A strong beginning has become an anxious end of the regular season, as the Red Storm struggle to get over the final hump to make it back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in four years.
St. John’s sits at 8-9 in Big East Play, good for 5th in a Big East conference that has been up for grabs all season.
The league has eight teams with between six to eight wins in league play, including St. John’s.
On the upside, the Red Storm have netted half of their eight conference wins against teams ranked in the top-3 of the conference. Those wins have kept the Red Storm in the NCAA Tournament conversation. But the Johnnies have gone 4-7 against teams ranked 4th-10th in the conference.
That inconsistency has led St. John’s up to the AP Poll and all the way down the edges of the NCAA bubble.
One thing is for certain: St. John’s will be a tournament team this year.
Though it might be the NIT.
The 12-0 start, and being one of the last 6 teams in the nation without a loss, grabbed attention. The Red Storm completed a season sweep of top-10 Marquette, a 1-1 split with reigning champs and top-25 Villanova, along with wins against VCU a solid Bowling Green team, and the ACC’s Georgia Tech.
But losses against Providence (twice), DePaul (twice) and other teams have brought the Red Storm to the last set of at-larges, possibly needing to play the play-in game in Dayton, per SB Nation’s Bracketology.
On the upside, the Red Storm’s case is stronger than a number of other Big East teams at this point. That said, some teams have multiple opportunities for quality wins this week, while St. John’s only has a road chance at Xavier. are games to be played this week.
The Red Storm don’t need a Big East Championship to make the NCAA Tournament. Winning at Xavier and winning at least one game in the Big East tournament would leave St. John’s at 22-11, strong enough to make the tournament.
Even one win in the Big East Tournament should be enough for the Johnnies (but Selection Sunday will be stressful).
But given the recent struggles — giving up 75 free throw attempts to 33 from the Johnnies, difficulties defending in the paint, trouble defending outside the arc, giving up 84 and 92 points — where is the hope going to come from?