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Three Reasons for Optimism: St. John's

It's Big Dance or Bust for the Red Storm. Here's three reasons to expect the former.

Nate Shron

St. John's narrowly missed out on a bid to the Big Dance last year as they finished 20-13, 10-8 in the Big East. At times, they looked like one of the strongest teams in the conference last year, but ultimately, they settled for a trip to the NIT.

This season, nothing short of March Madness is expected. Steve Lavin hasn't made the NCAA tournament since his first season, and may need a tournament appearance to save his job for the long term. But with one of the best back courts in the nation, led by one of the best seniors in college basketball, there's a great chance the Johnnies can make some noise and return to the NCAA tourney. Here's three reasons why the Red Storm will be playing meaningful basketball well into March.

Rysheed Jordan is older and focused

Last season was a year filled with distractions and tragedy for the young point guard. The Philly native lost a close friend before the season began, then was suspended early on in the year. While dealing with the health issues of his mother and grandmother, it seemed like Jordan was finally starting to adjust to the college game when he was dealt another blow with the loss of a family member due to a murder-suicide.

Jordan's numbers struggled, scoring 9.7 points per game and shooting less than 30 percent from 3-point range. But now that he's had an offseason to heal and get his head together, expect the guard to have a breakout season in his sophomore campaign.

D`Angelo Harrison is the best senior in the Big East

Big East Player of the Year honors is up for grabs, with stars in D`Vauntes Smith-Rivera and JayVaughn Pinkston also gunning for the top spot. But with Doug McDermott out of eligibility, D`Angelo Harrison takes over as the top senior in the Big East.

Harrison has had a great career at St. John's, but last year was his most productive. He led the Johnnies with 17.5 PPG, and with the departure of JaKarr Sampson, expect those numbers to see a significant increase this winter. Any team with an upperclassman as talented as Harrison has an opportunity to make some noise in conference, so as long as St. John's rides his train in crunch time, there's no telling how far this team can go.

Light non-conference schedule should prepare the Johnnies

St. John's has a relatively easy non-conference tilt. Besides a potential matchup with Gonzaga in the NIT tipoff, a trip upstate to Syracuse, and a January bout with Duke, the John's should gain some early momentum heading into conference play.

Most of St. John's non-conference opponents are sub-.300 teams, and barring a complete meltdown early on, it should set the Red Storm up for the grind of the conference schedule. If Steve Lavin and company can escape non-conference play with little to no injuries, expect them to be in prime position to compete after the new year.