NCAA berth possible illusion

St. John’s will be headed to the postseason, but it probably won’t be playing for the National Championship. The Red Storm are 11-7, and 5-2 in the Big East, which is a very respectable record considering Head Coach Mike Jarvis starts three freshmen and a sophomore alongside Anthony Glover.

But unfortunately, young players sometimes lack focus, and because of their inexperience do not realize that every game is a battle, and victory can come just as easily as defeat.

Early on, tough defeats were common for the Johnnies. A last second loss to Fordham and a six-point defeat at the hands of Hofstra showed that the Red Storm may have been taking their lesser opponents for granted. With a record of 4-5, these games told them that they had better get their act together.

St. John’s responded, winning seven of their next eight, with the only loss coming in overtime to UConn. People were starting to look at the Storm as possibly being a tournament team, and with the remaining 11 games on the schedule, things were looking good.

After a hard-fought win over Miami, the Johnnies headed down to Virginia Tech, a team that was 7-10, 1-5 in the Big East. With a rematch at UConn looming, Jarvis had said that this was the most dangerous game left on the year, that his players saw it as an “automatic W.”
The Hokies proved him right, beating SJU 65-59.
Another bad loss.

Now SJU is 11-7, with 10 games remaining.
Losses are not necessarily bad, but when you have played the team before and won by almost 30 points as St. John’s did earlier in January, this game was ugly. Extremely ugly.

The Red Storm shot 2-of-19 from three-point land, and 37 percent overall from the floor. The only life shown by the Johnnies came in the final minute when there was a slim chance to pull out the victory.

Games like this can happen when you place tremendous pressure on freshmen to produce big numbers. Omar Cook and Willie Shaw shot a combined 5-28 from the field, and as has been the case this season, when they’re good they’re very, very good, but when they’re bad SJU loses.

Now with games such as Georgetown, Notre Dame, Syracuse and Duke on the horizon, any more slip-ups will keep St. John’s out of the Tourney.
Here’s the math: SJU needs to win nine of 10 to finish at 20-8 entering the Big East Tournament. A split there means a 21-9 record. That equals Bubble Material.

Figuring a loss to Duke, who continually beats Top Ten teams by 30-plus points, the Storm need to win out the rest of the Big East schedule, and maybe can afford one loss. That’s it.

College basketball is a fickle thing. In retrospect, it will be three losses by a total of 13 points that will keep St. John’s out of the field of 64 and send them to the NIT.
Unless, of course, they win the Big East Tournament.

Hey, it could happen.