Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
Johnnies Get a Key Victory, and Must Keep on Winning
St. John’s is the hottest team in the Big East right now.
And one of the hottest teams in the nation.
By pulling out an important 68-67 victory Thursday night over Seton Hall — their first win in the Garden State since Feb. 15, 1998 — the Johnnies won for the seventh time in eight games and improved to 16-9, 6-6 in the Big East.
But all St. John’s has done is insure that the next month will be an interesting one for college hoops in New York City.
The Johnnies must keep on winning in order to have a chance at their ultimate goal of making the NCAA Tournament.
After all, that was head coach Steve Lavin’s stated goal entering the season — and nothing has changed since then.
“This is a year where we’re positioned to do something special,” Lavin said back in September, according to the New York Post.
With potential future pros like Rysheed Jordan, JaKarr Sampson and Chris Obekpa, the expectations were high in Queens.
And nothing has changed now.
The only thing that’s changed is that the Johnnies — behind the strong play of Jordan at the point — have somehow turned an 0-5 Big East start into a compelling season heading toward March Madness.
With six league games remaining — beginning with Sunday’s crucial tilt against Georgetown at Madison Square Garden — the Johnnies probably need to go 5-1 or 4-2 the rest of the way. That would put them at 11-7 or 10-8 at the end of the Big East regular season.
And even then, St. John’s probably needs to win a couple of games in the Big East Tournament in March — if not cut down the nets the night of March 15 at the Garden.
“They need to stay hot,” CBSSports.com bracketologist Jerry Palm told SNY.tv. “Not much of a margin for error. Only sure thing is win the tournament.”
At this point, you wouldn’t bet against the Johnnies winning three games in three nights in March at the Garden.
But they’re going to have to beat a Creighton, a Villanova, a Xavier — surefire NCAA Tournament teams — along the way, maybe two of those three.
The Johnnies showed they can beat Creighton at the Garden, having downed Dougie McBuckets and company last Sunday.
But rest assured, McDermott and his team will be more ready, more prepared, more hungry when they come back to New York next month.
And don’t forget about Jay Wright’s club, which is No. 6 in the nation and has only lost two games all year.
Xavier, Marquette, Georgetown, Providence, none of them will be easy outs in March at the Garden.
For now, all the Johnnies can do is this.
Keep on winning.
Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.