We are just two months into the offseason and St. John's non-conference schedule is coming to fruition.
The Johnnies will travel to Minnesota as part of the Gavitt Games, will host Longwood at Carnesecca Arena and will also take their talents to the Bahamas for the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament. Now Chris Mullin and company can add a renewed rivalry game versus Syracuse to their list.
The Johnnies last won at Cuse in 2014 when Phil Greene IV scored 11 straight points late in the second half to snap the Orange's 55 game home win streak. The victory was the program's first win at the Dome since 1999 and was one of the highlights of a season that resulted in a berth in the NCAA Tournament.
Last year, the 8-24 Red Storm reached their peak with a 84-72 win over Syracuse at Madison Square Garden. Former Johnnie Amar Alibegovic ignited the squad with a career performance, scoring 15 points, grabbing nine rebounds and throwing down a signature put back dunk. Kassoum Yakwe and Yankuba Sima provided pristine rim protection, limiting Malachi Richardson and Michael Gbinije to tough outside shots.
But this time around, Jim Boeheim will be roaming the sidelines and soon-to-be sophomore forward Tyler Lydon has taken his game to another level. Malachi Richardson, who has placed his name into the draft without representation, could return following an impressive NCAA Tournament performance. The Orange also will add former Providence big man Paschal Chukwu, four-star recruit Tyus Battle and power forward Matthew Moyer.
This is just another stepping stone for a rebuilding St. John's program that will greatly benefit from playing in one of the more hostile environments in the country. With Big East play likely starting at the end of December, this will be a solid tune up, giving the newcomers a taste of what they will be going up against in league play.
It will also be a good indication of where this squad could be headed in year two of the Chris Mullin era. Is an NIT berth a realistic possibility? Does the team continue to progress similar to this past year?
A late December showdown against a potential top seven ACC squad will provide a strong test.
Looking at the big picture, Mullin clearly wants to keep this New York rivalry alive. The match-up always brings out the best in both fan bases and is an opportunity for both sides to earn a quality non-conference win against a fellow high major opponent.