After a few days of waiting on the results of a late-season swoon, the result is in: St. John’s has made the NCAA Tournament.
The Red Storm are slotted into the 11 seed play-in game, and will play in Dayton against Arizona State on Wednesday, in the late game at 9:10. If they win, they will face the tough Buffalo Bulls in Tulsa on Friday.
The Johnnies, 21-12 on the season and 8-10 in the Big East, did not make the choice easy. Despite reaching a high of #24 in the AP rankings, the Red Storm hit struggles, with nagging injuries taking out Mustapha Heron for three games, Shamorie Ponds for one, and limiting Justin Simon on one.
Three straight losses to teams whose statistical profiles placed them at the bottom of the standings (along with their records) cast doubt on whether the Red Storm were worthy. Lackluster play and surprising second half whippings recently threw shade on the Johnnies’ talent and coaching staff.
A revenge-flavored beatdown to Marquette didn’t help matters, either.
About six minutes after six, CBS flashed the play-in game in Dayton, feeding into Jacksonville on Thursday — Belmont and Temple, two teams thought to be on the wrong side of the bubble.
But the Johnnies really made the NCAA Tournament in Chris Mullin’s fourth year... as the last team in.
And the wait would have been less painful if St. John’s, of course, did not suffer from very poor officiating in their first Big East game.
While some may think that sour grapes, note that we are not talking about actual officiating decisions, such as not calling a touch foul on a player at the end of a game. A Big East official called a ball out while the ball and player were well in the air. That non-turnover, in the last five seconds, led to a Seton Hall game-winning shot.
Still, the Johnnies had many chances in a good, but even, Big East. And they did not rise to the occasion against team with multiple big man options who could score and rebound on the offensive end.
The Johnnies could have beaten Georgetown a second time, or gotten a win out of six games against Providence, Xavier and DePaul in the regular season.
With all that said, a new season is upon us.
The Red Storm have new life, and a chance to show out on the major stage of college basketball.
St. John’s has reached three NCAA Tournaments in the 18 seasons since Bootsy Thonrton and coach Mike Jarvis got the team to the second round.
The Johnnies have not won a game in the Tournament in any of those three tries -- on under Jarvis, and two under Steve Lavin.
This team may have flaws, especially late in the season, but perhaps this is the unorthodox squad that can make a run?
UPDATE: Apparently missing players for key games was a possible factor for inclusion.
Vice-chair of the NCAA Selection Committee, Kevin White, explains how the group came to the conclusion of putting St. John's in as the final team and leaving UNC Greensboro out as the first team out of the NCAA Tournament. pic.twitter.com/uQDGTGomdv— CBS Sports Network (@CBSSportsNet) March 17, 2019