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What went wrong for the St. John's men's basketball team last year and how it can go right this season

The Red Storm opened conference play 0-5 last season, but finished a 20-win team and then lost in the first round of the NIT. So, now, with six seniors on the roster, how does St. John's find a balance in the madness?

Wendell Cruz

It was the good, the bad and the ugly for the St. John's men's basketball team last season.

There were moments when the Red Storm looked like a top caliber team, a group primed to roll through the Big East tournament and make its first trip back to the NCAA Tournament since Steve Lavin took over the program in 2011.

Then, of course, there were times when St. John's did not look like that.

There were times when the Storm looked confused, dejected, the kind of team that would lose in the opening round of the NIT as the No. 1 seed with a game at home.

So, the big question remains heading into this season; how do Lavin and his players find a balance?

How do they become a team that, on paper, could be one of the most talented squads in the entire conference?

Let's ponder that.

St. John's opened conference play 0-5 last season. That is not a good way to begin a Big East schedule, or any conference schedule really.

Now, keep in mind, three of those first five league games were played on the road and the final two losses, to DePaul and Providence, were by a collective three points and two overtime periods.

Even so, the fact remains, that can't happen this season and as soon as the schedule begins this year, the Storm need to be focused on one thing; winning.

"I've said it like six times now," senior D`Angelo Harrison said. "Seven o'clock November 14 is so important as our first home game. If we take care of business like we are supposed to then people will know were serious. We have to take that team [N.J.I.T.] serious this year."

One of the big keys for St. John's early-season success is whether or not sophomore point guard Rysheed Jordan can step up quickly.

He's not a freshman anymore and with a year of directing the offense under his belt the Philadelphia native should be a little bit more comfortable running a scheme in the Big East. Jordan's development late in the season last year was one of the main reasons that St. John's was even a potential Tournament contender and Lavin has high hopes for his point guard this winter.

He'll need them.

"We were fortunate because Rysheed's development, I think he won Big East Rookie of the Week four out of five weeks," Lavin said. "As a result we won 9 out of 10 games, 10 of 13 down the stretch we got to 20 wins, got a piece of third place, were a game or two short of the NCAA Tournament."

While Jordan is certainly primed to be a big part of any potential St. John's resurgence this season, the brunt of that responsibility falls on the shoulders of this season's senior class and the leader of that senior class is, undoubtedly, Harrison.

Harrison, who has seen his down days with the Red Storm, is one of the favorites for preseason Big East Player of the Year, which will be announced at media day on Wednesday, and for good reason. He led the team in points, steals, free throw percentage and minutes last season.

But for all his statistical talent, and there is a lot, Harrison can also lose himself a bit on the court, taking the responsibility of the team too squarely on his shoulders.

That's going to have to change this season and Harrison knows it.

"As long as I bring positive energy, Coach Lav says I'm good to go," Harrison said. "I do play with a lot of emotion. I always have since I was a kid. Man, I could tell you some stories from when I was a kid. I just hate losing. I hate losing, and I think everybody has that mindset now, and its gonna be scary man."

Both Phil Greene IV and Sir`Dominic Pointer, who will likely join the starting lineup, are viable scoring options. And Harrison, who averaged just over two assists a game last year, is going to need to look to those players to help diffuse some of the on-court responsibility.

If this year's team can take some of that mindset into every game, that could be a huge starting point for St. John's, a far cry from the disappointing finish of last year.

No one outside of the Red Storm locker room will ever really know what happened in the season-ending loss to Robert Morris in the first round of the NIT, but just a quick glance at the box score can show that St. John's did not bring its best game that night.

That has to change and if that can change this year's players, many of whom were part of Lavin's first recruiting class at St. John's, are a more-than-viable contender as a Tournament team.

"This year everyone is taking a more business approach to the game," Greene said. "Not playing around or joking around and just locking in. Us seniors this is our last time. We don't get this day back next year. We have to leave it all on the court every time we get out there."