Steve Lavin of the St. John's Red Storm talks to...

Steve Lavin of the St. John's Red Storm talks to his players against the Villanova Wildcats during the second round of the 2013 Big East Championship at Madison Square Garden. (March 13, 2013) Credit: Jim McIsaac

St. John’s return to the national college basketball scene could take a big step this season with a challenging non-conference schedule, released Tuesday by coach Steve Lavin.

The Red Storm’s non-conference slate includes games against power conference teams Wisconsin, Penn State, Syracuse and a possible matchup with Mississippi or Georgia Tech.

Other non-conference opponents for St. John’s, which advanced to the second round of the NIT, include Youngstown State, Bucknell, Monmouth, Wagner, Longwood and Columbia.

St. John’s will also face Fordham at MSG as part of the Holiday Festival and San Francisco at Carnesecca Arena. The Red Storm’s final non-conference game will be a home contest against Dartmouth on Jan. 18.

Bucknell, Mississippi, Syracuse and Wisconsin all qualified for the NCAA Tournament last season.

Said Lavin: “At the dawn of a new era for the Big East, our squad will face a rigorous non-conference schedule. We will travel to meet Bo Ryan’s Wisconsin Badgers, and host a slate of formidable opponents including Syracuse.

“Our Johnnies will play at Madison Square Garden, Carnesecca Arena and the Barclays Center. Once again our non-conference schedule showcases all of the prominent venues in New York City, and gives our fans the chance to support our team in the boroughs of Queens, Brooklyn and of course, at The World’s Most Famous Arena in midtown Manhattan.”

The Red Storm will open play with two campus games as part of the Barclays Center Classic versus Monmouth and Wagner.

Their tilt with Penn State on Nov. 29 is part of the Barclays Center Classic. St. John’s plays the Nittany Lions in the second game and will face either Georgia Tech or Mississippi on Nov. 30.

St. John’s and Syracuse have continued their rivalry and will square off at Madison Square Garden on Dec. 15.

The Red Storm will face local rival Columbia in the first game of the Brooklyn Hoops Winter Festival at the Barclays Center on Dec. 28. The event includes Kansas State against Tulane and VCU versus Boston College.

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