The St. John’s Red Storm head into the Big East Tournament Thursday with anything but a NCAA Tournament bid locked up. After a rough 0-5 start to the Big East slate, the Johnnies turned their season around dramatically to even be in the discussion of the Big Dance. The Red Storm went 10-3 the rest of the way to finish 10-8 in the Big East and 20-11 overall.
Is 20 wins enough? Not a chance, especially since they only won one game against a ranked team, beating Creighton on Feb. 9th. Steve Lavin’s crew has some work to do, but how deep do they need to go in the Big East Tourny to get in? They will take on Providence Thursday at 2:30 at Madison Square Garden. A win against the Friars should get the Johnnies in, but they will still be crossing their fingers come 6:00pm Sunday when the field of 68 is announced. Winning Thursday and then beating the no.1 seeded Villanova Wildcats Friday would lock them in to an at-large bid on Selection Sunday.
The question is whether one win will get the Red Storm to go dancing. With a RPI of 56 and a strength of schedule of 47, a win over a Providence team that is also 20-11 and a RPI of 54 should get St. John's in. That would mean this game Thursday could be a win-and-in game for both teams. The Johnnies come into their conference tournament believing in themselves, especially since they get to play on their homecourt. They have the size, athleticism, defense, and head coach to propel them to a deep run, but they can be inconsistent on the offensive end. The key for Lavin will be to get his team forcing turnovers and leading the fast break. This team plays hard defense and leads NCAA in blocks per game.
D’Angelo Harrison will have to lead the way for the Red Storm Thursday in essentially a win or go home game at MSG. They will have the crowd behind them in what should be an electric atmosphere at the World’s Most Famous Arena. A lot could ride on the play of freshman guard Rysheed Jordan, who was pivotal in their double overtime win against Marquette on the road to close out the regular season. This team has all the intangibles to go out and win this conference tournament, but the chance to go dancin’ begins with a win over a dangerous Providence squad, led by their talented senior guard Bryce Cotton. Expect a battle until the final buzzer sounds in a crucial Big East battle with a spot on the coveted bracket on the line.