After a one-and-done loss to Marquette in the Big East tournament, the Red Storm’s postseason hopes hung in the balance for more than a week.
Waiting, despite a season-defining road win over UConn, two key home wins over Creighton and Marquette, the lack of a Quad 3 or Quad 4 loss, and a NET ranking within the top 60. Was that all enough to make up for the team’s very soft non-conference schedule to clinch an invite to the Big Dance?
“It was awful,” the Big East Coach of the Year quipped during media availability on Monday, “You’re yelling at teams you don’t even coach and players you don’t even know… My son was asking me every minute, ‘are we going to get picked’?”
Rest assured for Tartamella and his squad, the Red Storm were named one of the last teams in the field of 68 on Selection Sunday, as they are scheduled to face the Purdue Boilermakers in the 11-seed play-in game tonight night. This will be the team’s first tournament appearance since 2016 and they will seek their first tournament win since 2012.
NCAA First Four: St. John’s (22-8, 13-7 Big East) vs Purdue (19-10, 9-8 Big Ten)
Time: 7:00 PM
Watch on: ESPN 2
Also read: Rumble Q&A with Hammer and Rails, the Purdue site
After a disappointing 12-19 season which resulted in the transfer of leading scorer Leilani Correa to Florida, Joe Tartamella had to go back to the drawing board and he managed to pull off a coup in the transfer portal.
“We hit three home runs in the portal,” Tartamella said.
Pitt transfer Jayla Everett became the efficient team-leading scorer the Red Storm needed, Georgetown transfer Jillian Archer formed a formidable paint tandem with the returning Rayven Peeples, and Ole Miss transfer Mimi Reid made her homecoming and became a unifying playmaking presence for this completely-transformed team. They also saw improvements from returning players like Kadaja Bailey, Unique Drake, and Danielle Patterson, who also saw jumps in shooting efficiency from each level.
The players have noticed a stark mentality shift this season. “Everybody is on the same page and we all want the main thing, which is to win”, Kadaja Bailey said.
The team enjoyed their shocking upset victory over UConn, but quickly shifted focus to the remainder of the season the night after, with Danielle Patterson saying the team maintained a “next game up” mentality.
“Once we beat [UConn], we moved onto the next team and we continued taking care of business,” the Indiana transfer said, “That’s the way we attack every game, win, lose, or draw, and that is how we will attack March.”
Thursday’s game against Purdue will be live on ESPN2 at 7:00pm at the Schottenstein Center on the campus of Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio, with the winner scheduled to face 6-seeded North Carolina in the Round of 64.