St. John’s Red Storm: 5 Keys to Success

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St. John's 5 Keys to Success

Johnnies
Anthony Gruppuso-US PRESSWIRE

The St. John's Red Storm is looking for a return to the NCAA Tournament after a disappointing 2011-12 season. There are plenty of obstacles that are in the way of achieving what they accomplished under the first year of the Steve Lavin era but it's not far-fetched that the beginnings of a return to a top-level program this year is out of the question.

While not ranked in the top 25 in any ranking, the Johnnies did make it to #39 in the Rant Sports Top 40 Preseason Breakdown. So if we are to be accurate with our predictions, considering more than 60 teams make the dance, the Red Storm are going to be getting their tuxedos ready for March.

But St. John's will need to have plenty of things go right. While they aren't currently considered a national power or a Big East title contender, this year could have them stepping in that direction. A few lucky bounces, a couple of big time wins, and an overall success, can push the Johnnies right to the top of people's picture-box viewing list and a successful season.

Lavin has already done a tremendous job recruiting since he arrived 3 years ago. Top 10 class after top 10 class, Lavin and the Red Storm don't lack the talent to make some noise in the country. Even losing Moe Harkless to the NBA shouldn't stop the Johnnies from having a solid year.

Success for the Red Storm this year is probably just considered an invite to March Madness. They are incredibly young(again) and development with all of the players throughout the year will be crucial. So will a lot of other aspects of this St. John's team.

Here are the "Top 5 Keys" the Red Storm will need for a return to the NCAA Tournament...

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D'Angelo Harrison

Skills
Anthony Gruppuso-US PRESSWIRE

D'Angelo Harrison shared the spotlight with Moe Harkless last season. With Harkless now playing for the Orlando Magic, Harrison will need to be the Johnnies main scorer and "veteran" presence. Even though he's only a sophomore, Lavin will expect Harrison to be the team leader and help guide the young squad along their journey.

Harrison averaged an impressive 16.8 points per game as a freshman. The Red Storm will actually need him to be an even more effective offensive weapon considering the loss of Harkless and new pieces in place. Harrison has been a dangerous versatile scorer but will need to be better with distribution of the basketball. Especially early on, teams will be focusing their defenses on Harrison. Expect plenty of double teams and traps headed his way.

With all the attention Harrison is expected to get, plenty of his teammates should be left open or be put in a position to create easy baskets of their own. Whether or not they capitalize on the opportunities is completely up to them.

Harrison has a heavy burden on him. Score more, distribute better, and be a leader as only a sophomore. If Harrison does all these things, expect the Red Storm to achieve success. Sadly, if he does all of them real well, this might be the last year he wears the St. John's uniform.

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Development

Youth Movement
Anthony Gruppuso-US PRESSWIRE

This one is as simple as Madison Square Garden is historic. Development of all the players on the squad is vital to the success that the Red Storm could have this season. Despite returning plenty of rotational players from last season, the Red Storm will still turn to several freshmen and Junior College transfers to contribute to this year's version of the team.

Even the players returning need to step up their game. Phil Greene, Amir Garrett, and Sir'Dominic Pointer all need to add another aspect to their games. Mainly, those 3 provided athleticism and defense last season. If those 3 returning players worked on their game, and defenses mainly focused on Harrison, their athleticism should lead to open cuts to the basket.

But the Red Storm will need more. Considering that they too will be considered "veterans" on this team, they'll need to provide an offensive spark from the perimeter as well. Over time defenses will try to stop Harrison and jam the lanes so easy baskets won't be so easy. Developing a perimeter game, if they already haven't done so, is paramount for an invite to the dance.

St. John's doesn't really need all 3 to develop into a 14ish point per game player, but at least 1 of them has to step up to that kind of level.

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God'sgift Achiuwa

God'sgift Achiuwa
Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE

God'sgift Achiuwa is a New York favorite and the only legitimate proven big man on the Red Storm's roster. Standing only 6'8, Achiuwa only averaged just under 6 boards a game last year. The lone senior expected to see time in the rotation, the Red Storm are hoping his aggressive play will manifest itself into a more productive rebounder.

It's unrealistic to expect Achiuwa to become an offensive threat. No worries, the Red Storm don't need him to be. All Achiuwa needs is to transform himself into a maintenance man and clean up everything that comes off from the glass. That's plenty easier said than done.

The fact Achiuwa is only 6'8 and couple that the Red Storm play in the physical Big East, he will have to work extremely hard for every single rebound he gets.

Achiuwa will have to be their main big man defender as well. Fortunately the Red Storm roster is filled with athletic players to help Achiuwa when he is physically outmatched by his opposition.

As horribly corny and cliché as it sounds, Achiuwa will need to be God'sgift to the Red Storm this season. If he doesn't fulfill what the Johnnies need however, don't be surprised to see Achiuwa phased out of the rotation and Lavin go with a tremendously undersized but super-athletic starting 5.

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Beat The Cupcakes

Eat Them
Anthony Gruppuso-US PRESSWIRE

The Red Storm's first 10 games are against very winnable opponents. Only 1 of the 10 are from "BCS" conferences. The fact they open with a fairly weak schedule is a good opportunity to get off to a great start. Being that St. John's will still be looking to find a set rotation during that time and the Red Storm have a history of playing down to the level of their opponents, I don't expect them to come out of that stretch 10 and 0.

But the Johnnies need to win games they're supposed to. The Big East is still the Big East this year and the conference schedule is still daunting. Lavin and the Red Storm staff will need to find a balance of finding themselves and winning to open the year.

If they fail to capitalize on an easy schedule early on, the rest of the season can become a wash.

St. John's has to win at least 7 out of their first 10 to grab immediate national attention and bolster a young team's confidence.

Come out of that stretch with anything less than 7, the team could start to doubt themselves and not recover in time for conference play. Win 7 or more, the sky should be the limit.

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Steve Lavin

Lavin is Vital
Kyle Terada-US PRESSWIRE

All of the previous things St. John's needs for a successful year all depend on Lavin. While he is widely thought of a great "recruiting coach", his ability to develop players and coach on the court are not as highly thought of. With solid assistants such as Gene Keady and Derrick Martin, Lavin and his staff are going to have their hands full with such a young team.

After missing last season, this will be Lavin's first year coaching at St. John's with his players. With the Pittsburgh Panthers and Syracuse Orange leaving for the ACC, the time is now for the Johnnies to make a run at being at the forefront of the Big East. A solid year, along with key programs departing, the Red Storm can be the dominant force in the conference for years to come.

I can't stress it enough. The St. John's Red Storm program can take 2 different directions this year. Become a team who is solid every few years ago(Just another team) or start the fast track to national prominence.

All of that hinges on Lavin and the success of this season. If the Red Storm falter and don't return to the NCAA Tournament come March, it's not that Lavin will lose his job, he'll just lose his shot at making St. John's nationally relevant.

Welcome back Steve....No Pressure.

Follow Joe on Twitter @JosephNardone

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