montez mathis
Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

St. John’s finishes its non-conference schedule with little to show

St. John’s entered the 2020-21 season with eyes on an NCAA Tournament berth. Despite an 8-3 record in the non-conference, there chances at an at-large bid to the Big Dance are slim and none.

The Johnnies fell to Pittsburgh in the Gotham Classic on Tuesday on a last-second shot by Jamarius Burton. This game was so bad it was good. Missed free throws, ugly turnovers, questionable decision-making, and a last-second winner — it had it all.

No disrespect meant to the Panthers, but this is a brutal loss, even when accounting for the fact that Julian Champagnie missed this game after testing positive for COVID-19.

Even though St. John’s was technically the road team in this Gotham Classic matchup, it was a home game at Madison Square Garden, for all intents and purposes.

The Red Storm blew a golden opportunity when they couldn’t complete the comeback over Indiana in Bloomington. They whiffed hard against Kansas a few weeks later.

Scheduling mostly local mid-majors for easy wins in non-conference doesn’t go far in preparing for Big East play or building an NCAA Tournament resumé.

The best win of the season? A home win over Monmouth that came down to the final few possessions.

In short, the Johnnies have their work cut out for them in the Big East and COVID-19 isn’t helping. Not only is Champagnie out, but Seton Hall is forfeiting on Monday night. Although it’s a win for St. John’s, it’s not really a win in the committee’s eyes.

As it stands, the Red Storm have seven games against Seton Hall, Villanova, UConn, and Xavier — the ranked teams in the Big East. They need to stack at least five wins in those games to creep into the bubble conversation. Anything short of that, and it’s Big East Tournament or bust.

Are the Johnnies capable of making this turnaround? They definitely have the talent.

Champagnie is a legitimate first-round NBA prospect. His main running mate Posh Alexander is the reigning Big East Freshman of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year. And Alexander’s high school teammate Dylan Addae-Wusu is coming into his own.

Add in role players like Montez Mathis, Joel Soriano, Stef Smith, and Rafael Pinzon and it’s easy to see St. John’s flipping the script on this season.

But digging this deep of a hole will make it an uphill battle the entire way.

The non-conference schedule looked like an issue before the season and it looks even worse now. Mike Anderson is looking at another year without an NCAA Tournament appearance. The Johnnies missed the Big Dance last year and were firmly outside the bubble in 2019-20.

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