Since St. John’s lost its Big East quarterfinal to Marquette on Thursday night, the landscape of its path to the NCAA Tournament has been shifting. The Red Storm (21-12) have caught some breaks and have been dealt some blows. They might have to sweat out Selection Sunday until they know they’re among the 68 teams in the draw.
St. John’s Big East first-round win over a DePaul team that had beaten it twice was a good thing. The Storm could have cast out any lingering doubts had they beaten the Golden Eagles for a third time this season, gliding into The Big Dance for the first time since 2015 and first under coach Chris Mullin.
A win like that would have answered questions raised by a regular season in which the Storm went 3-1 against Big East elites Villanova and Marquette, finished 1-5 against the bottom three teams in the standings and closed by dropping three straight.
Instead they lost by 32, their biggest margin of defeat.
“I definitely believe we’re going to be in the tournament,” Shamorie Ponds said after Thursday’s loss. “I’m not going to be nervous. If we get in, we get in. We don’t, we don’t. But I believe we should be [in].”
That very well might be the case. St. John’s won the games against Villanova and Marquette and beat Atlantic 10 regular-season champ VCU, Creighton on the road and Seton Hall at home. Those might be enough. Bracket analysts Joe Lunardi of ESPN and Jerry Palm of CBS saw St. John’s as an 11 seed last week.
Entering games Saturday, they viewed the Storm as one of the last four teams to get an at-large bid. That would mean playing an outbracket game in Dayton before the round of 64 begins Thursday.
So what happened since Thursday?
The Atlantic 10 is likely to get two entries after VCU lost in its conference tournament Friday. Florida, a bubble team, bolstered its stock with a victory over LSU in the SEC Tournament.
On Saturday, No. 18 Buffalo ensured that the Mid-American Conference would get only one bid by beating Bowling Green. Utah State topped San Diego State to close off any chance of three bids going to the Mountain West (Nevada is a lock for an at-large bid from the MWC).
Oregon topped Washington in the Pac-12 title game late Saturday night, which means that league will get at least two bids: Oregon, Washington and possibly Arizona State.
Favored New Mexico State held serve in the WAC final, beating Grand Canyon.
The final matter is metrics that the NCAA Tournament selection committee is using. The new instrument for this year is the NET (NCAA evaluation tool). A month ago, St. John’s was comfortably at 49th in the country and third in the Big East. On Saturday morning, it was down to 72 in the country and eighth in the conference.
After Thursday’s game, Mullin said the Storm would have a few days off, then have a practice on campus before watching the selection show together. For anyone who has followed St. John’s up-and-down season, it will be “must-see TV.”