Prior to the start of the season, many of college basketball’s most accomplished analysts projected that head coach Steve Lavin and the St. John’s Red Storm were due to make some serious noise in the new-look Big East. Despite failing to make the NCAA tournament in 2012-13, an opening-round win over Saint Joseph’s in the NIT helped to ease the pain brought on by an 8-10 finish in the conference and a mediocre 17-16 mark overall.
But with the upcoming arrival of Philadelphia high school standout Rysheed Jordan due in the fall and a promising group of players returning, the Johnnies were expected to be dancing in March.
Beginning with a loss to the Wisconsin Badgers to start the season however, the Red Storm have consistently played well below expectations. Unless Lavin and company manage to make a seriously deep run in the Big East Conference tournament this week, SJU won’t have to worry about ”selection Sunday”.
With the Big East in the midst of the restructuring process, the conference isn’t expected to send more than a few teams to the NCAA tournament this year. But regardless of their surroundings, the Red Storm still weren’t able to separate themselves from their often-pedestrian opponents.
Outside of SJU’s 70-65 win over the then,12th-ranked Creighton Blue Jays on February 9, the Red Storm have posted a horrible 1-5 record against top-25 teams this season. When the Johnnies did manage to get on the right track and win nine of 10 games during Big East play, a pair of missed opportunities against the Villanova Wildcats and Xavier Musketeers knocked them back off the bubble.
Led by junior guard D’Angelo Harrison who averages 17.6 PPG, the Red Storm ended a two-game slide last Saturday with a double overtime victory on the road against the Marquette Golden Eagles, and are scheduled to face the Providence Friars in the opening round of the conference tournament on Wednesday.
In two games against the Friars the season, St. John’s owns a respectable 1-1 record. But there have been some fireworks between these two. In the first meeting, the Friars outlasted the Red Storm 84-83 in double overtime on the road. A little more than two weeks later however, the Johnnies got their revenge in the form of a 10-point win.
Heading into the postseason, St. John’s will once again take the floor of their part-time home at Madison Square Garden needing a miracle. If they do in fact defeat the Friars, the winner of the Villanova-Seton Hall/Butler game awaits them. But if things go as expected, a return to the NIT will be the Red Storm’s best-case scenario.