players as he looks to bring the Red Storm back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2019 and just the fourth time since 2002.

Posh Alexander, the point guard that averaged 13.8 points and 5.5 assists per game last season, returns for his junior season, while Joel Soriano, the 6-foot-11 senior center that grabbed 5.5 rebounds per night, also will continue to clog the middle. The experience brought by those two, as well as redshirt senior guard Montez Mathis, who started 28 games last year, will prove crucial as five new players, three of which are freshmen, enter the fold.

The newcomers are highlighted by Andre Curbelo, a consensus top-50 recruit from Long Island that spent two years in Illinois. He was the sixth man of the year in the Big Ten as a freshman and was named to several watchlists before an injury-plagued season prevented a true breakout. David Jones, who was ninth in the Big East in scoring last year, also joins by way of DePaul. At 6-foot-6, freshman guard AJ Storr provides size and was a top-100 prospect. Guard Kolby King and center Mohamed Keita also enter the program as freshmen.

Bottom line

St. John’s will not challenge for the Big East regular season title unless there is a pretty big surprise but should improve from last year and will hang around for an NCAA Tournament bid.

The program’s non-conference schedule is solid, with several top-100 or top-100 adjacent dates, including Temple and either Richmond or Syracuse in the Empire Classic, a trip to Iowa State in the Big East-Big 12 Battle, and a neutral site game against Florida State, but lacks a high-end, top-50 team. If the Red Storm can win more of those than they lose and finish in the top half of the Big East, they will have a great chance to return to the Big Dance. If not, Anderson’s seat might be getting a little warm.