From left, St. John's Athletic Director Michael Cragg, new head coach...

From left, St. John's Athletic Director Michael Cragg, new head coach Rick Pitino, President Rev. Brian J. Shanley, and Big East commissioner Val Ackerman pose after Pitino was introduced at Madison Square Garden on March 21, 2023. Credit: AP/Corey Sipkin

Rev. Brian J. Shanley knows how his day will begin on this Sunday. With Mass, just as most Sundays do. How it ends, though? He hasn’t a clue.

The president of St. John’s University will be nervously counting down the hours until the NCAA Selection Show airs in the evening and he and the rest of the world learn whether the Red Storm will receive their first bid to the tournament since 2019, the year before he arrived on campus.

“I hope it’s going to be a day of jubilation,” Shanley told Newsday on Saturday. “I’d like to think we’re going to get a bid and we’ve earned it. We’ve been in the wilderness for a while and this would be, I think, a validation of what we’ve tried to do with Rick [Pitino, the first-year coach of the program] and what Rick has brought to St. John’s. For our fan base, it would be a whoop-whoop moment of ‘we’re back.’ I’m hoping that’s what the day is going to be like.”

Optimism is high that it will be, but there is always a chance that the committee will be unimpressed by the team’s 20-13 overall record, its midseason lull and its 11-9 record in the Big East. St. John’s missed out on the opportunity to get an automatic bid when it lost to Connecticut in a Big East Tournament semifinal at Madison Square Garden on Friday night.

Asked afterward if he and his team are looking forward to Selection Sunday, Daniss Jenkins, a senior guard who was in the NCAA Tournament with Pitino and Iona a year ago, replied: “We are. We think we had a great schedule. We think we’re in. We should be in.”

But until they are, until they see themselves somewhere on that big bracket, they’re not. Not yet.

While the team will gather to find out its fate, the school isn’t planning any big on-campus events to watch the bracket get filled.

“Until you are sure, you don’t want to put too much into it,” Shanley said. “I mean, if we were sure we were in it, we’d have a huge party. I think we’re in it. I hope we’re in it. But I don’t know it, so we’re going to low-key it and do our celebrating after we win our first game in the tournament.”

If that happens, it would be the first tournament victory for St. John’s since 2000.

“I don’t think anybody is going to want to play us,” Shanley said. “There is little question in my mind that if we’re in this tournament, we’re going to do some damage, because we’re playing really, really well right now.”

There is an outside chance that St. John’s will land a de facto home game, with first- and second-round contests scheduled to be played at Barclays Center next week.

“Boy, wouldn’t that be great if we end up in Brooklyn?” Shanley practically gasped.

Nothing will be guaranteed, however, until Sunday evening.

“Hopefully it’s a really good story and we’ll be flying somewhere this week to start the new season,” Shanley said of Sunday’s narrative. “I’m not going to make any predictions because that’s in God’s hands, not mine, but yeah, I look forward to watching us play.”


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