Early predictions for St. John's Red Storm.
These predictions - especially the conference ones - are wildly subject to change. There just isn't enough information out there for me to really predict which games St. John's will struggle with. Not yet. So I will post a look at the non-conference games.
The months are designated with one letter ("N" for November, for example), and I have added last year's adjusted offense, defense, and pace numbers from Ken Pomeroy's stat site. Also included are last year's rankings by Pomeroy, by Jeff Sagarin, and by RPI. For the two tournaments - the Holiday Tournament and the Great Alaska Shootout - I assume St. John's wins their first contest and the other side of the brackets follow their seeds. Breakdown of the schedule below.
|DAY||OPPONENT||Adj O||Adj D||Adj Pace||Pom||Sag. Rk||RPI|
|N 16||@||Saint Mary’s||CA||114.9||96.3||67.2||42||28||35|
|N 25||@||Ball State||AK||91.8||98.2||63.5||227||209||220|
|N 27||@||[Arizona State]||AK||109.3||92.3||62.5||47||62||63|
|D 7||H||St. Bonaventure||NY||104.7||101.4||67.8||135||135||156|
at Saint Mary’s W
vs. Ball State W
vs. Southern Utah/Drake W
ST. BONAVENTURE W
at Fordham W
Holiday Festival Championship W
at UCLA W
(Overall I predicted 20-10, 10-8 BE.)
The worst teams - based on last year's numbers - on the schedule are Wagner, Fordham, and Columbia. Wagner and Fordham should be better, and Columbia has a chance to improve as well; all are local New York City teams with new coaches. There are tools for this team to be successful, overall. And this schedule is pretty good for a new coach getting to know his team and having a chance to experiment before and during Big East play.
The opener is tough, but not necessarily daunting; it's not like playing Duke or Michigan State. The St. Mary's Gaels lost a lot of talent and their anchor, though they return some excellent ballplayers. I go risky and predict a win there. Even on the road. As stated earlier in the pregame post, it wouldn't be an upset if St. Mary's won at home, but it would be explosively exciting if St. John's snuck out with a win on the road.
Columbia should be a win - a home opener against an Ivy League team that has been in the middle of the standings, and is not predicted to make moves (like Princeton or Penn). They have a new coach... who used to be a St. Mary's assistant. Expect them to be prepared, and rested; the Red Storm fly back and have a day to prep for the Lions, after a cross-country trip. The guys are young, but that'll still take some of the pep out of a person.
The Great Alaska Shootout field is not that, well, "great"; Ball State was a .500 team, but they do have a capable big man in Jarrod Davis, return 4 of 5 starters, and are picked to win the Mid-American conference. This could be a hiccup game, especially if the Red Storm don't prepare well - another strange start time, and up in Alaska, where the days are very short this time of year.
Also in the Great Alaska Shootout, the following game against Southern Utah or Drake should be easier; Drake is picked near the bottom of the Missouri Valley standings and Southern Utah is one of those many schools near the bottom of Division I. The final of the Shootout will likely be either Weber State or Arizona State, both tough teams that missed the NCAA tournament last year. Arizona State can slow the Johnnies down to a crawl and have talent; Weber State are led by the one-man show Damian Lillard.
Wagner should not be too tough to handle - the Hurleys have not brought in enough talent to make them a threat. Yet. The Seahawks have already won a defensive battle against Lafayette so far this season, they may improve faster than expected.
Atlantic-10 member St. Bonaventure is not deep, and while Andrew Nicholson and crew lost on a last-second Malik Boothe layup last year, this year's contest looks to be more decisive.
I'll be at Fordham so St. John's better not lose. In all seriousness, the Rams have a long way to go to get competitive with St. John's. But with so many New Yorkers - and Coach Tom Pecora, who probably would have taken the St. John's job if it was offered to him - will be very amped for the game. Last year, forward Chris Gaston gashed a St. John's team who (in my opinion) didn't take the game seriously for long stretches.
The Holiday Festival has a set of competitors that could look very good when the NCAA Tournament Committee is looking at schedules. Davidson is poised to improve with their 6'10 Jake Cohen and the experience the team got playing a hard schedule last year, including a close overtime game against Cornell.
And on the other side, Northwestern should take care of former assistant Glenn Braica's St. Francis Terriers and pit the Red Storm against the Wildcats, who come with excellent shooting, possibly suspect defense, and a whole lot of zone. The Wildcats could win this game; it also happens to be their best non-conference matchup, so they might be gunning hard for this one.
The annual Duke matchup might be competitive as it was last year. But I don't expect a win.
Against UCLA, a win is probably a bit much to ask for, but I like the idea of Steve Lavin going into Pauley Pavilion and winning, just so UCLA die-hards' heads can explode. I think Lavin will be feeling some pressure, and will have something to prove, and maybe he coaches better with something to prove.
A lot of sneaky-solid games in here; some pitfalls to be had, and some nice wins to get the fanbase and the media going. And to get the psyche of the players to the place it needs to be come Big East play, where any wins will be hard-fought.
Steve Lavin had some strange losses at points in his UCLA. Coupled with a roster of player who are still learning their roles and learning how to play Lavin's style of basketball intuitively... there could be a bizarre loss in there. Davidson or Northwestern, in particular, could be risky.
Here's hoping the Justins become a force down low, Dele Coker and Sean Evans get some meaningful minutes, that Polee has flashes of amazing, and that Malik Boothe can be a steady threat in an attacking basketball system. And here's predicting that Paris Horne will be solid, DJ Kennedy improves his shooting inside the arc, and Dwight Hardy emerges into the deadly force he looked like at times.
Season starts tonight.