St. John’s didn’t make Selection Sunday easy for themselves or their fans. The Red Storm put themselves in the excruciating position of having to wait and wonder if they’ll hear their names called for the NCAA Tournament.
When the wait ended, St. John’s had secured an invite to the dance for the first time in the Chris Mullin era. They’ll face Arizona State in the First Four in Dayton, on Wednesday. The winner will advance to play No. 6 Buffalo in the first round of the West Region.
It’s not the seeding many expected for St. John’s when the regular season began. They were picked by many to finish at least in the top three of the Big East. Then they underperformed along the way before eventually stumbling into a seventh-place finish in the conference.
The First Four is a play-in game, but it’s still the NCAA Tournament. The rules are still the same, win and you keep dancing, lose and you’re going home. No one needs to tell Mullin, or any of his players, their inconsistent play is what led them to this path.
St. John’s (21-12, 8-10 Big East) went from a potential third-place finish in the conference to seventh place. They were eventually dispatched by Marquette in the quarterfinal round of the Big East Tournament. Then came the wait and having to face the very-real possibility of being left out of the NCAA Tournament field of 68.
But that’s all now in the past, what matters is the present. For St. John’s, the present means focusing on their First Four dance partner, Arizona State.
St. John’s has the type of talent which can get them into the next round. If they bring their A-game to Dayton, which is being active on defense and creating easy baskets for their offense, they’ll be a tough out for their opponents.
They’ll need to keep their focus on the present. That means forgetting about the handful of games in the regular season they underperformed. It means remembering what brought them to the dance.
March Madness is a new season, an opportunity to create your own momentum. St. John’s has been through the ups and downs to earn their spot in the field of 68, now all that’s left is for them to begin again.