While St. John’s doesn’t have that marquee non-conference win, they will get plenty of chances to boost their resume in the Big East.
The St. John’s Red Storm will start their Big East conference schedule two weeks from Thursday when they host Providence at Carnesecca Arena. With two games left on their non-conference slate—outside of Duke in February—St. John’s is 8-2 and hasn’t stubbed its toe outside of the league.
While Iona and St. Joseph’s won’t provide that signature win that a victory over Arizona State would have, the Big East is going to give them plenty of opportunities to make a statement that they belong in the NCAA Tournament.
So far, the Big East has been one of the best conferences in college basketball. As of Wednesday afternoon, the 10 teams have a combined record of 79-18 and they have seven wins against teams currently ranked in the AP Top 25.
In the latest AP Poll, the conference has three teams ranked in the top 15 with Villanova (No. 1), Xavier (No. 10) and Seton Hall (No. 15). Those three teams have separated themselves from the rest of the pack with how they have fared in their non-conference slates.
It may be a little early to look at projected NCAA Tournament brackets, but ESPN’s Joe Lunardi has the Big East getting five teams into the big dance with Butler among the first four out. Last year, the conference did get seven teams into the big dance, so it’s fair to say that it should be around that same number this year.
When you look at this conference, there are also not many bad losses out there. The only bad losses right now would be DePaul and Georgetown. Yes, the Hoyas are undefeated, but it is still unknown as to how good their team can be under first-year head coach Patrick Ewing.They have a big test coming up on Saturday afternoon when they host Syracuse in the latest chapter of that historic rivalry.
Now, St. John’s hasn’t won 10 games in the Big East since 2014-15 when they made the NCAA Tournament in Steve Lavin’s final year as head coach. If they want to go dancing this year, they are going to need at least a record over .500 and probably finish no lower than sixth in the conference standings.
In the non-conference, St. John’s has won games with their defense (9.5 steals per game) and an offense led by one of the best point guards in the conference in Shamorie Ponds, who is averaging 20.1 points per game. Plus, they showed a lot against Arizona State as they were able to nearly pull off a 18-point comeback out west without Marcus LoVett, who has missed time with a knee injury.
The Big East isn’t what it once was, but it is a conference that is gaining national recognition once again. With a strong showing in conference play this year, St. John’s has a chance to punch its ticket to the big dance in Chris Mullin’s third season. It won’t be easy—it never is—but the Johnnies have all the pieces to make it happen.