Steve Lavin and JaKarr Sampson lead St. John's closer to promised land with favorable and challenging nonconference schedule to prepare Red Storm for life in restructured Big East. (Photo courtesy of the New York Daily News)
We once again interrupt your offseason proceedings (whatever they may be) with another nonconference schedule release of one of the teams this site is privileged to cover. After three announcements in as many weeks from the likes of Manhattan, Hofstra and Siena, St. John's University followed suit earlier today, revealing a 13-game slate that will acclimate the Red Storm to fierce battles and marquee opponents long before the Big East commences its new era with the start of league play on December 31st.
Following exhibition contests at Carnesecca Arena against San Francisco State (November 2nd) and Humboldt State, (November 5th) Steve Lavin officially opens his fourth campaign at the helm of the Johnnies on November 8th, in what has come to be a Lavin specialty of scheduling an inherently difficult season opener; this year's honoree being Bo Ryan's Wisconsin Badgers, who will face St. John's on a neutral court in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. The matchup between St. John's and Wisconsin will be the first between the two schools since the Badgers defeated the Red Storm in the 2002 NCAA Tournament, a contest that has since been vacated by St. John's in the aftermath of the scandal that helped cost former coach Mike Jarvis his job midway through the 2003-04 season.
The Johnnies return to Carnesecca Arena for their home opener on November 15th, taking on Wagner for the first time since their close call against the Seahawks in December of 2010, a game in which the Red Storm only won by eight points after withstanding a late rally from then-coach Dan Hurley's Verrazano Warriors. This year, second-year coach Bashir Mason returns his starting backcourt of seniors Kenny Ortiz and Latif Rivers, but will need to replace the versatility and productivity of power forward Jonathon Williams, who graduated in May. Reigning Patriot League champion Bucknell comes to Carnesecca four days later, with MAAC newcomer Monmouth following suit on November 22nd, while Longwood invades Queens on November 26th to conclude a four-game Red Storm homestand.
This season, St. John's surprisingly does not play a true road game in the nonconference portion of the schedule, something Lavin had done actively and aggressively in his first three seasons, with trips to Saint Mary's, Kentucky, Detroit and San Francisco appearing on the Johnnies' ledger. Following their homestand, the Red Storm will play Penn State in the semifinals of the Barclays Center Classic on November 29th, with either Georgia Tech or Mississippi awaiting them the following day before a week off prior to the Holiday Festival at Madison Square Garden; where they will once again face Tom Pecora's Fordham Rams, the fifth consecutive season in which the Bronx's college team takes on St. John's, who has won three of the last four against Fordham, yet has not had to face a backcourt as strong as Pecora's current contingent of Branden Frazier, Mandell Thomas and freshman Jon Severe in any of those previous four meetings.
Once the collision with Fordham enters the record books, St. John's will play host to a nonconference matchup that will seem surreal to rabid college basketball fans, as Syracuse makes its first Madison Square Garden appearance as a member of the Atlantic Coast Conference on December 15th in the front end of a two-year home-and-home agreement between the Red Storm and Jim Boeheim's Orange. Following their renewal of the rivalry with their archrival from central New York, the Johnnies welcome San Francisco to Carnesecca Arena on December 18th before wrapping up a three-game, seven-day stretch on December 21st, when Youngstown State comes to Queens.
One week later, St. John's will play its third game of the season at the Barclays Center when they face Columbia on December 28th in the opening game of the Brooklyn Hoops Winter Festival, a tripleheader that also includes Kansas State vs. Tulane and VCU vs. Boston College. After a brief hiatus from the non-league slate to begin Big East play, St. John's will welcome Dartmouth to Carnesecca Arena on Saturday, January 18th, 2014.
Please continue to follow A Daly Dose Of Hoops for further offseason news involving St. John's University, as well as our St. John's correspondent Jason Schott, who covers the Red Storm for BrooklynFans.com in addition to this site.