St. John's basketball: out of conference + conference schedules

St. John's has released their out of conference schedule for next season:

Date
Opponent
Location
Event
11/13/2009
LIU
Carnesecca
11/17/2009
St. Bonaventure
Rochester
neutral site
11/20/2009
Brown
Carnesecca
Philly Hoop Group
11/27/2009
Siena
Palestra
Philly Hoop Group
11/28/2009
Temple
Palestra
Philly Hoop Group
12/2/2009
Stony Brook
Carnesecca
12/5/2009
@Duke
Cameron
12/9/2009
Georgia
MSG
BE/ SEC Invitational
12/13/2009
Fordham
Carnesecca
12/20/2009
Hofstra
MSG
Holiday Festival
12/21/2009
Davidson/ Cornell
MSG
Holiday Festival
12/23/2009
Bryant
Carnesecca

I kind of like this schedule.

I suppose it's a case of low expectations, given the steady diet of "who dat?" opponents last year; the only NCAA-level, national name opponent on this year's schedule is Duke. But Cornell, Siena, Davidson, and Temple are challenging mid-majors (and Siena employs my favorite mid-major coach, Fran McCaffrey). Long Island University always gives St. John's a tough time. Hofstra has a lot to prove and would love to knock off St. John's.

The Red Storm chose to stay local, and I appreciate that; the team should not be bringing up weak schools from Florida and DC for non-conference games. It does no one any good and makes it look like the team is ducking the weak schools in its own region. And local games draw fans from both schools and alumni in the NYC area. Gotta fill those seats.

Non conference matchups

Justin Burrell Norm Roberts sidelineIt's not the schedule of a national power; Miami and Virginia Tech aren't on the schedule, and they are mid-level ACC teams regardless. No trips to play some up-and-comer like Arizona State or Minnesota, and only the Duke trip against a team that should be expected to go to the Sweet Sixteen.This year's schedule removes some of the Division-II level teams, but adds a few more easy W's (Bryant comes to mind, though their coach Tim O'Shea did beat the Johnnies in Hawai'i two seasons ago).

But in this schedule are some put up or shut up games; the choice to play in the Philly Hoop Group matchups are aimed at competing against teams with a solid RPI, and hopefully using those wins over mid-majors to get a tournament bid. Even with the turnover and loss of Dionte Christmas, Temple should be a worthy opponent. Siena, even without Kenny Hasbrouck, is a well-coached running team that can hang with the best. And Davidson/ Cornell are tough teams with aggressive schedules - nice adds to the out of conference slate.

Beyond that, with fewer turnovers, St. Bonaventure might be competitive. Georgia has some talent and a new coach. And Hofstra, Stony Brook, and Fordham are local competition, the kind of teams St. John's should be beating just to let them know who the dog is.

Not saying that St. John's will beat those teams; they have to get better performances from the team as a whole. But it's good to see the Red Storm playing the neighborhood. But the neighborhood shouldn't get it twisted; the locals aren't really very good. This locals on the schedule are not as tough as, say, Richmond. But it is nice to get some local buzz up.

From the Daily News, Norm Roberts says, "We're not a young team anymore, we're a veteran team and this is what you do with a veteran team... We've got good teams from some other conferences and we should have the experience now to be up to that." We can only hope. Like Animal Collective says, No More Runnin'.

Also in that article: the Red Storm plan to take a preseason trip through Canada in September to play exhibition games. A great move; playing the games after school begins means that the freshmen/ incoming Junior College players can practice in game situations, while the team as a whole gets up to speed and re-integrates Anthony Mason, Jr. into the fold.

Conference matchups

The school also announced men's basketball matchups within the conference. The home and homes are DePaul, Louisville, and Pittsburgh. The home games are against Cincinnati, Marquette, Providence, Seton Hall, Villanova, and West Virginia. The road games are against Connecticut, Georgetown, Notre Dame, Rutgers, USF and Syracuse. Does it strike anyone as strange that none of the home-and-homes are with the locals, Seton Hall, Rutgers, or even Syracuse, Providence, U Conn, or Villanova?

The conference is what it is - tough. Having Cincinnati at home just increases the spectacle - lance Stephenson playing at home, in the Garden (most likely) where he won 4 Public School Athletic League (PSAL) championships. Louisville and Pitt always travel well to the Garden. If last year's relative results hold, the team actually has a chance for 3 road wins at DePaul, South Florida, and Rutgers. That's always a big "if."

So much has to go right to have a winning season; having the sophomores become juniors may be part of the magic Norm Roberts hopes for, but it takes more than just age to make a winning team. Every team's goal is to reach the top 8, the coach has said; always easier said than done.

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