I’m willing to bet a Manchester United jersey that I’m the lone sports editor in the history of the Torch that finds more joy covering men’s soccer than men’s basketball. No offense, coach Lavin, but soccer is my passion. While you were up late studying film from the Louisville game, I was YouTubing Zinedine Zidane highlight videos.
For most, this time of year signals the beginning of March Madness – for me, it’s a sign that I better gear up for some riveting Champions League football!
However, because I’m trying keep pace with @Kieran_Lynch and @Mike_Cunniff’s prowess at dissecting the college game, I’m going to put my love affair with the beautiful game on pause for 15 minutes, channel my inner Jay Bilas and explain to you how the St. John’s basketball team will be dancing come March.
Lavin and co. have five regular season games left this season. They’re home to South Florida and Pittsburgh before taking a two-game road trip to face Providence and Notre Dame, before returning home to battle Marquette in their season finale.
Before I get to my predictions, take note that since 1982, members of the Big East conference with 17 wins (post-tournament) made the NCAA Tournament 80% of the time, teams with 18 wins made it 85% of the time, teams with 19 wins made it 91% of the time and teams with 20 wins made it 97% of the time.
The Johnnies currently have a 15-10 record. That means they’re two wins away from an 80% chance of going dancing. However, for argument’s sake, we’re going to say that Lavin will need to guide his squad to three more regular season wins (a total of 18) in order to get that coveted bid we’re all so dearly wishing for.
If they enter the Big East tournament with 18 wins, we have good reason to believe the Johnnies will be heading into Selection Sunday with 19 wins, as they’re more than capable of beating Cincinnati, who, as of right now, would be the team they would face first.
Now, let’s get to my predictions. Tonight’s game against USF will, no doubt, end in a victory for the Johnnies. By the end of the night, Lavin will have notched win no. 16 while fans leave happy about the victory and their free Lou Carnesecca bobbleheads.
As we move toward the Feb. 24 Pitt game at the Garden, I’d like to hearken back to a magical moment in time. Remember Dwight Hardy’s game winner against then-No. 4 Pitt. in 2011? Of course you do. Well, I’m betting on some of that magic reappearing when the Panthers return to the Mecca.
Expect the Johnnies to come down from the high of beating Pitt when they trek to Rhode Island to face Providence. The Friars are on a bit of a tear at the moment, winning four straight games, two of them coming against ranked opponents. By the time they meet up with the Johnnies, it’s safe to assume that they’ll have won five of their last six games [their next two games are against Syracuse (a probable loss) and Rutgers (a probable win)]. Considering all of this, I think Providence will stall the Johnnies’ quest for 18 wins.
Next up for the Red Storm is Notre Dame. The Johnnies pulled off a 67-63 home win against the Irish last month, but Jack Cooley only managed 10 points, as he struggled with foul trouble. Expect Cooley to keep the Red Storm stuck on 17 wins as his presence down low exposes the Johnnies’ lack of size in the paint.
So, heading into the season finale against Marquette at the Garden, a #winandwerein situation will be presented to the Red Storm,.
Each and every one of Lavin’s players will be fully aware of what will be on the line when they step onto the court on March 9 – at that point in time, a pundit’s perspective will mean nothing. I say the Johnnies come out victorious with the help of an indomitable will to win and a raucous home crowd.
And just like that, you have 18 wins and a ticket to the dance, ladies and gentlemen.