This is posted a little later than this writer would have liked, but it's here. Enjoy a preview of the St. John's Red Storm season - an outlook on the non-conference games happening between now and December. Each write-up has some notes on what the opponents are good at/ tendencies, along the team's previous year RPI. It's a solid non-conference slate, with tests against mid-range teams and opportunities to see what the new guys are made of. And there are even a couple of games where a victory would go a long way to returning this team to prominence.
And for your heckling pleasure, links to team-specific blogs and message boards. If I have missed a team-specific outlet, comment below.
13-NOV Long Island (NEC) RPI: 240 The Blackbirds have hung with St. John's in the last two games between the New York City schools, owing to their strong guard play, a zone defense, and poor shooting from the Red Storm. Last year the Blackbirds were poor shooters, but excellent at minimizing turnovers and getting to the free throw line. LIU is a solid early contest, but hopefully St. John's will be able to bust the zone and run their guards off the court.
17-NOV @St. Bonaventure (A-10) RPI: 201 The Bonnies have been a no-name team with little publicity for a number of years since engaging in some seriously un-Catholic ethical scandals. St. John's isn't in for an easy game; the team returns most of its starting talent, including the fantastic forward/ center Andrew Nicholson, who was one of the nations leaders in field goal percentage and blocked shots. They turned the ball over a lot last year, and gave up a number of trips to the free throw line. The Bonnies won 15 games last year, with wins at Rutgers, Richmond, and home against Robert Morris and LaSalle. They rebounded and defended decently last year, but were woeful shooting from the outside.
20-NOV Brown (Ivy) RPI: 307 The first game in the Philly Hoop Group classic happens at campus sites. St. John's gets the Brown Bears as their patsy. Will Brown grads come out to Carnesecca? If so, be nice to them. Their team isn't very good, winning 9 games last year, with wins at Holy Cross and against Harvard as the highlights. Senior Matt Mullery is the team's star forward, with range on his shot, some rebounding ability, and some shot blocking skill. They can rebound a little on the defensive end.
27-NOV [Neutral] Siena (MAAC) RPI: 18 Last year's mid-major darling specializes in defending without fouling, forcing turnovers and minimizing their own. The Saints are very good at getting to the basket, even in memorable wins over Ohio State and Niagara, a close loss to Louisville, and a crushing of Cornell. They force turnovers, and hold on to the ball, which helped propel them to tough games against great opponents. Most importantly, they collect steals and turnovers without fouling. At all.
28-NOV @Temple (A-10) RPI: 30 Without Dionte Christmas, Sergio Olmos, and Semaj Inge, they're a rebuilding team. Returning forward Lavoy Allen is a complete player in the post, and will anchor the Owls' team. They were very good on defense last year; was that because of scheme or because of senior experience? There is talent and good coaching on the team, and they should be a good tough contest.
2-DEC Stony Brook (Am. East) RPI: 197 The Seawolves shouldn't pose much of a problem, but they're not an absolute bottom-feeder. They return three players who started as freshmen for last year's 16-14 team, so they may be tougher than expected. But they are small and struggle scoring inside.
Also, apparently, Stony Brook Sucks. Personally, I like the SB ball caps. And Stony Brook's not as lame as, say, Albany. Or SUNY-Cortland.
5-DEC @Duke (ACC) RPI: 1 Yeah, this won't be pretty. The Blue Devils fell asleep in the Garden last year and let the Red Storm make the final score respectable. And that was a great effort by the Storm, but shouldn't mask the fact that the Dukies were beating their tails up and down the Garden floor. And with the game at Cameron, it will take an incredible effort to beat the Blue Devils. A good showing here, though, will be a confidence booster. If Dwight Hardy and others can make plays from the outside and hold on to the ball, this might even be a game.
Duke blog (school newspaper): The Chrionicle's Sports Blog
Duke blog: Duke Basketball Report
Duke blog: Blue Devil Nation
(Yes, there are many, many more.)
Duke message board: Duke Basketball Report: Elizabeth King Forum (Duke basketball)
Duke message board: Rivals
9-DEC Georgia (SEC) RPI: 192 The Bulldogs have a new coach and will be brimming with new confidence. And they're coming up to New York to show it off as part of a double header. Here's hoping that by the time the U Conn and Memphis fans start filing in, they see the Red Storm starting to assert their will on the boys from Athens, trapping and rebounding them back to the kennel where they came from - just to remind U Conn that this year, the game won't go down so easily. Howard "Trey" Thompkins is a load in the post, and gained experience playing for USA's under-19 team; he's considered a possible NBA prospect.
13-DEC Fordham (A-10) RPI: 291 The Rams have experienced a lot of turnover, but haven't lost Jio Fontan... because they wouldn't release him from his scholarship. The Red Storm should try whispering in his ear (come to Queens... come to Queens). In all seriousness, this game should be a good chance to lick the wounds and have some fun before finals and the tough Holiday Festival. If you should see a Fordham fan, please remind them that the logo looks strangely like a model of the uterus.
Wow, St. John's brought a sneaky-good trio of competitors together for this tournament. No Virginia Tech this year, but also - no Marists. St. John's picked the wrong year to start sniffing glue (as they say in Airplane!). These are tough opponents all around, even the reduced Davidson squad. Strangely enough, this set of teams feature coaches whose names always seem to come up (especially on message boards) as candidates for the St. John's job if the current staff should be removed. Anyone else think that's strange?
20-DEC Hofstra (CAA) RPI: 104 With solid guard play from Charles Jenkins from Springfield Gardens, Nathaniel Lester, and freshman Chaz Williams... and a host of other New York City-area players, Hofstra has the look of a possibly dangerous squad... except for the fact that sometimes, they couldn't score in a skee-ball game let alone on the basketball court. they were very good at defending the basket, though, with their bigs, and Jenkins had free rein to let shots go when he wanted. They could rise a bit this year and be a more dangerous opponent.
21-DEC (winner of) Davidson (SoCon) RPI: 69/ Cornell (Ivy) RPI: 115 Davidson was a tough game to play even before Steph Curry suited up. Some solid players have chosen to sign their letters of intent with the Wildcats, and Bob McKillop knows how to get a lot out of his teams. Consider that they managed to defend well against bigger teams with small players in the post.
Cornell played St. John's tough last year without their player of the year, point guard Louis Dale. St. John's shot very well against the Big Red, but will have to improve the defensive effort to beat them if they face each other this year. The Ivy Leaguers feature a number of solid shooters, some size at center, and some quickness at point guard. St. John's can beat them by playing smart basketball, and winning the battles on the offensive glass; Justin Burrell tied his season high with 11 rebounds in that game.
Cornell Big Red blog: The Cornell Basketball Blog
23-DEC Bryant RPI: 306 Tim O'Shea, at least, has beaten St. John's before - while coaching Ohio in the Rainbow Classic. I listened to that game while on vacation in Miami. Then I had a stiff drink.Unlike a team moving from Division II up to Division I, they have been able to entice some size to join the program, including Papa Lo, originally a U Mass player. Also unlike a lot of those recent teams to move into D-1, they have both a conference and they won 8 games. They were also crushed by the likes of Rutgers, Maryland, and LIU. But it wouldn't be a surprise to see Bryant giving teams a little harder work than they would expect from a newcomer to college basketball's major leagues.
A review of Big East conference games will come in December.