st. john's basketball
Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

St. John’s stormed back against Indiana but ultimately fell short

On a micro level, St. John’s shouldn’t be too worried about their loss to Indiana on Wednesday. They fought back to lose by two after going down by as many 14 points, all without one of their most important players. Montez Mathis was ejected for a Flagrant 2 foul in the first half.

There are plenty of positives to take away from this game. The Johnnies fought back in a hostile environment. Julian Champagnie put up an All-American-type performance, dropping 32 points and hauling in seven rebounds. Freshman Rafael Pinzon came off the bench to provide a lift when St. John’s needed it most.

Again, there are some solid takeaways for the Red Storm, but on a macro level, this is a monumental loss for the Red Storm.

Sugarcoating this loss won’t do anything to help the Johnnies make the NCAA Tournament, a feat they have only accomplished three times since 2003.

The NCAA Selection Committee isn’t going to look back on this game and say, “Well, Montez Mathis was ejected early and St. John’s still looked good in the second half.”

Rather, that committee is going to be underwhelmed by this St. John’s non-conference schedule. This was the only true road game of the non-conference slate and Indiana is just one of three schools from a major conference they will play outside of the Big East.

Pittsburgh, who was picked to finish 14th in the ACC, won’t help build anyone’s resumé for March. And the other major conference opponent is third-ranked Kansas. In other words, Mike Anderson‘s squad needed a real victory, not a moral one in Bloomington.

Who are the mid-majors that Champagnie and company will face this year? They already put beatdowns on Mississippi Valley State and Saint Peter’s. Next up will be Fairleigh Dickinson, St. Francis (Brooklyn), NJIT, Fordham, Monmouth, and Colgate. That’s not exactly a murderer’s row of opponents.

This lack of tough games in the non-conference puts St. John’s in a tough position. For one, they need to be consistent in the Big East to have a chance at making the NCAA Tournament. Anything lower than fourth (or maybe fifth) in the conference will mean the Johnnies are going to be on the wrong side of the bubble.

They will need to build out the resumé almost entirely from Big East play. Notch a couple wins on the road against premier opponents like Villanova or UConn and they might be in business. But much like winning on the road in Bloomington, that’s easier said than done.

Teams that put together tough non-conference schedules might lose a few more games, but the crucible of competition fosters growth. This loss to Indiana will make St. John’s a better team in the long run, but it might not matter come March.