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Is St. John's ready for the opener against Wisconsin? Well, St. John's thinks so

D'Angelo Harrison and his teammates are confident the Storm is prepared to make a statement in the season opener.


The highly anticipated St. John's season begins in less than a month, when the Red Storm meets the formidable Wisconsin Badgers in South Dakota on November 8th.

There's only four weeks until the high-profile televised early season matchup in Sioux Falls - enough time for practice and development, but the challenging opening tip is approaching faster than you think.

The question is: If the Johnnies were to meet Bo Ryan's Badgers today, would they be ready?

Without hesitation, the St. John's players answer with a resounding "yes."

"We're ready," said guard Jamal Branch.  "We've been waiting for this since last year.  After the last game against Virginia [in the NIT], we were in the gym that next week.  We had a huge meeting, and from then on we've been so hungry."

One of Branch's backcourt mates seems to agree.  Phil Greene IV, who is visibly more comfortable and healthy than he's been in past years, also thinks the Red Storm will be ready to face the Big Ten opponent so early in the season.

"Jamal is right.  We're ready to be set loose," Greene mentioned.  "We've been practicing hard - long days, two-a-days and early mornings to be ready for that game.  Coach [Lavin] wants us to come out and make a statement."

After the last game against Virginia, we were in the gym that next week.  We had a huge meeting, and from then on we've been so hungry. -Jamal Branch

During Lavin's first season with the Johnnies back in 2010, St. John's traveled out to California to face mid-major power St. Mary's in a true road, schedule-opening test.  Though the roster has been completely turned over since then, Lavin will certainly be able to refer to that experience when preparing for Wisconsin.

St. John's has opened each of the past two seasons at home, with wins over William & Mary and Detroit at Carnesecca Arena.

It was in last year's opener against Detroit, St. John's fans got their first glimpse at D`Angelo Harrison's potential as an on-court leader.  Harrison's 15 second half points catapulted the Johnnies to a victory in which they overcome a double-digit deficit.

Harrison, like Greene and others among this now-veteran laden group, is finally in a position where he can use past experiences in a variety of situations.  And with that comes the ability to recognize the room for improvement.

"Every team has something to work on.  For us, it's defense.  If we can get everybody to lock in on each and every possession, control the boards and make teams take jump shots, it's going to be hard to beat us," Harrison said.

Though a team like Wisconsin doesn't "wow" you with big scoring statistics or offensive flair, the Badgers always seem to get it done with defense against even the toughest opponents.  A combination of premier coaching and an attention to detail with respect to fundamentals has gotten Bo Ryan's Wisconsin teams to the NCAA Tournament each of the 12 years he has been head coach.

"Bo Ryan has a keen ability to inculcate his way of thinking the game, seeing the game and playing the game into his players," Lavin said.

The opener will be an arduous test for St. John's, but there is no doubt that they believe they are already ready.

So, with that, why wait?

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