St. John’s, for now, is still on the right side of the conversation for making the NCAA Tournament. If they plan on keeping it that way then Shamorie Ponds must play a key role.
This isn’t an earth-shattering hot take for anyone that’s watched St. John’s this season. The case can be made it’s a narrative which is growing more tiresome by the week. But the reality is exactly that. These are frustrating times for the Johnnies, if they choose to admit it or not.
Will the real St. John’s stand up? Their showdown against Seton Hall, this Saturday night at Madison Square Garden, will be for third place in the Big East. It’s a must-win for both teams because of how wildly inconsistent they’ve both been lately.
For St. John’s, they need Ponds to get back to being himself on the court. Because, lately, it hasn’t looked that way.
Their embarrassing loss at Providence, Wednesday night, took the shine off their comeback win over Villanova, 72 hours earlier. That signature win should have propelled the Red Storm towards a run to the postseason. The feel-good vibes, instead, ended after the first 10 minutes of a no-show against the Friars.
Ponds, the face of the team, was missing in action against Providence. He was there, in the physical form, but a search party would’ve been needed to find him on the stat sheet. The Big East Preseason Player of the Year is in the midst of a slump which is threatening to derail St. John’s and their tourney hopes.
But, here’s the bottom line: If Ponds doesn’t start playing better, the Red Storm can shelve any talk of having a successful month of March. He’s the engine that makes them go. They need his offense, they need his energy, and they need him to start having fun on the court again.
The Red Storm don’t need anyone to tell them projections are just that, projections. If the NCAA Tournament were to start today, St. John’s would be projected to make the field of 68 teams. But if they don’t finish strong, those projections could dramatically change.
They can avoid this ending by finishing their stretch run strongly. Ponds can be the difference maker everyone knows he can be. St. John’s needs him now more than ever.
And it has to start Saturday night against Seton Hall, at the Garden.