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Is St. John's a Top 25 team again?

Dwight Hardy (12) drives to the basket with

Dwight Hardy (12) drives to the basket with the game winning shot to defeat the Pittsburgh Panthers 60-59 at Madison Square Garden. (Feb. 19, 2011) Credit: Christopher Pasatieri

St. John's 60-59 upset of No. 4 Pittsburgh Saturday afternoon at Madison Square Garden was no abberration. If anything, knocking off top teams has become the norm for the Red Storm under first-year coach Steve Lavin.

That makes five ranked teams St. John's (17-9, 9-5 Big East) has beaten at the Garden, also including Duke, Connecticut, Notre Dame and Georgetown, and the Storm also has a win at West Virginia, which has cracked the top 25 this season. To this point of the season, nine Big East teams have been ranked at some point, but not St. John's. However, you would think the Red Storm ought to get some love from the pollsters after this win.

Asked what it will be like for the seniors on this team to finally see a national ranking by St. John's name, Justin Burrell, who played a tough game with 15 points and eight rebounds, said, "I can't wait. It's been four long years without one of those numbers. I'm really excited. Man, we deserve to see that number."

At the same time, Burrell said, "We haven't arrived yet."

The Red Storm is trying to stay focused with four more games remaining in the regular season. They're in a four-way tie for third in the league and need to finish in the top four to get a double bye in the conference tournament.

Dwight Hardy (pictured), who made the winning layup with 1.3 seconds to go, said of the possible national ranking, "It's going to be a great feeling. But at the same time, we could lose that number just like that. So, we've got to stay focused and keep working hard so we can maintain that number."

Ordinarily, Lavin tells his team it can't celebrate too long after a big win, but on this day, the message was slightly different. Recalling Lavin's postgame talk, Burrell said, "He said, in life, you have to keep your mind focused on what you need to do upcoming. But sometimes, you have to stand back and take a picture. He said it's cool to be happy about this one."

St. John's players have earned it, especially the seniors who struggled and continued to play hard for three seasons before beginning to see the reward for their perseverance this season.

New York Sports