Rick Pitino followed through on his promise to St. John’s fans.
At his introductory press conference in March, Pitino said the Johnnies would play more games in his first season at Madison Square Garden than in previous years, and that has come to fruition, as the Big East announced the conference schedule on Friday.
St. John’s will play six league games at MSG and eight in all, the most it has played at its second home since the 2014-15 season when it had 10 games there.
Last season, St. John’s had only four Garden games and five the previous year.
This will also be the first time since the 2015-16 season when St. John’s will have multiple non-conference contests at “The World’s Most Famous Arena.”
It hosts Michigan in the annual Gavitt Tipoff Games on Nov. 13, and meets Fordham on Dec. 16 at MSG.
The six league games will be against Providence, Georgetown, Villanova, Creighton, Marquette and Connecticut.
Other takeaways on the schedule:
While St. John’s plays its league opener at home against Xavier on Dec. 20, its first nine games are extremely challenging overall.
It includes trips to face three of the best teams in the conference: defending national champion Connecticut on Dec. 23, Villanova on Jan. 6 and Creighton on Jan. 13.
Providence (Jan. 10), defending league champion Marquette (Jan. 20) and Villanova (Jan. 24) come to the Garden to wrap up the difficult stretch.
If the Johnnies are close to .500 through this stretch, or even a game or two above it, they will be in great shape.
A third home
UBS Arena, home to the Islanders, will host three St. John’s games this year, starting with Hofstra on Dec. 30.
St. John’s will also play conference foes DePaul (Feb. 6) and Seton Hall (Feb. 18) there.
Seton Hall not playing at the Garden is somewhat of a surprise.
But the Johnnies are trying to create a relationship with UBS, so playing a local rival in the new arena feels like a goodwill gesture.
St. John’s has played one game at UBS before, the Big East/Big 12 battle clash against Kansas in 2021.
As difficult as St. John’s start may be in league play, it’s finish is even easier.
The final three games are against projected doormats Butler (Feb. 28) and DePaul (Mar. 5) on the road and rebuilding Georgetown at MSG (Mar. 9).
In fact, of the final six games, only one of them is against a projected NCAA Tournament team, Creighton at the Garden on Feb. 25.