Raise your hand if you predicted last January that St. John's would win eight games in 2012 and advance to the Big East Tournament championship?
Is your hand raised? Yes? Then you're a liar.
St. John's was a rocket ship with destinations unknown last season, putting together the program's best win total -- and overall effort -- since the university re-established the program in 2005. (Interestingly, the Johnnies quietly had one of the best coaching staffs in the country in its re-birth, featuring Rick Sowell, now leading Navy, as head coach and Dan Chemotti, now Head Spider In-Charge at Richmond, as an assistant coach. Wowzers!) Jason Miller has done a crazy amount of lumberjack-type work since coming to Queens in 2007 and finally broke the .500 barrier last year in impressive fashion: The Johnnies recorded nice wins against Siena, Stony Brook, Georgetown, and Notre Dame last season and played close against Syracuse, Villanova, and Drexel. The Red Storm look like a team with momentum, featuring one of the best junior duos in the country in Kieran McArdle and Kevin Cernuto. St. John's is close to being a top 20-type team in 2013; the only question is whether they're ready to light dynamite around themselves and really cause some damage.
The schedule that St. John's will face next season isn't daunting in the overall but there are a lot of competitively-equal opponents on the slate that will challenge the notion that the Johnnies are ready to really step forward from the middle of the country to the top third. The Red Storm are a known quantity now, and the pressure is on to make good on their returns from 2012.
March 9: v. Syracuse; March 16: Rutgers; March 30: @ Notre Dame; April 6: v. Georgetown; April 13: Villanova; April 20: @ Providence
You fancy, huh? St. John's made the Big East Tournament last year as the four-seed with a 3-3 league record, a surprise that still carries with it a "Hush, now" from the lacrosse offices at Georgetown University. The question is, then, can the Johnnies replicate the trick?
The Red Storm's league schedule is front loaded a bit, forcing St. John's to face Syracuse -- at PPL Park -- and Notre Dame relatively early in their league effort. Going 1-3 in that March stretch isn't out of the question, but if St. John's can steal one of those games against the Orange or Irish they put themselves in a nice position to potentially finish toward the top of the league standings: Remaining games against Georgetown, Villanova, and Providence are all against teams in which the Red Storm have comparative overall talent. Those final three games aren't "gimmie games" in the faintest sense -- the Hoyas are likely to be improved simply due to Kevin Warne's presence and the roster is flooded with upperclassmen; Villanova is retooling but is offensively dangerous; and Providence up and shocked everyone last year with their season-closing defeat of the Wildcats -- but it isn't out of the question that St. John's could end 2013 with a 4-2 mark in conference play, which may net the Red Storm either the league's second or third seed in the Big East Tournament. And anything can happen in a tournament setting.
Prove It II
February 23: Yale; February 26: Stony Brook; March 2: @ Siena; March 19: Hofstra; March 23: v. Robert Morris
There's really only one game on St. John's non-conference schedule that you can pencil in fairly confidently as a win: the opener against Holy Cross. Otherwise, St. John's is playing all kinds of games that will challenge them week-in and week-out. The three-game stretch starting in late February and ending just prior to the Johnnies' date against Syracuse is especially important: the Elis, Seawolves, and Saints are all within the competitive locale of the Red Storm and these games may define where St. John's is as a program and their ceiling for 2013 play. These teams aren't necessarily in the national elite, but if the Johnnies hope to move toward that territory -- around the top 15 or so in the country -- these are significant games in that process. They will come early in the year when weird stuff always seems to happen, so St. John's needs to avoid pooping its pants right out of the gate.
The Hofstra-Robert Morris back-to-back extravaganza in a four-day period is also interesting. Those games come just prior to the Red Storm seeing Notre Dame and will occur after the halfway point of St. John's season. These are barometer games on their own -- Hofstra has the potential to raise havoc next spring and Robert Morris is a difficult game for everyone given their unique style -- but combined with when the games are happening and what kind of state the Johnnies' season may be in, they become even more important in the overall.