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St. John’s dismantled No. 10 UConn last night for its fourth win over a top-15 team at Madison Square Garden. As is customary with any college basketball upset, it’s time to look at the tournament chances.The Red Storm won’t win the Big East, so they’re likely vying for one of 37 at-large bids to the tournament. They’re 14-9 overall and 6-5 in conference. The Storm rank 20th in RPI, have played the second toughest schedule in the sport, and by Ken Pomeroy’s well-regarded ratings system, they’re the 29th best at-large team. In other words, all signs point to the Big Dance. And few are being shy about penciling them in.
Of course, being the toast of the town in early February means nothing come late March. Seven games separate the Johnnies from the postseason, and they could easily drop five of them. Such is life in college basketball’s best conference. They should beat DePaul and South Florida at home, but will likely lose at Cincinnati, Marquette, and No. 9 Villanova, three teams above .500 in conference.
That leaves games at Seton Hall and versus No. 4 Pittsburgh as the swing games. If St. John’s finds a way to knock off Pittsburgh, they’re almost assured a tournament spot. A fifth top-15 victory would seal their resume´. If they fall in that game and to Seton Hall, that resume´ becomes tarnished. 16-14 overall and 8-10 in conference simply won’t be good enough.
Moreover, for all their impressive wins, the Red Storm are just 5-7 against RPI top-50, and would drop to 5-10 if they lose to ‘Nova, Cincinatti, and Pittsburgh. They also have two brutal losses to St. Bonaventure and Fordham.
Clearly, St. John’s has a long way to go before it makes its first tournament appearance since 2002. But if they manage to qualify, watch out. Experience matters come March, and the Red Storm are the fourth most experienced team (average 2.62 years) in the nation.
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