Focus turns to Pitino’s bunch: Johnnies will face yet another ranked foe with or without Lavin

The St. John’s men’s basketball team will head down to Kentucky tomorrow to face No. 12 Louisville for the latter game of a back-to-back road trip against ranked opponents, and are hoping to celebrate Valentine’s Day with something everybody loves – winning.

The Red Storm are looking to bounce back from a blowout loss to No. 9 Syracuse on Sunday, falling 77-58.

St. John’s was without head coach Steve Lavin against the Orange, as his father Cap had passed away the night before, and it was clear that other members of the staff were affected as well.

Assistant coach Rico Hines was left in charge, but was understandably more focused on the loss of a legend than his team’s struggles.

“What a tough way to come out and be a head coach for the first time, huh? Losing Cap is a big blow,” Hines told reporters. “He was an ambassador of the game. He loved the game of basketball. My heart was heavy all day. It was a tough day.”

Lavin will not be traveling to Louisville. For more information:

The well-rounded Cardinals, coached by Rick Pitino, recently had their three-game win steak snapped by No. 25 Notre Dame on Saturday in a game that took five overtimes to decide.

Louisville is led by junior guard Russ Smith, nicknamed “Russdiculous” for his combined ability to create inconceivable shots and his habit of making
questionable plays.

Pitino’s team can score, rebound, pass and defend as efficiently as almost any team in the country, but like their best player showed in their loss to the Irish, the Cardinals have displayed a tendency to play down to their opponent.

Although they dropped their last game to Syracuse, St. John’s has won six of their last eight contests.

Five of the Red Storm’s final seven opponents are currently ranked, so if St. John’s wants an NCAA Tournament bid, a win against a Louisville could send them on the fast track to the big dance.