What a difference a week makes in the college basketball, especially in the wild Big East where the St. John’s Red Storm (20-10) went from a near-lock at-large team to a bubble team after losing three out of their last four games.
The Johnnies close out the Big East regular season this weekend with a game against Xavier. If Chris Mullin’s squad loses another game, they will have to run the table in Big East tournament at Madison Square Garden in order to win an automatic bid.
Four Big East schools could be heading to March Madness including the defending champion Villanova Wildcats. There’s also a handful of bubble teams including St. John’s, Georgetown (18-11), and Seton Hall (16-12). The two ranked teams from the Big East, #16 Marquette (23-6) and #23 Villanova (22-8), are the favorites to win the Big East Tournament.
Local Kid, Chris Mullin
Chris Mullin is a New York City basketball legend. The kid from Brooklyn led the Johnnies to a Final Four berth in 1985. That year marked the Golden Era for the Big East with three teams in the Final Four.
The Golden State Warriors selected Mullin with the seventh pick in the 1986 NBA Draft. He played in the notorious unit known as RUN TMC with Mitch Richmond and Tim Hardaway. Mullin won a gold medal in the 1992 Olympics playing with Michael Jordan and the original Dream Team in Barcelona. Mullin retired in 2001 and finished with a 18.2 point average over 986-career games.
Mullin returned to his alma mater four years ago to coach. He struggled in his first season St. John’s with an 8-24 record. He finally secured a winning season in his fourth year at the helm. The Johnnies won 20 games for the first time since 2015.
Mullin had yet to guide the Johnnies to a March Madness berth. The expectations were high this season, before the Johnnie hit the skids.
The Queens Skid
St. John’s got off to a hot start and won their first twelve games. They are only 8-10 since Big East conference action began.
St. John’s was 15-6 before they headed into Duke to take on the #2 ranked team in the country. Duke destroyed the Johnnies with a 30-point drubbing. Something happened after that game. The Red Storm played inconsistent and went 4-5 since then.
The Johnnies lost three out of their last four games. And their opponents were not very good, including Providence and DePaul, bottom feeders in the Big East. The 92-83 loss against DePaul over the weekend particularly stung.
In the middle of their losing streak was a sensational victory over Villanova. The Johnnies went on the road and erased a 14-point deficit to storm back and win a crucial game. At that juncture, everyone figured the Johnnies had a March Madness bid locked down.
St. John’s is led by junior guard Shamorie Ponds. The team’s most-explosive scorer is averaging nearly 20 points per game this season, while dishing out 5 assists per game. Ponds dropped 32-plus in four games this season, including a pair of 37-point games.
This is the final week of the regular season for college basketball. A couple of minor conference are hosting their conference tournaments this weekend. The Big East Tournament starts next week in New York City at historic Madison Square Garden.
Buffalo is the other team to beat from New York State. The #19 Buffalo Bulls are the top team from the MAC. The Yale Bulldogs are the top team out of the Ivy League, but have to win their tournament to advance to March Madness. Over in the Ohio Valley Conference, Belmont and Murray State are on the bubble. The winner of the OVC will move onto March Madness, so we will find out if Ja Morant can put Murray State on his back and lock up the OVC bid.
Meanwhile, the three Duncan Brothers from Vermont are trying to lockdown the American East. In the Patriot League, Bucknell is seeking a third-straight berth to March Madness, but Colgate is trying to return to the big dance for the first time since 1996.