What would be the most forgivable loss?
None of them, some will say. Bit we all know that there are some games that are more winnable than others; games that can be sneaky-tough; and games that would be an embarrassment to lose.
Not that it matters, long term, as much as it bothers fans in the short-term; a single loss to a bad team can still end in an NCAA Tournament berth. A single win over a great team can still result in no postseason.
With that in mind, let’s take into account the effect on RPI/ future tournament resume and rank the opponents on their positive/ negative effect on the future.
Don’t lose these games
11/14/2017 Central Connecticut Blue Devils H | KenPom Rank: 342, 99.5% chance of victory
Unless the Blue Devils suddenly become an NEC power, and the NEC suddenly becomes a giant-killer, this would be the worst loss the Red Storm could have on the young season. No, wait... Sacred Heart would be almost as bad, because it would mean this team is not prepared, but the Pioneers are more likely to get towards a winning record. Also, this is not much of a trap game, unless Nebraska is the trap. That would be a terrible trap.
KenPom gives a 99.5% chance of victory.
CCSU will be a little better than this BUT this is a can’t lose. Like Delaware State.
12/2/2017 Sacred Heart Pioneers H | KenPom Rank: 300, 98% chance victory
Between the Advocare Invitational and the west coast road trip to face Grand Canyon and Arizona State comes the Sacred Heart Pioneers. In your dictionaries, this is an illustration of a trap game. There’s no forgiveness for losing this game, however, so the Johnnies had better come out with the appropriate seriousness and end the threat in the first fifteen minutes.
11/10/2017 New Orleans Privateers H | KenPom Rank: 279, 97% chance victory
This would be a pretty poor loss - the season opener, a decimated New Orleans side, the first game for Justin Simon and Marvin Clark. This is the best of the three buy games on paper, but this is also a team with two 6’9” forwards
This means nothing
11/20/2017 Molloy Lions H | KenPom Rank: Who Is This Team, Whatever, No Rank, 100% chance victory
What’s this Division II team doing on the schedule? An easy win, is what. Let’s not see any Franklin Pierce action. And if this team loses to D-II Molloy... actually, a win or a loss does not count towards the RPI. SO the Johnnies could lose this game, and besides the loss in perception, it means nothing.
A loss is a bad look
11/16/2017 Nebraska Cornhuskers H | kenPom Rank: 98, 81% chance victory
Your third-favorite Bruce Springsteen album comes to Carnesecca Arena as part of the Gavitt Games. This team has a bit of a “crapshoot” vibe, with many questions still to be answered about a Cornhuskers team that needed a second-half burst to handle Division II Northwood in exhibition play. Those same questions, of course, could be asked of fellow Big Ten mates Rutgers, who handed the Johnnies a home defeat in exhibition play. This team COULD win at St. John’s, and that would raise some real questions about how this team plays against any generic D-I squad.
11/23/2017 Oregon State Beavers N | KenPom Rank: 70, 60% chance victory
By last year’s record alone, this looks like an awful team. And any forgiveness for injury doesn’t account for how a team can win only five games in a forgiving Pac-12. Still, this team brings back a talented forward, has a very good coach, played a number of freshmen and sophomores who gained a lot of experience and should have a little bit of shooting… In the wrong kind of game (slow and controlled) this team could definitely pull out a win over St. John’s.
12/17/2017 Iona Gaels H | KenPom Rank 134, 87% chance victory
This game will be fast. Iona will be hungry. Tim Cluess probably thinks he should be the head coach of St. John’s. Expect the Gaels to constantly try to blow on the Red Storm’s doors in this weather-fest of a Holiday Festival game. Despite their ranking, Iona’s program does a great job with “us against the world” motivation. Facing the marquee program in the City should be ample motivation for this team, and it will play more like a rivalry game (see: Fordham) than a generic non-conference matchup.
Actual difficult games can happen
12/5/2017 Grand Canyon Antelopes A | Kenpom Rank: 141, 75% chance victory
This is nearly a true road game with a Grand Canyon squad that has this game circled as its entry into the big time. The Antelopes will play at Louisville and at Illinois as well in their non-conference play, but this game may be the one that looks most winnable before the season starts. It doesn’t sound sexy, the newcomers to Division I, just now eligible for postseason play, but the Antelopes have a fanbase, talent and height.
Missouri could be a mish mash of talent and ego. Or they could be very, very good and led by the possible #1 pick in next year’s NBA Draft. At the very least, the team will have a high-scoring senior guard from Canisius, a good junior point guard and two 6’10” freshmen with a lot of talent.
Long Beach State belongs in the “Don’t Lose This Game” category; poor defense and fast pace would make that game a very winnable one for the Johnnies.
12/8/2017 Arizona State Sun Devils A | KenPom Rank: 100, 73% chance victory
The Sun Devils could be mediocre as they work in a number of big men, or they could be like Minnesota last year - a tough, athletic, and tall unit that wears out St. John’s in what will be more of a road game for the Johnnies in LA than it will be for Arizona State, who stay in the same time zone.
11/26/2017 [Advocare RD3] N
West Virginia would belong in the “nice win if you can get it” category. UCF would be difficult, given their size, maturity and talent. Marist would fall into the “Don’t Lose This Game” category. And having to play Nebraska again... we already covered Nebraska.
12/20/2017 Saint Joseph's Hawks A | KenPom Rank: 66, 57% chance victory
Injuries have taken a toll on the other SJU, but in two months’ time, the Hawks could be at full strength. And at full strength, this team has a number of star guards who could give the Johnnies fits, and an experienced coach who coaxes solid interior defense and turnover-free offense out of his players.
Given the A-10, though, this could be the worst game on the schedule for postseason consideration - the Hawks could win, and they are also not very likely to make the NCAA Tournament.
A win would be epic
2/3/2018 Duke Blue Devils H | KenPom Rank: 6, 35% chance victory
Duke has a potential top-3 pick, a senior who could be a lottery pick, and a bunch of other players who could play for money Duke is stacked, and even at home, this is a tall, tall order of a win - one that could make legends of this team and the head coach if they pull it off.
Likely the toughest contest on the out of conference schedule, this will pit two teams that are likely to be a bit different than they were at the beginning of the year - with Duke’s high-end, NBA-bound freshmen maturing and St. John’s newcomers as fully meshed into the system as they are going to be.