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Big East Season Preview: 2014-15 St. John's Red Storm

With the season rapidly approaching, Andrew Padyk is here to break down all you need to know about the Johnnies for this upcoming season.

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

2013-2014 Record: 20-13 (10-8) Tied for third in the Big East, lost in the first round of the NIT to Robert Morris

Coach: Steve Lavin enters into his fifth season at the helm for St. John's with a veteran squad at his disposal.  With the amount of experience and depth that Lavin has on his roster this season, the Johnnies looked poised to break away from their position in the middle of the pack within the conference.  In his first four years at St. John's, Lavin has taken the program to one trip to the NCAA Tournament and two trips to the National Invitational Tournament. At this point in his coaching career, he is 71-62 overall with St. John's and 36-36 overall in Big East play.  Lifetime, spanning both his time at UCLA and currently at St. John's he is 216-138 as a head coach.

Key Returnees: Chris Obekpa, D'Angelo Harrison, Sir'Dominic Pointer, Phil Greene IV, Rysheed Jordan, Khadim Ndiaye, Jamal Branch, Christian Jones,

Notable Departures: JaKarr Sampson (declared for the NBA;), Orlando Sanchez (graduated), God'sgift Achuwa (graduated), Marc-Antoine Bourgault (graduated), Max Hooper (graduated)

Additions: Amar Alibegovic, Adonis Delarosa

Projected Opening Day Lineup: Rysheed Jordan, D'Angelo Harrison, Phil Greene IV, Sir'Dominic Pointer, Chris Obekpa

Key Non-Conference Match-ups: Nov. 26 vs. Minnesota, Dec. 6 at Syracuse, Jan. 25 vs. Duke

Last Season at a Glance: Last season for the Red Storm saw the program come extremely close to another NCAA Tournament berth as an at-large bid, but the months of December and January would haunt their chances early on leading to another trip to the NIT for the second year in a row.

The team finished last season with a record of 20-13 overall and 10-8 in Big East Conference play.  It was the second time in the Steve Lavin era that the program achieved 20 wins in the regular season and a winning record in conference play. They looked poised for a potential NCAA Tournament spot thanks in part to a 11-3 run to close out the season, but their early exit in the Big East Tournament by Providence ended any hopes right there.  Leaving the team on route for the NIT.

In the NIT, St. John's was knocked out of the first round on the road at Robert Morris, bringing an end to the Johnnies short post-season run in the NIT.

Overall though last season was a pretty successful one for the program, especially for Steve Lavin in the previous two seasons had dealt with recovery from prostate cancer, but last season was back on the bench once more.  The team was anchored on the court by JaKarr Sampson, Orlando Sanchez, and First Team All-Big East D'Angelo Harrison.  Rysheed Jordan took home All Rookie honor and center Chris Obekpa became the Red Storm's all-time shot blocker as well.  The biggest take away though from last season was that this veteran squad gained further experience for this season coming up, the only thing now is whether it will pay off for this year.

2014-15 Outlook: Heading into this season, Steve Lavin has two things at his disposal that can potentially make St. John's a tough pill to swallow for opposing teams.  The first is a veteran squad with depth in most areas of the court.  Most of the players on the team have been with Lavin for at least two to three years, but it is a senior heavy squad with six on the roster.  Three of which, Harrison, Greene, and Pointer will most likely be starting.  If anything this is really the last shot that Lavin has to prove something with this squad of players as following this season there will definitely be a turnover in the roster.

The second item that Lavin has with him is the depth in his squad, particularly in the backcourt which will feature D'Angelo Harrison, Rysheed Jordan, and Phil Greene IV.  Harrison was selected as preseason First Team All-Big East and Jordan preseason Second Team All-Big East.  There is also Jamal Branch on the bench for the Red Storm as well to call on, giving them the added boost.  Aside from the backcourt, they also have a decent anchoring in forward and center play, as Chris Obekpa will once again be holding things down underneath the basket and Christian Jones will be looking to get back into the fold, but outside of this there are some spot that will look to be tested in terms of squad rotation during games.  It should be interesting to see how Lavin will incorporate the freshmen into the the squad in particular Amir Alibegovic at a forward spot this season and Adonis Delarosa as the eventual heir-apparent to Obekpa.  For now though, there a decent squad in place that will rely on the guard play for the most part, but Lavin does have something special in place.

Projection: But how will they fair this season? Well, in the preseason coaches' poll for the Big East, St. John's was projected to finish third in the conference behind Georgetown (2nd) and Villanova (1st).  A third place finish is extremely possible for St. John's to achieve, even a second place finish is not out of the realm of possibility either.  However while all looks well on paper, the games still have to be played.  Their non-conference schedule is pretty manageable for the most part with the main challenges being against Syracuse in December and Duke in January.  As for in-conference there is really nothing out of the ordinary for what St. John's will face.  They have a decent squad in place and Lavin looks poised to take this team to the next level.

Prediction: 24-9 overall and 12-6 in the Big East