April 22, 2009
QUEENS, N.Y. - The Red Storm's first official date of the 2009-10 season was released Wednesday with the announcement of the pairings for the third-annual SEC/BIG EAST Invitational. The St. John's men's basketball team plays host to the Georgia Bulldogs on Wednesday, Dec. 9, at Madison Square Garden in a matchup will be televised nationally on ESPN2.
Fellow BIG EAST squad Connecticut will host the Kentucky Wildcats in the game that follows on ESPN as part of the doubleheader event at "The World's Most Famous Arena."
On Thursday, Dec. 10, the event continues at St. Pete Times Forum in Tampa, Fla. DePaul will take on Mississippi State on ESPN2, followed by Syracuse vs. Florida on ESPN. Game times for all four matchups will be announced at a later date.
"The SEC/BIG EAST Invitational gives us another great opportunity to play an exciting game at The Garden," said head men's basketball coach Norm Roberts. "It's a great matchup against a power conference school, and we're looking forward to an outstanding game against Georgia."
St. John's has played Georgia only two times in school history, most recently when the Bulldogs eliminated the then-Redmen in the Second Round of the 1983 NCAA Tournament in Syracuse, N.Y. Connecticut defeated Kentucky in the teams' only meeting in the Second Round of the 2006 NCAA Tournament in Philadelphia.
Six of the eight participating teams reached the postseason in 2008-09, with Connecticut, Mississippi State and Syracuse playing in the NCAA Tournament. The Orange made it to the Sweet 16, while the Huskies advanced to the Final Four. Florida and Kentucky played in the NIT, while St. John's played in the College Basketball Invitational.
Teams invited to participate in the SEC/BIG EAST Invitational are chosen by ESPN in consultation with the conferences and are based on geographic and competitive criteria.
The BIG EAST holds a 5-3 record in the first two years of the SEC/BIG EAST Invitational. The two conferences have combined to produce four of the last seven NCAA Men's Basketball Champions (Florida - 2007 and 2006; Connecticut - 2004; Syracuse - 2003) and seven of the last 14 national champions (Connecticut - 1999; Kentucky - 1998 and 1996).
"Once again, this exciting annual matchup will bring together eight great teams for two consecutive nights of exciting college basketball in two great cities," said Pete Derzis, senior vice president and general manager, ESPN Regional Television. "We're pleased to present another impressive field of SEC and BIG EAST teams to the fans, and look forward to delivering to the student-athletes, coaches and staffs the great experience of being part of this event in New York and Tampa."