Rick Pitino is 3-2 through his first five games as the head basketball coach at St. John’s University. The Red Storm’s two losses are not of concern to the two-time* national champion.
To some extent, it was on purpose.
Pitino wanted to baptize his team by fire. He intentionally scheduled extremely difficult opponents to begin his tenure in Queens, which will be the last stop of his career.
We’re never going to open up with four teams we should beat. We’re trying to open up with Alabama next year, we’re trying to play Duke.
Kevin Willard did that at Seton Hall and I think he had a great formula for getting his team to the NCAA Tournament.
— Rick Pitino
- W, 90-74 vs. Stony Brook at home
- L, 73-89 vs. Michigan at Madison Square Garden
- W, 53-52 vs. North Texas in Charleston
- L, 81-88 vs. Dayton in Charleston
- W, 91-82 vs. Utah in Charleston
The Utes are a quality Pac-12 opponent. The Wolverines are performing better in the early season than expected. It would be a surprise if the Flyers did not win the Atlantic 10. Few mid-major teams in the country have a more stout defense than the Mean Green.
Even though the Red Storm was scheduled to play in the Charleston Classic before Pitino arrived, his point stands. Playing tough opponents during the early season, while a risk, is a good way to gauge the temperature of the program.
Pitino is able to figure out what his team does well and where it can improve. Players have an opportunity to gain an understand of what they need to do if they hope to compete alongside big-time programs.
Star transfer Jordan Dingle, the reigning Ivy League Player of the Year, sees the vision.
It’s great for us to get that exposure early on and figure out what it is that we need to do as a time in order to improve on those areas that we may be lacking. The schedule has given us a great opportunity to do that.
— Jordan Dingle
St. John’s basketball has played an easy scheduled to start the year throughout much of the last decade. The team was never ready for Big East play.
Rick Pitino hopes that this season will be different. Two early-season, neutral site losses during Feast Week will hardly effect the Red Storm’s chances of making March Madness. Getting the kinks out of the way early against quality opponents will do more good than harm.