May 19, 2011
QUEENS, N.Y. - St. John's visits Kentucky's Rupp Arena for the first time since its appearance in the 1985 Final Four and two of the nation's storied men's basketball programs and top recruiting classes are set to collide on Thursday, Dec. 1 on either ESPN, ESPN2 or ESPNU as part of the SEC-BIG EAST Challenge.
ESPN announced the 2011 SEC-BIG EAST pairings on Thursday, pitting Kentucky - college basketball's all-time winningest program with 2,052 victories and the owner of the nation's top-ranked recruiting class - against the Red Storm's consensus No. 3 recruiting class and 1,724 all-time victories, which rank seventh in the history of college basketball. The Red Storm is 5-10 all-time against Kentucky, including a 62-61 victory over the Wildcats in the last meeting in the Nov. 9, 2000 season-opener during the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic at Madison Square Garden, and a Dec. 17, 1977 102-72 loss in the Kentucky Invitational in STJ's last regular-season trip to Rupp Arena.
"It is a unique opportunity for St. John's to have a non-conference schedule that includes matchups against three of the most-storied programs in the history of college basketball in Kentucky, UCLA and Duke," said St. John's head coach Steve Lavin. "Facing UK at Rupp Arena in front of a raucous crowd will be a valuable experience in preparation for BIG EAST Conference play. Coupled with our conference slate and our participation in the 2K Sports Classic, this diverse and rigorous schedule will present an outstanding challenge for the youngest team in the country."
The new Challenge marks an expansion and modification of the SEC/BIG EAST Invitational that featured four matchups between the two conferences from two neutral sites from 2007-10. Over the four years of the SEC/BIG EAST Invitational, the conferences - which each won eight games over the four years - split the series in 2008 and 2009 and each won one (SEC in 2010 and BIG EAST in 2007).
St. John's previously announced that the Red Storm will participate in the 2011 2K Sports Classic, a 12-team event where the Red Storm, Arizona, Texas A&M and Mississippi State host regional round games from Nov. 7-11. The four hosts then advance to the Championship Rounds, Nov. 17-18, at Madison Square Garden. Championship round tickets may be purchased by calling Ticketmaster at 866-448-7849 or through Ticketmaster.com.
The first year of The Lavin Era included a 21-12 overall record in 2010-11, marking St. John's most wins since the 2002-03 season, with six Top 25 victories and four over Top 10 opponents. The USBWA District II Coach of the Year, Lavin transformed a team that finished in 13th place in the BIG EAST Conference last season at 6-12 to a squad that tied for third this year at 12-6 - only twice before has a jump of such magnitude occurred in BIG EAST Conference history. The Red Storm finished its season ranked 18th in the Associated Press Top 25, marking the first time it qualified for the postseason as a ranked team since 2000-01.
The 2011-12 St. John's squad will be the youngest in 104 years on the hardwood, and will rank among the youngest in NCAA Division I history. With two returning scholarship letterwinners (one junior, one sophomore), the Red Storm will feature at least nine newcomers, a group comprised of seven freshmen, one sophomore and one junior. STJ will look to its highly-rated 2011-12 recruiting class to assist in replacing 89.8 percent of its scoring and 90.2 percent of its rebounding in the coming season.
Fans can visit RedStormTix.com to request 2011-12 season ticket information, which will be available this summer. Fans can join the Red White Club by visiting RedStormSports.com and clicking on the link to "Giving" to visit the all-new Red White website.