While we readily admit St. John’s beating No. 2 Connecticut 57-56 and halting its home winning streak at 99 was stunning and the biggest in the history of the women’s program, we never believed it was completely beyond the realm of possibilities.
Seriously, this is a dangerous team. This is a St. John’s team that swept Rutgers and gave No. 1 Baylor all it could handle. For those who forgot, the Red Storm held a six-point lead over the Bears with 18-plus minutes left in the second half of a game at Madison Square Garden in December. St. John’s top player Da’Shena Stevens missed the Baylor game with a knee injury.
This is also a team that beat Louisville earlier this season.
To put this win in perspective, St. John’s went on the road in front of 9,552 at Gampel Pavilion and halted two of the most impressive winning streaks in college sports. In addition to the 99-game home winning streak, the Huskies hadn’t lost a home game to an unranked opponent in almost 19 years.
"It's truly unbelievable," St. John’s coach Barnes Arico told the AP. "There aren't many teams that can say they beat UConn in this place and now we're one of them."
So how did this win actually occur? The three-pointer with nine seconds left by Shenneika Smith notwithstanding, it started on defense for the Red Storm.
Connecticut matched its season low of 56 points and committed 18 turnovers, compared to just nine for St. John’s. The Huskies shot just 36 percent from the field in the second half. Only four of St. John’s 26 opponents have scored more than 64 points.
"Isn't it great for women's basketball," Barnes Arico added. "It's unbelievable and great for our game, our game is growing. When I first started here, people were losing by 50 or 60 night in and night out. It says women's basketball has come a long way and there is a lot of parity in the game."
So where does St. John’s (18-8, 10-3 Big East) go from here? As far as this season is concerned, St. John’s has proved it is capable of big things. The Red Storm now has sole possession of third place in the Big East with three games left against West Virginia, Villanova and No. 15 Georgetown.
Securing second place for the Big East tournament is not completely out of the question. Connecticut (24-3, 11-2) still has three games left against Pittsburgh, Marquette and No. 4 Notre Dame. If St. John’s runs the table and the Huskies fall to the Fighting Irish, St. John’s would win the second seed by virtue of its win over Connecticut.
There is also the matter of the NCAA Tournament. The Red Storm has all but assured themselves of a spot in the big dance. The question now is where they will be seeded and in what region. St. John’s has hovered in the seven to 10 range in its three appearances under Barnes Arico.
The problem with that is the Red Storm usually ends up playing either the first or second seed in the second round. Beating Connecticut, combined with its wins over Rutgers and a decent run in the conference tournament could earn the Red Storm a fourth or fifth seed.
Normally, it would be premature to be talking about Big East and NCAA Tournament seeding with three games left in the regular season, but St. John’s has earned the right to talk about the big picture.