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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.
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Tuesday / May 28.
  • Underachieving St. John’s Entering Critical Period in Schedule

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    NCAA Basketball: Providence at St. John'sSt. John’s season began with senior guard D’Angelo Harrison telling me it would be a “complete failure” if the Red Storm did not make the NCAA Tournament.

    Well, if the NCAA Tournament began this week, the Johnnies would be on the outside looking in, according to ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi.

    That, by Harrison’s definition, would be a “complete failure.’

    The Johnnies are 14-8 and 3-6 in the Big East Conference entering Saturday’s tilt against Creighton at Madison Square Garden. They likely need to go at least 6-3 the rest of the way to finish at .500 in the league in order to secure an at-large bid. That, or win the Big East Tournament next month at the Garden on their home floor.

    Their next two games would appear to be winnable ones at home — against Creighton and DePaul — but four of their final seven are on the road, including visits to Xavier, Georgetown, Marquette and Villanova.

    “Every year our team’s goal is to make the NCAA Tournament,” Johnnies coach Steve Lavin said this week. “We knocked off Syracuse at the Carrier Dome, and swept Providence who is near the top of the conference with Villanova so as a coach you recognize your team is capable of competing with the best. This is a team that got off to an 11-1 start, the best in 29 years at St John’s which was special. Now we’ve hit a tough stretch in our league schedule, suffered some injuries and lost some tough games, but we’re ready for the back nine. It starts against Creighton. We’re going to have opportunities against good competition. That’s the thing about the Big East; every team you play provides the opportunity for a significant win.”

    Lavin has one year remaining on his six-year deal and, despite talks of an extension, the school never announced one.

    Some people in the area believe Lavin is a “dead man walking,” but the coach says he’s not worried about his job security.

    “Right now our focus is on the season, and if we are having talks, it’s not something should be shared at a weekly press conference,” Lavin said. “I love St. John’s, I love New York. The administration has been great. I really like this particular team, too. … The way I approach everything is the same I always have for however many years it’s been at each stop. Which is focus at the task at hand and knowing what we do today determines the type of future we have as a basketball team.

    “[The administration] has always been supportive. They’ve given us the resources to be successful. My energy has always been focused on the next recruiting class, the next game, during the offseason, the upcoming season. … Like most coaches, you focus on things you have control over and the rest takes care of itself.”

    In his first year on the job, Lavin took St. John’s to the tournament in 2011, but that team was full of players recruited by his predecessor Norm Roberts.

    Last year’s team had the talent to Dance, but came up short.

    Now here they are again with a senior-laden team fighting to get over the bubble and into the tournament. After this year, the core group of Harrison, Sir’Dominic Pointer, Phil Greene IV and Jamal Branch will all graduate. Junior big man Chris Obekpa and sophomore guard Rysheed Jordan could also leave early for the pros.

    Having missed out on Roselle (N.J.) Catholic point Isaiah Briscoe, the Johnnies have two commits in guards Samir Doughty of Philadelphia and Brandon Sampson of Louisiana. They remain involved for Our Savior New American forward Cheick Diallo, Chicago point guard Marcus LoVett, Italian guard Federico Mussini and Greek 7-footer Georgios Papagiannis, among others.

    “We lost a few games,” Harrison said. “Teams are going to lose games. Only one team is perfect. We just want to win this one, that’s all that really matters. We know that, New York knows that. It’s simple – we just got to win this game.”

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    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.

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