st. john's basketball
(via St. John's Athletics)

We cannot ignore the St. John’s Red Storm after their win over No. 3 Villanova. The Johnnies are making their case for the NCAA Tournament.

Are the Johnnies back? Yes, St. John’s basketball is back.

The Red Storm were 6-6 overall and 1-5 in the Big East after losing to No. 9 Creighton on Jan. 9. Head coach Mike Anderson‘s .500 or better streak looked like it might be in serious jeopardy and a spot in the NCAA Tournament was nothing more than a pipe dream. Any hope for a successful season in Queens was slipping away.

But then the Johnnies completely flipped the script, winning six of their next seven to improve to 12-7 overall and 6-6 in the Big East. Their two biggest wins during this stretch came against No. 23 UConn (on the road) and No. 3 Villanova in Carnasecca Arena on Wednesday night. It’s also worth noting that their only loss during this stretch came by two points to Marquette.

St. John’s Going Over Villanova

St. John’s shocked Villanova on Wednesday with a convincing win over the Wildcats. Freshman Posh Alexander, who has won Big East Freshman of the Week the last two weeks, was magnificent. The New York native harasses opposing guards from end to end, setting the tone for Anderson’s aggressive defense.

But don’t forget about Alexander’s offense. The wise-beyond-his-years freshman put up 16 points, four rebounds, and six assists in the win over Nova. On a night where the Red Storm’s best offensive player — Julian Champagnie — struggled to shoot the ball (4-for-12 FG), Alexander stepped up to provide some stability. JUCO Transfer Vince Cole also provided a lift with 12 points on 4-for-7 from deep.

A win over Villanova is no joke. The defense is the driving force behind this turnaround in Queens. Early in the season, the Johnnies were speeding other teams up and creating steals, but they had trouble staying in front of guys. It resulted in tons of open looks for opposing teams.

Now, they are still pressuring and harassing opposing teams, but they are taking away those easy looks.

NCAA Tournament Chances

The win over Villanova gives St. John’s a significant bump in NET Ranking and they are currently ranked 69th on KenPom. There is still work to be done, but the Red Storm are trending in the right direction.

The good news for St. John’s is that they still have plenty of opportunities to add to their resumé. They still have games against Xavier and Seton Hall at home plus a rematch with Villanova in The Pavilion. Those games won’t be easy, but if St. John’s can win two of three, they have to like their chances of heading to the NCAA’s bubble in Indianapolis.

Of course, the Johnnies will have to take care of business against the other teams on their schedule like Providence (twice), DePaul, and Butler as well.

The Big East Tournament represents another opportunity for St. John’s to make a case for the NCAA Tournament. A deep run at Madison Square Garden in March could be the final push the Johnnies need to go dancing.