By Joseph Staszewski
The St. John’s University men’s basketball team unveiled its non-conference schedule for next season that was highlighted by games against former Big East rival Syracuse and Big Ten power Wisconsin.
The veteran Johnnies open the regular season against Wisconsin, an NCAA Tournament team from a year ago, Nov. 8 at the newly renovated Pentagon in Sioux Falls, S.D. Red Storm Coach Steve Lavin is looking to challenge his club right out of the gate after exhibition games and a European trip in mid-August that includes stops in France, Italy and Spain.
“Playing a Bo Ryan-coached Badger team gives us an early season test and an opportunity to get a report card following an offseason that will include a European tour,” Lavin said.
St. John’s’ rivalry with Syracuse will continue, even with the Orange moving to the ACC this season as part of a massive conference realignment in the NCAA. The two will face off Dec. 15 at Madison Square Garden to renew the battle as part of a home-and-home series, during which teams play against one another at home in consecutive years, announced last January. The Red Storm will travel to the Carrier Dome next season.
“St. John’s and Syracuse are two of the storied programs in NCAA history, both with Top 10 numbers in overall victories and winning percentage,” Lavin said. “The Johnnies and Cuse rivalry is now more than a century old and deserves to continue.”
His club, returns all five of last year’s starters, including D’Angelo Harrison and JaKarr Sampson, from a team that went 17-16 overall a year ago and lost in the second round of the NIT. It adds a Top 5 national point guard prospect in Rysheed Jordan, among others to the mix, as it looks to prove itself against local and national opponents before play in the new 10-team Big East conference schedule begins.
St. John’s, which finished with the No. 39 strength of schedule in the nation last season, welcomes Wagner, Bucknell, Monmouth and Longwood to Carnesecca Arena in November and San Francisco and Youngstown State in December. It closes November against Penn State in Brooklyn as part of the Barclays Center Classic Nov. 30.
The Red Storm battles local rival Fordham as part of the Madison Square Garden Holiday Festival Dec. 7. They also take on Columbia at the home of the Brooklyn Nets Dec. 28 during its Winter Hoops Classic before closing its non-conference slate against Dartmouth in Queens Jan. 18.
“At the dawn of a new era for the Big East, our squad will face a rigorous non-conference schedule,” Lavin said.