The comings and goings in college sports realignment is almost (maybe) over (for now). Teams are jumping to greener pastures leaving their old stomping grounds up for the taking. The Big East has been one of the conferences that have seen the most transition. Losing power basketball programs like the Syracuse Orange and Pittsburgh Panthers leaves the door wide open for programs to be the league’s top dog.
The St. John’s Red Storm is in a perfect situation to pounce on the opportunity they have in front of them. Head Coach Steve Lavin is healthy for the first time since joining the Johnnies 3 years ago. His ability to draw top recruits has him deep with young talent and with the departures of power programs, the Red Storm can pick up the slack left behind.
That’s not to say the league doesn’t have some interesting teams joining the conference or that there aren’t very good programs still in it. But the journey back to relevance for the Red Storm won’t be nearly as hard had the Big East stayed as currently constructed.
St John’s always had the ability to offer recruits certain “perks” other schools couldn’t. Home games at Madison Square Garden, playing in a huge market (New York), and playing for a once-historic program. Now they can offer a few more things they previously couldn’t. Most of their games are televised. Sure, most games for every major program are televised. But if you’re a fan of any major program, you’ll likely have to shell out huge bucks for some form of a college hoops plan through your cable provider. Outside ESPN, St. John’s has 2 networks that regularly televise their games. Both SNY and the MSG networks will shove the Red Storm down your throat regardless if they’re any good or not. This gives them an edge over every team that will be in the Big East over the next few years.
Exposure for a young hoops recruit is still as big as anything you can offer them. Lavin, who’s already a top notch recruiter, will use that and the ability for these kids to play the day they come in as more tools to get the best players in the country to wear the red and white.
The Red Storm will be entering the season very young, again. But this being Lavin’s third season–he missed all of last year’s battling cancer–means it’s a pivotal point in the Johnnies program. St. John’s can land all the recruits they want, be on the picture box nightly and get players drafted into the NBA, but without success on the court, the Johnnies can do further damage to their program.
It’s not a make or break season for Lavin or the Red Storm. However, whatever direction they want to take their program, whether it be national dominance, the face of the Big East or a solid team once every three years, this season will be a good way to gauge the direction of the Red Storm.
Follow Joe on the Twitter machine if you dare @JosephNardone