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NCAA Tournament 2015: #9 St. John's vs #8 San Diego State, in the papers

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Media roundup of articles from the St. John's media session and open practice in Charlotte, NC.

Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

A look at what the media and players are saying prior to tonight's NCAA Tournament opener matchup between San Diego State and St. John's, the 8/9 matchup. It's win-or-go-home time.... and the winner faces monstrous #1 seed Duke.

The Red Storm play tonight around 9:40 PM Eastern time - dependent on the previous game's end - on CBS against the talent and size of San Diego State. Check out the Rumble preview and breakdown of St. John's and San Diego State, and come back for tonight's game thread!

Quotes, notes, and media links

From the Red Storm Official Site:

Steve Lavin: "Sometimes the first day of the tournament is chalk, and then the upsets start the second day. This appears to be one of those tournaments where the upsets begin right out of the gate. A No. 3 or a No. 14 doesn't mean much if a team does not bring the necessary level of effort and execution that gives a team the opportunity to be successful. When you get to the tournament, there are no guarantees, but you want the percentages, the probabilities, to be in your favor because of the way you prepare and play."

"We are going to come out with a lot of energy," said Phil Greene IV. "We are going to live in the moment. When the ball goes up, it's anyone's game. We are going to come ready and prepared."

"Experience does matter, and yet, we've seen time and time again an upstart program that goes on a run and knocks off a traditional powerhouse. In my personal experience, our teams that advanced to the second weekends of play were senior laden. With the exception of 2011, the few times we did not advance, we were young. " - Steve Lavin

NY Post // After 2 years of silence, St. John’s Rysheed Jordan finally speaks

It’s been an up-and-down two years for the 6-foot-4 Jordan, who arrived as the No. 1-ranked high school point guard in the country. There have been flashes of brilliance, but also moments of underwhelming, turnover-prone play.

He has lost three people close to him, been suspended for one game, his mother, Amina Robinson, has been ill, and earlier this season he took a four-day leave of absence. He also was disciplined this season for a homophobic tweet. Then there was the odd media ban, up until Thursday.

Jordan had no issue with it.

"I think it’s been a good idea because I’ve been going through a lot, so let my team just do the talking," he said.

Since returning from a four-day leave of absence, Jordan’s play has been impressive. He’s averaging 14.3 points and 3.1 assists on the season, but in the last 17 games, he’s reached double figures 14 times and has cut down on his turnovers while increasing his assist totals.

Newsday // St. John's Rysheed Jordan talks to media for the first time all season - Newsday

Under NCAA rules, St. John's coach Steve Lavin had to make all of his players available to the media, and for Jordan, that meant his first news conference with the New York and national media Thursday because the coach previously kept him off-limits, ostensibly to focus on basketball and his classwork.

So the novelty of an NCAA appearance for the five seniors on stage with Jordan was overshadowed by the attention paid to the sophomore point guard before St. John's (21-11) faces Mountain West Conference regular-season champion San Diego State (26-8) Friday night.

Will he be with St. John's after this season or possibly declare for the NBA draft? "Right now, I'm not focused on that," Jordan said. "I'm focused on today's practice and tomorrow's game."

NY Daily News // St. John's small seniors ready to come up big in Tournament

St. John’s coach Steve Lavin said he liked the idea of playing the last game on Friday’s docket here because it would give the Johnnies a chance to feel what it’s like being in the tournament before walking on the court.

"We saw the teams that weren’t ready and the teams that were ready, and it’s good to see that feeling before tomorrow so we know we need to come out ready or anything is possible," Branch said.

The Storm’s six-man rotation was pared by one when center Chris Obekpa was suspended for a positive drug test on Sunday. The 6-6 Pointer is likely to play center with four guards which should make for an interesting matchup against the Aztecs. SDSU starts guard Akeel Quinn with four forwards. The Johnnies are at their best when they convert turnovers to fast break points and will be looking to exploit the Aztecs’ lack of ball handlers.

NY Post // Everything about today’s game has major meaning for St. John’s

...much more than a victory will be at stake:

The legacy of this senior class, the future of coach Steve Lavin and the overall direction of the program.

The senior trio of D’Angelo Harrison, Phil Greene IV and Sir’Dominic Pointer is all that is left of the third-ranked recruiting class Lavin brought to Queens four years ago. They have done a lot of good for St. John’s, compiling a career record of 71-59, reaching the postseason the past three years, all 1,000-point scorers. But they also have a career postseason mark of 1-6, are 4-11 in March, did not win a Big East Tournament game and are in their first NCAA Tournament.

Then there is Lavin, in the fifth year of a six-year contract. St. John’s has declined to comment on his contract situation, other than to say he will be evaluated when the season comes to a close.

Lavin has led St. John’s to a pair of NCAA bids in five years — the school had gone nine years without one before his arrival — but he also has an underwhelming 2-7 postseason record. He earmarked 2015 as a key recruiting year, yet he only has one impact recruit at the moment, and could lose his top six players.

Sources told The Post this weekend could determine Lavin’s future.

NY Times // St. John’s Will Be Short-Handed Against San Diego State

The Red Storm (21-11) will play without starting center Chris Obekpa, who was suspended for two weeks for violating team rules after reportedly failing a drug test. Obekpa averaged 3.1 blocks per game, fifth best in Division I, along with 5.8 points and 7 rebounds for St. John’s.

"It’s less than ideal to not have Chris Obekpa’s services for the N.C.A.A. tournament," Lavin said Thursday.

"Yet this group over the past three years has had a number of stretches where we’ve had to play without Chris and have been successful. So whether it was through foul trouble, being disqualified from a game or fouling out or a number of injures that he’s endured, this team has found a way to offset the loss of Chris in games and stretches of the season and still been successful."

Sporting News // Veteran group finally leads St. John's back to NCAA Tournament

But that success in 2011 was part of what many thought would be the first of a series of March successes, especially because that year's recruiting class included current seniors D’Angelo Harrison, Sir’Dominic Pointer and Phil Greene.

Instead, the Johnnies haven’t been back until now.

"I’m excited," Harrison told Sporting News on Thursday. "I just want to go out on the highest note possible."

Their opponent, San Diego State, is a bit more familiar with the NCAA Tournament experience. A lot more familiar, actually. Nine Aztecs have played in at least one NCAA Tournament game, for a combined total of 28 contests.

Queens Chronicle // Storm Warning

A gifted scorer in high school, [D`Angelo Harrison] came to Queens as an immature kid with a poor attitude. That attitude eventually got him suspended his sophomore year, leaving his future with the school in doubt.

But he cleaned up his act and morphed into a better leader, player and person than many could have hoped.

Harrison sits third on the school’s all-time scoring list, has two First Team All-Big East selections to his name and is universally loved by St. John’s fans.

Upon hearing his name finally called after four years of trials and tribulations, all Harrison could do was put his head down and quietly pump his fist.

AP // St. John's looks to slow San Diego State without Obekpa

[Factors for San Diego State]

ERRATIC SHOOTING: What scares Fisher the most heading into the tournament is the Aztecs penchant for erratic shooting. "We've had games where you would say they can play and beat anybody," Fisher said. "We have had others where you would say they would not qualify for a good CYO team offensively. ... We scored 43 points in our final game in the Mountain West conference tournament. That won't win for you."

UT San Diego // SDSU vs. St. John's: Will experience matter?

The Aztecs looked the [experienced] part Thursday, showing up on time for the press conference, calmly answering questions, not saying anything remotely inflammatory, then taking the floor for the public practice, knowing not to grab the balls out of the rack before the horn sounds, knowing to stand behind the NCAA logo at center court when taking the team photo.

A business trip.

St. John’s showed up late to the press conference and started without Sir’Dominic Pointer, who arrived a few minutes later. After their practice, several players took a detour from the locker room to the bus and returned to the floor to snap pictures – making snow angles on the NCAA logo, posing in front of the basket, mugging for their teammates – while blissfully ignoring an assistant coach who screaming: "Let’s gooooo. We … have … to … go! Now!"

Tourists at the Eiffel Tower.

ESPN Insider // Hottest and Coldest teams entering 2015 NCAA Tournament

Here are the 10 coldest teams in the field of 68:

....

8. St. John's Red Storm

The Johnnies started the season 11-1, but since conference play began Steve Lavin's team has gone just 10-9. SJU was bounced out of the Big East tournament 64-47 by Providence, and now comes news that junior center Chris Obekpa has been suspended for two weeks due to a violation of team rules. This is not what Lavin had in mind in terms of peaking at the right time.