Home News St. John’s gets help before Big East Tournament, favorable projections from bracketologists

St. John’s gets help before Big East Tournament, favorable projections from bracketologists

Everything’s coming up St. John’s these days.

With Seton Hall’s victory over Villanova on Wednesday night, Rick Pitino’s red-hot Red Storm moved into a three-way tie for fifth place in the Big East.

St. John’s, Villanova and Providence are all 10-9 in conference play, but the Johnnies own the three-way tie-breaker for the No. 5 seed thanks to their 3-1 record in head-to-head games.

It’s a significant development, considering the top five seeds get a first-round bye in next week’s Big East Tournament at Madison Square Garden.

St. John’s, Villanova and Providence are done playing each other this regular season, though the standings could change. Even if the Johnnies beat lowly Georgetown at home Saturday, they’d fall out of fifth place should Villanova lose to No. 10 Creighton and Providence beat No. 2 UConn.

In that scenario, Villanova would slip to seventh, and Providence would win the head-to-head tiebreaker over St. John’s. In any other case, a win Saturday would lock St. John’s into the fifth seed.

That St. John’s (18-12 overall) managed to position itself so favorably is a testament to the torrid turnaround by Pitino’s team, which notched its fourth consecutive win Tuesday with a 104-77 drubbing of deplorable DePaul (3-27, 0-19 vs. Big East) in Chicago on Tuesday.

Following Tuesday’s win, ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi moved St. John’s back into his projections to make the NCAA Tournament. Fox Sports’ Mike DeCourcy and CBS Sports’ Jerry Palm already projected the Red Storm to receive a March Madness bid.

The four-game win streak follows a brutal stretch in which St. John’s lost eight of 10. The last of those losses came in back-breaking fashion against Seton Hall, with St. John’s blowing a 19-point lead. Afterward, Pitino bemoaned his team’s lack of athleticism and toughness — criticisms he later apologized for.

Pitino has since said his controversial candor was “staged” so his players would “wake the hell up.” They appear wide awake now, with double-digit victories over ranked Creighton and respectable Butler among the wins in their well-timed streak.

“We’re getting a lot better,” Pitino said after beating DePaul. “We’re improving, working very hard. We’re highly motivated to play good basketball. We’ve played good basketball all year with the exception of a couple of games, but never this good. … We want to keep it up.”

Pitino overhauled the St. John’s roster after taking the head coach job last offseason, bringing back only two players from the previous team, including senior center Joel Soriano.

St. John’s leaned heavily on Soriano and point guard Daniss Jenkins, who followed Pitino from Iona, for much of the season but is now receiving key contributions from Jordan Dingle, Glenn Taylor Jr. and Chris Ledlum amid its surge.

Dingle scored at least 18 points in three of the last four games. Taylor led St. John’s with 10 rebounds in the win over Creighton and with 17 points in the victory against Butler. Ledlum scored a season-high 19 points on 8-of-11 shooting against DePaul.

“We have learned each other and our chemistry is building,” Ledlum said after Tuesday’s win. “We are playing great with each other, and what better time than March?”

An NCAA Tournament berth would be the Johnnies’ first since 2019 and fourth since 2002. Winning the Big East Tournament would book an automatic trip to the Big Dance, though St. John’s controls its own destiny for an at-large bid, too.

“It’s a lot of fun,” Dingle said of the Red Storm’s recent resurgence. “We compete hard every single day. We are making sure we are locked in on the game plan and we go out and execute and put together great performances.”


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