It’s been a while since a Big East school released its non-conference schedule, but the St. John’s Red Storm finally released theirs on Thursday.
After a difficult season in which first-year head coach Chris Mullin ran into the harsh reality of limitations, the St. John’s legend overhauled the roster with some impressive recruits. The reshuffling of the roster has the fan base hopeful for a resurgence in the not-too-distant future.
As with most non-conference schedules, there are a few cupcakes sprinkled in with some stern tests. Let’s break down St. John’s schedule game by game.
Note: RPIs courtesy of KenPom.com
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Bethune Cookman, 11/11/16 (home)- A rout should be in store for St. John’s in its opener. It will face a Bethune Cookman team that finished 300 in Ken Pom’s RPI ratings last season.
Binghamton, 11/14/16 (home)- After going 8-22 last season with an RPI of 322, Binghamton doesn’t have much to offer. The Red Storm could win this game in their sleep.
Delaware State, 11/29/16 (home)- After finishing second to last in the MEAC with an abysmal RPI of 348, even last season’s St. John’s team would win this game in a laugher.
Cal State Northridge, 12/5/16 (home)- For a Cal State Northridge team that went 10-20 (5-11 in the Big West) last season and has to travel across the country, this is a rough road assignment. Expect the Red Storm to have their way with the Matadors.
LIU Brooklyn, 12/11/16 (neutral)- This game is part of the Brooklyn Hoops Winter Festival to be played at the Barclays Center. LIU Brooklyn, which plays just down the road from Barclays, is not awful, but this is a contest the Red Storm should have no trouble with.
Non-cupcake games, but games St. John’s should win
Tulane, 12/2/16 (away)- Here is an interesting game between two coaches — Mullin and new Green Wave coach Mike Dunleavy — who both had a wealth of success in the NBA. Relative to this season alone, Mullin is off to a huge head start, while Dunleavy is starting from scratch—where Mullin stood last year. The difference in talent here should favor the Red Storm—even if the game is on the road.
Fordham, 12/8/16 (home)- This game will be circled on the St. John’s schedule. The Rams embarrassed the Red Storm last year in the Bronx. Fordham is proving to be no slouch these days, but expect to see an improved and reinvigorated St. John’s squad out for blood.
Minnesota, 11/18/16 (away)- This is a loose definition of a marquee game, but it’s obviously not a cupcake game, either. As part of the Gavitt Games, St. John’s will trek to Minnesota to take on a Golden Gopher team that had an equally subpar season. Like Mullin, Minnesota coach Richard Pitino had success on the recruiting trail in the offseason and is hopeful his team can show signs of progress. Call this game a toss-up.
Michigan State, 11/23/16 (neutral)- As one of the preeminent programs in the nation and one likely to be ranked coming into this game, Michigan State should have more than enough to get past St. John’s in the first round of the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament. Look for stud recruit Miles Bridges to be a factor in this game for the Spartans.
Penn State, 12/18/16 (home)- The Nittany Lions will be the third Big Ten team St. John’s will face. Much like the Red Storm, Penn State is also bringing in a solid recruiting class. 247Sports ranks coach Pat Chambers’ haul the 26th-best in the nation. This game should be a great showcase of new talent, and it will be the first game at Madison Square Garden for the Johnnies.
Syracuse, 12/21/16 (away)- After getting embarrassed by St. John’s last season, Syracuse is out for revenge. Last season Jim Boeheim was suspended for this game. You just know he is itching to go toe-to-toe with Mullin, re-igniting their battles from the Big East when Mullin played against Boeheim’s Orange teams in the 1980s. This old-time Big East battle will be played at Carrier Dome, though, which gives the Orange a significant edge.
To be determined
Baylor or VCU, 11/24/16 (neutral)- As part of the Battle 4 Atlantis, St. John’s will face either Baylor or VCU depending on the outcome if its game against Michigan State. With the Red Storm likely to lose to Michigan State, it will probably play the loser of this game. Baylor and VCU are both bringing back solid rosters and it’s hard to predict who will win that matchup. In the end, St. John’s will be tested strongly in its second game in the Bahamas.
That last sentiment should extend for the duration of SJU’s trip to the Bahamas. The opposite side of the bracket includes Wichita State, LSU, Louisville and Old Dominion. If St. John’s is not careful, it could leave the Bahamas without a win.