If senior-laden roster steps up as expected for St. John's, perpetually upbeat Steve Lavin could be going dancing once more. (Photo courtesy of Liam La Guerre via the Queens Courier)
After failing to "get it in" despite a valiant late-season effort just six months ago, the hype is real once more for St. John's fans after their beloved Red Storm released its 2014-15 schedule, one that begins with the Johnnies' home opener at Carnesecca Arena against NJIT on November 14.
"This very well could be the most challenging schedule of my tenure," head coach Steve Lavin; never one to shy away from testing his teams despite their erratic and somewhat perplexing results from past seasons, said in a release issued earlier this afternoon. "We will face many teams over the course of the regular season that made postseason appearances last year, and that will help our squad prepare for another postseason trip of our own."
Whether such a trip culminates with the program's third consecutive National Invitation Tournament appearance, an event that will be seen as somewhat of a letdown to the most rabid of St. John's fans, or a berth in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2011, remains to be seen; but what can be observed from the Red Storm at first blush is the experience on this season's roster, the abundance of which rivals the aforementioned 2011 team, one that Lavin inherited from Norm Roberts and turned from underachieving doormat to scrappy competitor.
After the Johnnies host NJIT, they remain at Carnesecca Arena for preliminary home games against Franklin Pierce, (November 17) and LIU Brooklyn (November 19) that lead into the NIT Preseason Tip-Off at Madison Square Garden, where in the Red Storm will host Richard Pitino and reigning NIT champion Minnesota on November 26 before meeting either Georgia or Gonzaga three days later. Niagara and former St. John's assistant Chris Casey are next on deck at Carnesecca Arena on December 2 before a return game against Syracuse in the Carrier Dome on December 6, renewing a legendary Big East rivalry that has sadly turned into a nonconference showdown.
The Red Storm get another home game at Carnesecca Arena against Fairleigh Dickinson on December 10 before returning to the Garden for the annual Holiday Festival on December 14, which will feature their sixth consecutive meeting with Tom Pecora and Fordham, and fourth straight at the "World's Most Famous Arena." Following the Sunday matinee, St. John's returns to their Queens campus for two more nonconference tuneups, coming against Saint Mary's and Long Beach State on December 19 and 22, with a clash versus Tulane inside Brooklyn's Barclays Center on December 28 being the final precursor to a Big East slate that begins on New Year's Eve in a noon tipoff at the Prudential Center against Seton Hall.
St. John's rings in 2015 on January 3, when they host Butler at Carnesecca Arena before welcoming Villanova to Madison Square Garden three days later. The Red Storm's first road swing in league play takes them to Providence (January 14) and DePaul (January 18) before two straight soirees at the Garden, first against Marquette on January 21, four days prior to a renewal of St. John's longtime rivalry with Duke, who visits the corner of 33rd and 8th on January 25 for the first time since being thoroughly decimated in a 93-78 Red Storm victory three years ago, one in which Madison Square Garden security prevented what would have been a court storm for the ages.
A journey to Omaha to meet Creighton on January 28 precedes what could be a pivotal Big East battle when the Johnnies lock horns with Providence on January 31 in a noon tipoff at the Garden. February, a month in which Lavin has always clicked on all cylinders with his St. John's teams, will be christened on the 3rd against Butler at venerable Hinkle Fieldhouse before Creighton comes to the Garden on the 7th of the month. The Red Storm host their penultimate game at Carnesecca Arena when DePaul comes to Queens on February 11, with a trek to Xavier (February 14) and Georgetown (February 17) on deck prior to Seton Hall coming across the river to Carnesecca on February 21.
The Seton Hall game begins a three-game homestand that also includes Garden appearances from Xavier (February 23) and Georgetown (February 28) before St. John's closes the regular season at Marquette and Villanova on March 4 and 7, respectively.