It has been more than 10 years since St. John's was ranked among the nation's top 25 teams, but the Red Storm has broken through to regain ranked status in both polls under first-year coach Steve Lavin by virtue of its 60-59 victory over then-No. 4 Pitt Saturday at Madison Square Garden.
When the rankings were released Monday afternoon, St. John's was No. 23 in the Associated Press poll voted on by college basketball writers, and it slipped into the ESPN/USA Today coaches' poll at No. 25. The last time St. John's was ranked was on Dec. 5, 2000, when it was 24th in the ESPN/USA Today coaches' poll.
The upset of Pitt was the fifth win over a ranked team for the Red Storm (17-9, 9-5 Big East) at MSG this season, and they have six wins overall against teams that have been ranked at some point this season, including a win at West Virginia. Two early-season losses to St. Bonaventure and Fordham have been working against St. John's to keep it out of the rankings until now despite it's high-profile wins.
But even though the Red Storm has the most losses by two and the fewest wins by two of any team in the Top 25, it became impossible to ignore the fact that four of St. John's victories came against teams ranked in the top 10 at the time it beat them. Pitt remained No. 4 in the AP poll but dropped to No. 6 in ESPN/USA Today as a result of its loss to the Red Storm, but the Panthers had company in the losing column.
The top four teams in last week's polls all lost, including Kansas (to Kansas State), Ohio State (to Purdue) and Texas (to Nebraska), as well as Pitt. Defending national champion Duke, which was ranked No. 3 when it lost to St. John's, reclaimed the top spot in both polls. The AP top five also included Ohio State, Kansas, Pitt and Texas, while the ESPN/USA Today rankings following Duke were Kansas, Ohio State, San Diego State and Texas.
Pitt (No. 4 AP/No. 6 ESPN/USA Today) headed a group of eight Big East teams in the top 25 of both polls, including Notre Dame (9/9), Georgetown (11/11), Connecticut (14/15), Villanova (15/14), Louisville (16/16), Syracuse (17/20) and St. John's (23/25). The Red Storm, which faces DePaul Wednesday at Carnesecca Arena, is 4-4 against the conference teams ranked higher. It has yet to meet Villanova, but will play the Wildcats Saturday in Philadelphia.