Here is a program with a history of excellence that hasn't been performing of late. They have a good coach in a tough position, and it's a long shot that this season will be much more successful than last. Are there reasons for hope in Jamaica, NY? I think so, but I think the Johnnies will have to hang in there through another rough ride. They get a chance at tournament play in the NIT Season Tip Off, and have plenty of opportunities against ranked teams on the schedule. Even if they have the rough season that's expected, they could spoil the party for someone, or perhaps multiple someones.
11-19 Overall, 5-13 Big East (14th)
No postseason play
Malik Boothe G
Justin Burrell F
Dele Coker F/C
Matt Duell G
Sean Evans F
Paris Horne G/F
Tomas Jasiulionis C
DJ Kennedy G/F
Anthony Mason, Jr. F
Rob Thomas F
Larry Wright G
Abit, Biesty, Cavataio, Lawrence, Wright
No major losses here. Larry Wright's transfer to Oakland puzzles me. Does he think he has a shot at an NCAA tournament there? I understand it's close to home for him. He's probably the biggest loss from the list above; he averaged 9.1 points in under 20 minutes and so was one of the few capable of averaging double figures.
Terrell Lewis G (Redshirt) Not an arrival as such, but since he didn't play last year I thought I'd mention him here. Could he emerge as a leader in the backcourt?
Quincy Roberts G
Tyshawn Edmondson G
Phil Wait C
All of these guys were rated 2 stars at Scout.com, so I doubt the ability fo any of them to really change things. Still, bringing in three new guards (two true freshmen and a redshirt) to a backcourt that didn't have much going for it is a positive development.
Nonconference Games: Long Island, Cornell (NIT Season Tip Off, other possible opponents include: Purdue, Oklahoma, Arizona, Boston College, Davidson, UAB, Georgia, James Madison, Loyola (MD), Loyola (Chi), Florida Atlantic, Eastern Michigan, Mississippi Valley), Howard, St. Francis (NY), NJIT, Bethune-Cookman, Marist, Miami (FL), Duke
There are plenty of winnable games on that schedule, but Duke and Miami are almost certain losses. Cornell is probably the better team, but if St. John's manages a win there they'll have a manageable matchup with Boston College or Loyola (MD), possibly putting them in the NIT final four.
Two Time Opponents: Notre Dame, Cincinnati, Seton Hall
All of those teams are probably better than the Red Storm (though Seton Hall is certainly debatable) but this is a more than fair slate.
Remaining Roadies: Providence, Pittsburgh, Villanova, West Virginia, Marquette, DePaul
Except for DePaul, those are all places I have to think it will be very tough for this team to go play. I envision at best one or two road wins in conference.
Home Games: Connecticut, Rutgers, South Florida, Louisville, Syracuse, Georgetown
Factoring in the visits of Cincy and SHU, I'd say St. John's has four good shots to win at home. They could also upset a team or two there, which I don't see them doing on the road.
Best Case Scenario:
They win two rounds in the preseason NIT, and don't get blown out of the arena by Purdue in the third round game. Lewis steps up as a leader from the outside, supplementing a competent frontcourt duo of Mason and Burrell. Last year's youngsters (most of the team) improve their game significantly, and they knock off a couple of top 25 squads over the course of the season. They win 4 or 5 conference games and add another in the BE tournament. Even the best this team could be is not an invitee to the NCAA, NIT, or CBI tournaments though.
Worst Case Scenario:
Cornell makes the tipoff a forgettable experience. Lewis is unable to be a real scoring threat, and what the Johnnies saw (last year) is what they get (this year) from the kids that came in together. The new freshmen are lost in the tough league. They only manage 3 noncon wins, and even fewer in conference.
This is not a good team. There are some things to like in the frontcourt (Mason, Jr. and Burrell) and some potential in the form of seasoning on last year's notoriously young roster. Only four guys coming back from last year averaged more than 5 points, though, so it will take collective improvement rather than one guy really coming on to make any kind of difference. The kids'll be better, but will they be better enough? I have serious doubts. The incoming talent is of limited help, as well. I want to like this team, but the closer I look the less reason I see for immediate optimism. I think improving on last year's 14th place finish is a long shot.