St. John's Chris Ledlum drives past Butler's Jahmyl Telfort to the basket...

St. John's Chris Ledlum drives past Butler's Jahmyl Telfort to the basket on Wednesday at Hinkle Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.

When St. John’s collapsed late and lost to visiting Seton Hall two weeks ago, its chances of returning to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2019 looked worse than grim.

Now, two weeks before Selection Sunday and with the Red Storm on a three-game winning streak and playing their best basketball of the season, they’ve got a real shot.

Here are the basics of St. John’s NCAA Tournament resume as of  Saturday evening: St. John’s is 17-12 overall and 9-9 in the Big East with conference games left at last-place DePaul and against 10th-place Georgetown at the Garden. It is No. 40 in the NET ranking and has a signature win over now-No. 12 Creighton. tracks the NCAA field according to 104 online "experts,'' and St. John’s was in 30 of them. Most of the rest had it "first four out'’ or "next four out.''

The Red Storm pulled a neat trick this past week: They played two games and picked up three highly valued "Quad 1'' wins.

The first two were the win over now-No. 12 Creighton at the Garden last weekend and the triumph at Butler. The third was the Jan. 24 victory over Villanova at the Garden, which became a "Quad 1'' win because the Wildcats’ 71-60 win at Providence will lift them into the NET top 30.

The whole situation is harder to follow than the stock market because of daily fluctuations in the NET (NCAA Evaluation Tool) and the NCAA Tournament selection committee’s reliance on that metric. It’s not chaos theory — a butterfly flaps its wings here and we get a tsunami on the other side of the world — it only feels that way.

The crib note is that St. John’s needs Villanova and Utah to keep winning so its three victories over them remain "great’' wins. And it needs Boston College to win so the December loss to the Eagles doesn’t become a "bad'' loss.

For St. John’s to make the tournament, here are some things to keep in mind and consider:

Win out: The Red Storm can finish 19-12 and 11-9 in the Big East with wins over DePaul and Georgetown. Nothing good happens for them if they don’t, and they still very likely need a win in the conference tournament. A loss to either would be damaging because they are "Quad 4'' games.

Win big: Simply beating DePaul or Georgetown won’t really move the metrics needle for St. John’s, but the NET takes into account margin of victory. So the Red Storm need to run it up on the two Big East cellar-dwellars. Case in point: Villanova moved up four spots after a recent 30-point win over Georgetown.

What scenario is most beneficial?: St. John’s is likely to finish fifth or sixth in the Big East standings, but it’s a little hard to tell which scenario benefits it most. As things stand now, the Red Storm almost certainly need a conference quarterfinal win to become a lock for the NCAAs. If they finish fifth, they will get a bye into the quarterfinals and almost certainly will face Seton Hall (NET: 64). If they’re sixth, there is a first-round game against DePaul and then a likely quarterfinal against Creighton (NET: 12).

What’s in a number?: The Red Storm have five of the coveted "Quad 1'' wins, but it's hard to tell exactly how valuable they are. Texas A&M has five. So does UNLV. But at this time, neither the Aggies nor the Runnin’ Rebels appear on course for the NCAA Tournament. And there are several teams with fewer than five that appear to be solidly in the field (Dayton, South Carolina, San Diego State, etc).

Fear bid-stealers: One of the thrilling results from Friday night was Loyola (Chicago) beating No. 21 Dayton, 77-72. has the Ramblers (21-8) in exactly one of the 104 brackets it tracks entering Saturday. They are a threat to win their conference tournament and take a spot from a bubble team. There are several conferences like that.

The Pitino factor: This falls into the category of sheer speculation, but we believe the presence of Rick Pitino on the St. John’s sideline could be a deciding factor if the selection committee has a really close call. He’s taken teams to seven Final Fours and guided two to championship game wins. In baseball, the popular (if inaccurate) belief is "tie goes to the runner''; in college hoops, it could be ''tie goes to Pitino.''

There is one week left in the college basketball regular season and the conference tournaments before the Selection Sunday unveiling. That’s a lot of games, and a lot can happen. But the bottom line for St. John’s is that it has a real shot. All it has to do is keep winning.

Record: 17-12
Big East record: 9-9
Quad 1 Victories: 5 (v. Utah (neutral), at Villanova, v. Villanova, v. No. 15 Creighton, at Butler)
Quad 3/4 Losses: Michigan (Q3)
*Net Ranking: 40
Signature win: v. Creighton, 80-66

*Entering Saturday

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