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2016-17 Big East nonconference schedule analysis: St. John’s Red Storm

Last season St. John’s managed to play to a 7-6 record in nonconference play. This season they’ll look to build on those early successes.

NCAA Basketball: St. John's at Creighton Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

Last season was rough for the St. John’s Red Storm. Their overall record of 8-24 was their worst season on record since the 9-18 season in 2004-05 at the start of the Norm Roberts era. While they found themselves to be riders in the middle of a storm during conference play going 1-17, nonconference play was a different story.

In nonconference play, the Johnnies played to a manageable record of 7-6. There were some highs along the way, such as the victory over Syracuse at home and going 2-1 in games against other New York City area schools. For the most part. last season felt more about for St. John’s finding their way in a new coaching era.

It is year two now of the Chris Mullin era, hopefully now begins the climb up for St. John’s. That climb begins with a slate of nonconference games. How St. John’s will fare this season will left to be seen, but let’s take a look at who is on the docket for the Red Storm.

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Bethune-Cookman (November 11)

The Red Storm kick things off this against the Wildcats of Bethune-Cookman as the nation welcomes the return of college basketball with open arms following the wake of Election Day. The Wildcats are a unique first test to start off year two of the Chris Mullin era. Last season they finished with a respectable record of 14-18 and 10-6 in MEAC play. Nonconference play was a different story, as they were pulled on more then one occasion by the likes of Brown, Akron, and Grand Canyon. It is a good game to kick start the season for the Red Storm, who will most likely use this game as a chance to give nearly everyone minutes on the floor.

Binghamton (November 14)

While this game is technically a part of the Battle 4 Atlantis, it will be played at Carnesecca Arena a week before the festivities tip off in The Bahamas. It should be a straightforward affair for the Johnnies. Binghamton is not exactly the toughest of test,s given that head coach Tommy Dempsey will be fielding an extremely young team. The Bearcats are also not exactly the most stellar team on offense, either and most likely will be taking a good percentage of their shoots from three point range, albeit inaccurately. This game, once again, provides a chance for St. John’s to workshop on parts of their game.

At Minnesota (November 18)

This time around in the Gavitt Tip-Off Games, the Johnnies will be making the trek up north to the Land of 10,000 Lakes for a game against Richard Pitino’s Golden Gophers. Last time both teams met was in 2015, when St. John’s held off Minnesota in a rousing 70-61 victory at Madison Square Garden in the NIT Season Tip-Off. What Minnesota puts out on the court will be interesting, as they have had their issues in the past few seasons with player suspensions and transfers. This game also provides St. John’s a decent chance for a tune up before flying south to The Bahamas for their series of games in the Battle 4 Atlantis in the following week.

Battle 4 Atlantis (November 23-25, Paradise Island, Bahamas)

- Michigan State (November 23)

-Baylor or VCU (November 24)

-Possibly Old Dominion, LSU, Wichita State, or Louisville (November 25)

Sun and Sand won’t be awaiting the Red Storm in the Bahamas, but a meeting against some of the best that Division I can throw at them in what is an ideal barometric test for Chris Mullin and his team in terms of nonconference play. The Big East will present its own challenges, but this slate of games in the Caribbean is going to be St. John’s toughest test till their game against Syracuse. Starting things off will be Michigan State, then a game against either Baylor or VCU. Even without going into who they might face on the 25th, these two games alone are a bitter pill. Getting one win in the Bahamas or even coming close to one, might be the best that St. John’s can get, but would still be quite a success if accomplished.

Delaware State (November 29)

This meeting with the Hornets should be another straightforward affair for St. John’s. Last season Delaware State posted a dismal 7-25 record and in nonconference play went 0-13 against Division I opponents. Their only nonconference win was against Division III Clarks Summit University. This most likely will be another game where most of the roster will see chances to play. This game also comes as a break for St. John’s, between coming back from The Bahamas and heading off to New Orleans the following week.

At Tulane (December 2)

This games is an oddity on the schedule for St. John’s. It is the only other time other then their trips to The Bahamas and Minnesota that the Red Storm will be playing an out of state game in nonconference play this season. With that in mind, the Green Wave of Tulane will be playing host on their home floor in the Crescent City as a battle between colorful nature will take place between the Green Wave and the Red Storm. The tide of victory should favor St. John’s as the absence of Dylan Osetkowski for Tulane could leave quite a hole on defense for them.

Cal State Northridge (December 5)

The Matadors will be hitting the floor with a mostly freshman squad against the Johnnies. Much like St. John’s last season they will be looking to earn their battle marks in this game. Northridge does present some interesting tasks for the Red Storm though as their high rate of turnovers does present the opportunity for St. John’s to work on areas relating to the fast break and potentially playing at an up tempo for this game.

Fordham (December 8)

A name for this game against the Rams could be the Tri-Borough game as a St. John’s plays in both Manhattan and Queens, and Fordham up in the Bronx, and all three are connected by the Tri-Borough Bridge. Both schools have a long history of playing each other. Since 1949-50, Fordham and St. John’s have played each other sixty-one times, which puts Fordham as the ninth most played opponent for St. John’s. In terms of record, St. John’s has a .820 winning percentage against the Rams, but in recent history has been a bit of a back-and-forth affair between both schools. Last time out, the Rams crushed the Red Storm by a score of 73-57 at Rose Hill in what was also a meeting of first season coaches between Chris Mullin and Jeff Neubauer. This time around can be interesting as both Joseph Chartouny and Christian Sengfelder have returned for the Rams. One would hope that St. John’s learned from last season’s rout to hopefully avoid another folly against the Rams.

Long Island University (December 11, Barclays Center)

As one of the games of the Brooklyn Winter Hoops Classic, St. John’s gets to play in what is technically a cross between a neutral site game and a home game for both the Red Storm and the Blackbirds. The Barclays Center is just a short jaunt from Long Island University’s main campus. The Blackbirds will be without Martin Hermannsson who left for the pro ranks late in the summer, but have Jerome Frink and Nura Zanna on the roster. Both Frink and Zanna provide the Blackbirds some talent on their roster.

Penn State (December 18)

Technically this game is a neutral site game, but is being played on the floor in Madison Square Garden. Last season Penn State posted a .500 mark and managed to go 7-11 in a highly competitive Big Ten. This game is definitely a bogey game for St. John’s on their schedule, but does provide an decent tuneup for the Red Storm before heading into Big East play and before their last nonconference game against Syracuse.

At Syracuse (December 21)

Four days before Christmas, the Johnnies will be making the trek up to Syracuse, New York for a game in the Carrier Dome against the Orange. In the very recent history of this match up post Big East schism, the Red Storm have had the upper hand against their former Big East foe. Winning the last two meetings during the 2014-15 season and the 2015-16 season, a season in which the Orange also made the Final Four. They also came within earshot of knocking off Syracuse in the very first meeting of the renewal of this game in 2013-14.

It is tough to say what will happen this time around. Each time so far has felt like a flip of the script or just that the script was thrown out the window. For the Johnnies though they will have to keep an eye out for Tyler Lydon who is the anchor for Syracuse heading into this season.

For one thing this will be the first meeting between Jim Boeheim and Chris Mullin as head coaches. Last time their paths crossed was when Mullin was playing for St. John’s and Boeheim was a young and spry head coach.

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Outlook

Overall the outlook for St. John’s in nonconference play appears to be manageable, with room to work on areas that they might still be struggling. Their trip to The Bahamas will be the toughest test for the Johnnies in nonconference play. It will and most likely be the only time, save for their game against Syracuse later on. that St. John’s will be facing off against the upper echelon of Division I. If they can leave Paradise with at least one win, then that should be written as a marginal success for Chris Mullin’s side.

The other aspect of this schedule is that there is room for Mullin to figure out what works best in terms of the roster before heading into Big East play. With match-ups against the mid to lower tier teams, it provides the ideal time for Mullin and his assistants to sort out what will be the best plan of attack before heading into the rigors of conference play. It also means that there is a chance most of the roster will get the chance to see playing time in most of the games, particularly against the likes of Bethune-Cookman, Binghamton, and potentially Long Island University. It would not be surprising in the very least if St. John’s manages to head into conference play sporting a record up to potentially seven wins and maybe four or five losses. They are still growing as a team and much like last season will most likely be treating nonconference play as their test lab before the specter of the Big East rears its head.