st. john's basketball
Mandatory Credit: Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

With Julian Champagnie returning to Queens for his junior season, St. John’s should be an NCAA Tournament team.

The St. John’s Red Storm scratched and clawed during last year’s bizarre COVID-19 season, but it wasn’t enough to make any postseason noise. They failed to qualify for the NCAA Tournament for the second time in as many years under head coach Mike Anderson.

Regardless, Anderson has this team trending in the right direction. They weren’t exactly a model of consistency, but the Johnnies finished the season at 16-11 overall and 10-9 in the Big East.

The last time St. John’s went to the NCAA Tournament was in 2019, during Chris Mullin’s final year, but the last Red Storm team to win a game at the Big Dance was in 2000. Anderson and this current group is looking to change that.

Julian Champagnie Back

St. John’s had been waiting on a decision from Julian Champagnie all offseason. The Big East’s reigning scoring champion declared for the NBA Draft but left his options open. After some thought and deliberation, Champagnie is coming back to Queens.

Champagnie will be a junior this year and his track record speaks for itself. He was named to the First Team All-Big East last year in addition to being named co-Most Improved Player in the conference. These accolades came just one year after Champagnie was named to the Big East All-Freshman team.

The Red Storm has its best player back.

Better yet, Champagnie is joining up with his co-star from last season — Posh Alexander. The New York native took home co-Defensive Player of the Year and Freshman of the Year honors in the Big East last season.

With Champagnie and Alexander in the fold, the Johnnies should be an upper-echelon team in the Big East. If that’s the case, an NCAA Tournament appearance is in the cards.

Iron Mike Anderson

Mike Anderson’s streak of coaching .500 or better teams is well-known around these parts. Turn on any St. John’s game and that stat will hit you in the same way to “Ryan Fitzpatrick went to Harvard” or “Todd Frazier played in the Little League World Series.”

We get it. Mike Anderson doesn’t coach losing teams.

But the Johnnies need to do more than avoid a losing season. In year three under Anderson, it’s time to start posting some legitimate results.

Anderson had plenty of postseason success as an assistant under Nolan Richardson at Arkansas, but he’s still trying to get over that hump as a head coach. He has one Elite Eight appearance and two Sweet 16s under his belt.

Despite the consistency in the regular season, Anderson could use some postseason success to bolster his already impressive resumé.

NCAA Tournament or Bust

All of this talk about Champagnie, Alexander, and Anderson leads us to one conclusion: It’s NCAA Tournament or bust for St. John’s this season.

For the first time during Anderson’s tenure in Queens, there are high expectations. No, he’s not going to be on the hot seat barring a disastrous season. But if St. John’s wants to return to their rightful place in the Big East, it has to start this season.

They have the talent, continuity, and coaching to succeed in the Big East next season. A few key wins in the non-conference slate and a respectable showing in conference should be enough to vault the Johnnies into the Big Dance.

NY/NJ hoops reporter (NBA/NCAA) & sports betting writer for XL Media. Never had the makings of a varsity athlete.