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Steve Lavin's positivity powers St. John's into postseason play; is there one more late surge?

The team has rode through tough stretches of the season; can Lavin's famous (or infamous?) positivity generate one more surge from the senior-laden Red Storm?

Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

St. John's waits for the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee to make its selection and seeding decisions - and make no mistake, St. John's is a near-lock to be included. But the team also spends these days waiting, licking collective wounds from a pair of lopsided losses against Villanova and Providence.

Some fans and some coaches would respond to two losses like that with anger and nastiness, would aim their anger at the players who won't execute [Bobby Knight VIDEO LINK].

Not Steve Lavin, who turned some of the heat on himself, going so far as to call himself "a poor conference tournament coach" after the loss to Providence on Thursday afternoon.

Lavin's postgame tactics all season have tended toward the positive, stressing his mantra of incremental progress. A player's coach, Lavin has worked to maintain a focus toward playing loose basketball and maintaining a positive mindset in his players, even as the ominous "coach will be evaluated after the season" talk looms.

At the start of the calendar year, St. John's was 11-1 to start the season, an undersized, veteran engine that could. Despite the obvious issues with depth, the team defeated Syracuse in the Dome and came within three possessions of the Gonzaga Bulldogs, one of the nation's best and most consistent teams.

Then the bottom fell out. The Johnnies simply could not play defense, falling to a pair of surprisingly good squads in Seton Hall and Butler and then to Villanova.

But despite the 0-3 start, despite starting February 3-5 in the league, despite falling to the bottom of the league table, Lavin's team came back to become an NCAA Tournament team.

The one constant: Steve Lavin's positivity. When Rysheed Jordan left the team for personal circumstances (sources say it was more than the passing of his grandmother) and St. John's fell to Butler, he said the team "performed well". And he even found silver linings even in the worst of the losses, a road loss to Creighton. From our postgame:

All seems to be going wrong for St. John's. But head coach Steve Lavin remains positive. He knows it's important that his veteran squad keeps their heads high and build on the things the team has done well with plenty of time left in the season.

"It was a hard fought affair at Creighton," Lavin said. "We did some things well offensively. We had some balance and only had 8 turnovers. We rebounded as well as we have had in 2 weeks."

Or after the win over Providence, where St. John's was still in the bottom half of the standings:

"All along, I've really liked this basketball team," Lavin said following the game on Saturday. "To the start, to the middle, and to where we are now, I've never come off being bold on what a special group this is. This is maybe the best company in my coaching career. I really like the character of this group."

Saying consistency one of his keys for his teams, Lavin has, despite the recent losses, guided a turnaround by keeping his players focused on the goal. A team of seniors with professional aspirations (mostly outside of the NBA), the Red Storm players could have become shot-jacking, highlight-seeking players. They could have abandoned the team concept for selfish play.

But they haven't. Instead, the Johnnies circled the wagons after early ineligibility issues and issues with defense and depth, becoming a team that shoots three-pointers and gets those shots in transition or early offense.

Make no mistake - a full accounting is coming for Steve Lavin, with a year left on his contract - it's hard to recruit as a coach as a lame duck, with no guarantee of next season. So there will be a balancing his progress, recruiting hits, and ability to generate interest in St. John's basketball against the team's falling short of some expectations, recruiting misses, and erratic play.

Positivity and swagger alone does not win postseason games.

But this week, be positive that the Johnnies will refocus and try to grab wins in the senior-laden squad's first taste of the NCAA Tournament.