USA TODAY Sports
St. John's has a tough stretch coming, and can't afford to split the games if the team wants to reach the NCAA Tournament.
The loss to Syracuse didn't crush the St. John's Red Storm's dreams of making the NCAA Tournament - but a win would have certainly helped.
Steve Lavin's club is 15-9, 7-5 after the loss in Syracuse, but still thinking of tournament. Per Real Time RPI, the Red Storm's RPI is ranked 55th - just under Baylor - with the 21st ranked strength of schedule.
The fact that fans can realistically talk about the bubble is a positive, considering last year's 13 win season. Despite the talent, the team is young, and to Coach Steve Lavin, the growth and potential is coming.
"The tone I always set is the deliberate, incremental approach" he said before the Syracuse game. "They are a young team, and I don’t want to change the fact that they are who they are. We recruited a very special group. We know we’re young and have a long way to go."
The Red Storm might be in the mud that is the middle of the Big East standings, but they have chances to slip into the Tournament.
That SOS helps, but most pundits think the Red Storm have only played their way to the "under consideration" group, not the true bubble, where upsets in places like, say, Conference USA* will take an at-large spot from a bubble team.
What they're saying
Currently, Andy Glockner of Sports Illustrated has the Red Storm in, but Jerry Palm of CBS, Chris Dobbertean of Blogging the Bracket, and Joe Lunardi of ESPN has them in varying degrees of "close, but not in."
Blogging the Bracket has St. John's in the first four out group just after the last four in, aka the Tuesday/ Wednesday play-in game, with Arizona State, Virginia, and Boise State. The last four teams in are Baylor, Temple, Villanova, and St. Mary's. Note that St. John's has lost to two of those teams.
Jerry Palm's grouping at CBS has the Johnnies in the "first four out" with Arizona State, Stanford, and Wyoming; his last four in are Indiana State, Iowa State, St. Mary's, Baylor.
Joe Lunardi's Bracketology ($) has Arizona State, Stanford, St. John's, and Villanova as the last four out. His last four in? LaSalle, St. Mary's, Temple, and Virginia.
For what it's worth, he gives odds of a 35% chance of the Johnnies making the field. (What do odds mean here? It either happens or it doesn't, and it's impossible to tell the veracity of these odds. Did I just nerd out for a second. I'm sorry, all.)
Andy Glockner's more positive, listing the Red Storm as firmly in the tournament with an 11 seed. All the other projections would have them hoping to get into the "First Four" play-in game or "Opening Round". In his words, "if they can't get [the road game against Louisville Cardinals], there are still some chances left, but (in soccer parlance) they'd be leaving things late."
What this means
St. John's has six games left. Every game is pivotal, given the "bad losses" the team has to UNC-Asheville (152 in the RPI) and San Francisco (130 in the RPI). Losing to now-scuffling Rutgers doesn't help, either. The Red Storm need a surprising win, maybe two, to get on the good side of the conversation.
Currently, they are projected to be favored only against the league's worst offense and last-place team South Florida at home; Providence (away) and Marquette (at home to end the season) should be projected to be close matchups. Notre Dame is a different animal at home, and Pittsburgh will likely be called "streaking" if they keep up their run of excellent play after winning seven of their last eight.
A win over Louisville would be very helpful; as would a victory in the Garden over Pitt. Barring those, St. John's likely needs to win four of those last six. Just to be safe, a win in the Big East Tournament for good measure would be helpful.
That's a tough road; Notre Dame will be looking for revenge, and Marquette is 8-3 and certainly tough. A loss to Providence would be harmful, but not out of the question in Rhode Island; the Friars had solid wins over Cincinnati and Villanova last week.
*Southern Mississippi could be in or on the bubble, but if Memphis - a lock NCAA team - slips in their conference tournament, that allows another CUSA team in, knocking a team like St. John's off the bubble.