St. John's expects to combine a veteran roster and a freshman star into a breakout season

Optimism is always high around college basketball programs this time of the year.

Not a loss, yet. Recruits still are rated according to their high school exploits.

At St. John's, the smiles are much wider than the last two seasons and the answer to the most-asked question comes quickly and sincerely.

"This is our year," junior point guard Jamal Branch said Thursday at the team's media day when asked to assess the upcoming season. "Not making the NCAA tournament, not making a run in the NCAA tournament, would mean we weren't successful and this team's too good for that."

Branch is one nine players returning from last season's 10-man rotation that went 17-16 and played in the NIT. Add in two offensive-oriented redshirt transfers and the future is brighter.

Add highly regarded freshman point guard Rysheed Jordan and it's time to hand out sunglasses.