St. John's women back in NCAA Tournament, to face Dayton at Carnesecca Arena

USA TODAY Sports

The Lady Johnnies are headed back to the Big Dance under first-year coach Joe Tartamella.

The St. John's women's basketball squad is headed back to the NCAA Tournament, and won't have to travel very far to do it.

The Red Storm (18-12, 11-5 Big East) was selected to its fourth consecutive Big Dance on Monday. First year head coach Joe Tartamella's team is the 10-seed in the Bridgeport (CT) region and is set to face the Dayton Flyers on Sunday afternoon at 2:30.

The game will be held in Queens on the Johnnies' home court at Carnesecca Arena. St. John's is hosting the first and second rounds of the tournament, as 2-seed Kentucky will take on Navy before the Red Storm's tilt with Dayton.

Last season, St. John's defeated Oklahoma in the second round to advance to its first Sweet Sixteen in program history. Former head coach Kim Barnes Arico left to take the same job at the University of Michigan, and her assistant Tartamella has done a nice job transitioning the program into its next era despite losing one of his key senior guards in Eugena McPherson to a season-ending knee injury.

The Red Storm won one game in last week's Big East Tournament, defeating Seton Hall before falling to Louisville in the quarterfinals.

Seniors Shenneika Smith (16.7 points per game) and Nadirah McKenith (12.9) will give it one last ride before graduating this May. Freshman guard Aliyyah Handford averaged 9.2 points in the Red Storm's 30 games, and will serve as an important factor if Tartamella's squad hopes to make a surprise run.

With an 18-12 record, there was some doubt as to whether the Johnnies' profile was strong enough to warrant an NCAA selection. As the team's name was called on Monday, jubilation dominated at the Storm's viewing party at a local Dave & Buster's.

The UConn Huskies are the top seed in the Bridgeport region. Top overall seed Baylor, Notre Dame, and Stanford make up the other 1-seeds.

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