If consistency is considered to be one of the main obstacles in building a quality college basketball program, St. John’s women’s coach Kim Barnes Arico has to be feeling really good about things.
For the second season in a row and the third time in six years, St. John’s is headed to the women’s NCAA Tournament. It’s only the second time in school history the Red Storm women have made consecutive appearances in the tournament.
The ninth-seeded Red Storm (21-10, 9-7 Big East) will face No.8 Texas Tech (22-10, 8-8 Big 12) in a first-round game on Saturday at Stanford University in the Spokane region.
“This says a lot about where we are as a program,” said Barnes Arico. “It speaks to our consistency and I definitely think we’re here to stay.”
Most of the Red Storm’s production has come from its underclassmen, including junior forward Da’Shena Stevens and sophomores Shenneika Smith and Nadirah McKenith.
Sophomores Eugeneia McPherson and Amanda Burakoski have also emerged as consistent contributors as well as seniors Sky Lindsay and Coco Hart.
Despite having just two seniors, the squad is tournament tested. St. John’s advanced to the second round of the tournament last year and fell to Florida State, 66-65.
Barnes Arico believes the experience gained in last season’s run to the NCAA Tournament should curtail any jitters the team might have.
“This is a weird group,” said Barnes Arico. The bigger the game the more they step up.”
The challenge facing the Red Storm on Saturday is a tough one. Texas Tech upset Baylor on February 19, joining Connecticut as the only team to beat the Bears.
“They’re tremendously athletic and they play in one of top leagues in the country,” said Barnes Arico. “And beating Baylor was quite an accomplishment.”
Barnes Arico is confident her group will be up for the challenge.
“We play in the best league in the country,” Barnes Arico said of Big East, which sent a record nine teams to the tournament. “They’ll be mentally ready for the challenge.”