St. John's basketball is back on the national radar in a big way now. After cracking the top 25 last week, the Red Storm's 81-68 win at Villanova behind the 34-point performance of Dwight Hardy really grabbed the attention of any remaining doubters.
The Red Storm (19-9, 11-5 Big East) was voted No. 15 in both polls, zooming up the ladder 10 spots in the ESPN/USA Today coaches' poll and leapfrogging eight spots in The Associated Press writers' poll. Big Ten leader Ohio State (27-2) regained the top spot in both polls a scant 4 points ahead of Big 12 leader Kansas (27-2) in the coaches' poll and by a more comfortable margin in the writer's poll. BYU (27-2) climbed to No. 3 in both polls ahead of Duke (26-3), which fell from the top spot to No. 4 in both polls after losing at Virginia Tech.
Although Big East leader Pitt (25-4) lost Sunday at Louisville, it remained No. 4 in AP tied with Duke and slipped to No. 5 in ESPN/USA Today. Overall, eight teams from the Big East were ranked in the top 19 of both polls, including Notre Dame (No. 8 AP/No. 7 ESPN/USA Today), Louisville (11/11), Syracuse (12/12), St. John's (15/15), Connecticut (16/16), Georgetown (17/17) and Villanova (19/19).
As another measure of respect, the Red Storm now is listed as a No. 4 seed in the West Region by ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi. Any combination of St. John's wins and Syracuse losses totaling two this week will give the Red Storm a double bye in the conference tournament, putting SJU into the quarterfinals. However, Syracuse is likely to win its only remaining game at home against lowly DePaul to finish 12-6, which means St. John's(11-5) would need wins at Seton Hall and home against South Florida to be assured of the double-bye.
In the event of a three-way tie for third with Syracuse and Louisville at 12-6, St. John's would be the fifth seed and get a single bye by virtue of an 0-1 record against both schools. But should St. John's go on to win the Big East tourney on its Madison Square Garden homecourt, it likely would climb into the top 10 and earn a No. 2 NCAA seed.