By Jesse Kramer
Earlier in the weekend, I looked at Villanova’s at-large chances after the Wildcats upset Louisvlle and Syracuse.
But now, there is another Big East team that is beginning to make a case for the NCAA tournament—St. John’s.
The Red Storm failed to impress in non-conference play. At the Charleston Classic, they beat the College of Charleston but lost to Murray State and Baylor. In December, they lost to a pair of mediocre teams even by mid-major standards, San Francisco and UNC-Asheville.
But in Big East play, St. John’s is off to a 5-3 start. Although it has a bad loss to Rutgers at home, it has also beaten Cincinnati and Notre Dame. With a pair of Top-25 wins under its belt, the question begs to be asked: What must St. John’s do in order to earn an at-large bid to the 2013 NCAA Tournament?
The first step is to take advantage of the “gimmes.” These include DePaul (on Wednesday night), South Florida (on February 20), and Providence (on March 2). With an unimpressive non-conference resume, the Johnnies cannot afford to add another bad loss.
The more important games are the other seven: at Georgetown, vs. UConn, at Syracuse, at Louisville, vs. Pitt, at Notre Dame, and vs. Marquette.
If the Johnnies beat either Syracuse or Louisville, they will probably need only one other win to be on the right side of the bubble. If they cannot beat either the Orange or the Cardinals, then the Red Storm should not feel safe until they have won three out of the other five games.
St. John’s is currently 13-7 overall and 5-3 in the Big East with a top-50 RPI ranking, the No. 19 strength of schedule, and two Top-25 wins. Nearing the middle of conference play, the Red Storm passes the eye test to make the NCAA tournament as a double-digit seed.
If the Johnnies win their three “gimmes” and then win at least three of their other seven games, they will be in good shape for an at-large bid with an 11-7 Big East record heading into the conference tournament. Even with a 10-8 record, though, they could sneak into the NCAA tournament as one of the last teams.