Schedule breakdown for November is posted earlier.
01 St. Francis (NY) | 08 New Jersey Institute of Technology | 14 Bethune-Cookman | 20 Marist | 21 Virginia Tech -or- Columbia | 27 Miami | 31 @ Providence
I guess the staff wanted to coast through the month of December, give the student-athletes some time to work on their studies. Some of these games are like an extended preseason.
St. Francis might pose a light sweat. But a 0-29 team, plus a weak MEAC squad? Not that a major conference team should be out there trying to beat on Tennessee and Memphis, UAB and Maryland. But the RPIs on some of these teams is in the 300's, and that's not much of a test or help.
I suppose there's Marist, and then the real warm-ups - Virginia Tech (hopefully) and Miami, before conference season. Previews and notes below the fold.
Of interest: Note that the average RPI of the non-Holiday Festival, non-Miami, non-Preseason NIT foes is just below 307. That means that the Red Storm are playing, on average, the bottom eighth of all of Division I outside of those marquee contests.
Overall, the RPI of the pre-conference foes is about 176; the Marist/ VT/ Miami/ Boston College/ Cornell group has, based on last year, and RPI of 80 (but Marist will not be as good). I think that's interesting, personally.
Back to December as a whole - the last two games of December will be competitive. Or at least the other teams will be competitive. Miami has a lot of size and experience, and they get to the free throw line a lot. The Red Storm's inconsistent scoring and propensity to foul reared its ugly head in that game last year, and the team only scored 47 points. The rims clanked loud that day in Miami.
Now, exactly why is it that St. John's is playing the Big East defectors, the three teams that left the Big East to join the Atlantic Coast Conference? FYI, neither conference is all that great at football now. I HOPE YOU'RE HAPPY, BOSTON COLLEGE, MIAMI, VIRGINIA TECH.
Now, for the previews.
(Team RPI in parentheses)
St. Francis College (NY) (NEC) (RPI: 313) was 7-22. And they held close with St. John's for a bit of the second half last year. In fact, statistically, St. John's didn't beat them by that much. Here's another chance to start beating on teams. The Terriers graduated 4 of the players who logged more than 40% of the minutes... that can't be good for their team.
Meanwhile, the New Jersey Institute of Technology (RPI: 341) was 0-29. By RPI, Pomeroy's stats, and by record, this was the worst team in Division I of the NCAA. They couldn't score, couldn't stop anyone from scoring, couldn't hit free throws... I am sure they will improve but... St. John's should blow them out like a fro. So instead, I am sure, this game will instead come down to the wire. Aside: St. John's could have done them a favor and put the Highlanders on TV to help their recruiting, instead of having them as a radio/ online viewing game.
Now I know the team is coming off of a poor year, but the MEAC's Bethune-Cookman (RPI: 319)? Bethune-Cookman's coming up from Daytona Beach. What, no local teams to frag? Fairfield, Rider, Iona, Fordham, Hofstra. How much money are the Red Storm paying out to get some W's on the record? Next year, they should save the money and play Stony Brook and Quinnipiac. These low-level teams should get smoked, and they should be used as a chance to build up stats... and evaluate players and rotations. I do wonder if playing teams that are this poor will build confidence or leave the team overconfident and underprepared for a squad with size, shooting ability, and comparable strength.
If Columbia (RPI: 220) should win against Virginia Tech; or if St. John's should lose to Marist, the Red Storm could face the Columbia Lions. They have a kid named KJ Matsui, who is very efficient from beyond the arc but seems to do nothing else. The Lions also graduate 6 seniors. They have coach Joe Jones, who combined with Norm Roberts to give some of the most mediocre commentary on the NCAA Tournament for the viewers who used CBS' free online service at work. Not that I would EVER do such a thing. For days at a time. Not me.
The Holiday Festival needs winning, for once; St. John's hasn't won its home/ invitational tournament since 2005. Marist (RPI: 115) is now coached by former St. John's and Memphis assistant Chuck Martin, who is bringing in tough city talent to the school. DANGER DANGER DANGER... except for the fact that they had some defections and have been picked by fellow coaches to bring up the rear of the MAAC conference. They graduated former Syracuse guard Louie McCroskey, and Spongy Benjamin; and lost a few players to transfer after coach Matt Brady left for James Madison. I dare say this will not be a "foxy" game.
Virgina Tech (RPI: 52) is like St. John's - just ugly. Difference is, they win, and don't cough up the ball at a disturbing rate. They had one of the nation's best defenses last year, though they don't possess much size. If a game is to be a true coming out party for the bigs - Coker, Burrell - this would be a great one.
A note on last year's game: St. John's held the Hokies offense down but couldn't get anything done... in fact, Lawrence, Wright, and Mason took 29 of the team's 53 shots (55%) and hit 7 (24%) combined, 4-13, 31% from beyond the arc. Wright and Lawrence hit their threes in the last minute. This will be a real test of whether St. John's can generate regular offense against good opponents (barring a run to the Preseason NIT Championships).
Miami (RPI: 34) at the Garden? Well, this should be a punishing beating. OR a chance for the young Red Storm to put a "we're here" stamp on the season. Last year's game was close for the first half, and it was ugly; until Anthony King started putting his stamp on it, and leaving marks on Burrell and the other forwards/ centers on the squad.
There's less Anthony King on the Hurricanes this year; this team is centered around the shooting of Jack McClinton, good interior field goal defense, low turnovers, and a sick rate of getting to the charity stripe... and a high conversion rate of those chances.
The team opens Big East league play on New Year's Eve. At 7 pm. In Providence (RPI: 111). What a way to ring in the new year. New Year's Eve in Miami would have been very cool for the players... Rhode Island just doesn't have the same cachet. Providence is a good start - not a top tier team, not a bottom feeder.
By this point, the Fightin' Kenos will have a sense of what they can and cannot do, and what they will likely be doing, from both parties' histories, is a lot of shootin'. And this is a team the Storm handled last year without Mason (and with a good performance from Sean Evans), scoring inside the arc and cleaning the glass on defense. Of course, the Friars could revenge with a little better defense and bomb from beyond the arc, like last year; it was only a 2-point win by the Red Storm.