The Daily Sweat: Rick Pitino is set to make his St. John's debut

Rick Pitino is back in major college basketball.

It’s been a circuitous route for the 71-year-old Pitino, whose time at Louisville ended in scandal back in 2017, leading to a multi-year stint in Greece and three seasons at Iona before he landed at St. John’s.

It’s a homecoming in multiple ways for Pitino, a two-time national champion-winning head coach. Not only is Pitino back in the Big East, the conference where he made a name for himself in the '80s, but he’s back home in New York. His arrival has brought a ton of buzz to a St. John’s program that has been mired in mediocrity for decades. St. John’s has played in the NCAA tournament only once in the past eight seasons.

Pitino is out to change that, and do so quickly. Once Pitino arrived at St. John’s in March following Iona’s exit from the NCAA tournament, he hit the ground running to reconfigure the Red Storm’s roster.

Pitino retained big man Joel Soriano, brought several players with him from Iona, signed a few prized freshmen and hit the transfer portal hard, adding the two leading scorers from the Ivy League — Jordan Dingle from Penn and Chris Ledlum from Harvard — and several other proven high-major contributors. That group will make its debut with Pitino at the helm Tuesday when St. John’s hosts Stony Brook.

St. John’s is an 18.5-point favorite at BetMGM with the total listed at 146.5. Stony Brook was a consistent contender in the America East Conference but is now entering its first season as a member of the CAA.

How quickly will this brand new team be able to assimilate? The Big East is loaded again this year, especially with defending national champion UConn returning so much talent. Marquette, Creighton and Villanova also look poised for big seasons.

And with a game vs. Michigan next week, St. John’s would be served well by a fast start in the season opener.

St. John's coach Rick Pitino speaks during the Big East NCAA college basketball media day, Tuesday, Oct. 24, 2023, at Madison Square Garden in New York. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)
St. John's coach Rick Pitino speaks during Big East NCAA Media Day on Oct. 24, 2023, at Madison Square Garden in New York. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)

What else is going on in college basketball?

We saw No. 4 Michigan State fall at home to James Madison on Monday night as the college basketball season began. Could there be another big upset in store on Tuesday?

Aside from Pitino’s debut at St. John’s, the most notable game of the night is No. 20 Baylor and Auburn meeting at a neutral site in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Baylor won the national title back in 2021 but is coming off consecutive Round of 32 exits in the NCAA tournament. Auburn won the SEC in 2022 but took a bit of a step back last season.

Baylor is a 1.5-point favorite at BetMGM with the total listed at 147.5.

Other games to keep an eye on include Indiana (-11.5) hosting Florida Gulf Coast, Michigan (-10.5) hosting UNC Asheville and Georgetown (-19.5) hosting Le Moyne in Ed Cooley’s debut as the Hoyas’ head coach.

Tuesday night MACtion

In college football, there are three MAC games on the schedule. And that includes two rivalry games.

Central Michigan (5-4, 3-2 MAC) can clinch bowl eligibility with a road win over Western Michigan (3-6, 2-3), but the Chippewas are three-point underdogs with the Victory Cannon on the line.

Over in DeKalb, it’s the battle for the Bronze Stalk as Northern Illinois (4-5, 3-2) hosts Ball State (2-7, 1-4). NIU is favored by 9.5 points at BetMGM.

Additionally, Ohio (6-3, 3-2) is a seven-point road favorite over Buffalo (3-6, 3-2). Ohio is now a game behind Miami (Ohio) in the MAC East after losing to the RedHawks last week.

10 games in the NHL

There are 10 games on the NHL schedule for Tuesday, including the red-hot Anaheim Ducks in action against the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Ducks, after a 1-4 start to the season, have won six straight but are +135 home underdogs vs. Pittsburgh (-160).

Elsewhere, the Colorado Avalanche are -175 home favorites over the New Jersey Devils (+145), who have won four of their last five. There’s also a nice Eastern Conference meeting between the New York Rangers and Detroit Red Wings. The Rangers are -160 favorites while Detroit is +135.