Jon Rothstein reports that the Big East/ Big Ten challenge - aka the Gavitt Games, to be scheduled in the first week of the coming season - have yielded Rutgers as an opponent.
Fans on twitter are ticked off. But once Rutgers was announced as a participant, it looked likely that the lowly Scarlet Knights could be a reasonably expected opponent. We also know the Knights would have a game near home (a bus ride away, as it was described), and knew that they already have a game scheduled against Seton Hall.
A challenge matchup should, as much as possible, match up teams on the top of the league with teams slated to be on top of the other league. But it works the other way, as well.
And other than DePaul, what team in the Big East comes in with as many unprojectable issues as St. John's? What team returns less of its scoring and minutes?
The early excitement around St. John's is great, but next year was going to be a rebuilding year whether or not Steve Lavin returned. And it would have been a rebuilding year even if Cheick Diallo and Brandon Sampson pledged their services. Both are very good recruits, and St. John's would have been competitive.
But other teams have better-planned rosters, better mixes of returning impact players and role players who can help the team.
Until any newcomers prove they can carry a team, expectations for a team with only Rysheed Jordan and Chris Obekpa returning has to be bottom half of the Big East - due to the lack of depth that hurt the team last year, the lack of up-and-coming players with college experience who can take on strong roles this year.
Next year's St. John's team may surprise, given the new coaching staff, the return of Rysheed Jordan and Obekpa, some expected development in Alibegovic, perhaps some impact from Adonis Delarosa if he is eligible and fits into the team plans, and the addition of scorer Darien Williams and center Yankuba Sima.
But with so many questions, it's hard to imagine the tournament organizers slotting Michigan or Ohio State to play St. John's. (Though Illinois or Minnesota would have been better.)
Still, with the conference wanting to use Madison Square Garden as a highlighted venue for the games, Rutgers as a draw is pretty weak - when a case could be made that some Big Ten schools (Michigan, in particular) could fill up MSG.
But that's where St. John's is - rebuilding.