St. John's is last team in the Big Dance, makes first NCAA Tournament since 2015 | Zagsblog
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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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Sunday / January 19.
  • St. John’s is last team in the Big Dance, makes first NCAA Tournament since 2015

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    NEW YORK –– It was a long wait for Chris Mullin and St. John’s, but the Red Storm are into their first NCAA Tournament since 2015 when Steve Lavin was the coach.

    The Johnnies (21-12) had to wait to hear their names called until the final region, the West, where they are an 11 seed and must play Bobby Hurley and Arizona State (22-10) in a play-in game Wednesday night in Dayton, Ohio. The winner gets No. 6 Buffalo, the MAC regular-season and tournament champion, on Friday in Tulsa, Ok.

    “St. John’s was the last team in,” NCAA Tournament Selection Committee chair Bernard Muir said on CBS.

    Said St. John’s junior guard Shamorie Ponds: “I’m excited to go out there and play. This is what we work all year for and we finally have an opportunity to take advantage of it. It’s a blessing. As it was winding down, I kept thinking, are we in? It definitely felt good to get in.”

    He added: “It definitely adds fuel to the fire. We should go in there with that mindset since everyone wanted to count us out. We have to prove everyone wrong and play St. John’s basketball.”

    Zion Williamson and Duke are the No. 1 overall seed, and the ACC has three No. 1 seeds with Virginia and North Carolina. Gonzaga is the fourth No. 1 seed.

    St. John’s is one of four Big East teams in the Big Dance, along with reigning NCAA champion and Big East Tournament champion Villanova, Big East runner-up Seton Hall and Marquette.

    The Johnnies are also one of several teams from New York State in the NCAA Tournament, along with Syracuse, Buffalo, Iona and Colgate. Seton Hall and FDU are the New Jersey teams in.

    After a 12-0 start, the Johnnies went 9-12 the rest of the way and lost 5-of-7 to close the season, including an 86-54 beatdown by Marquette in the Big East Tournament quarterfinals on Thursday.

    Still, St. John’s has six Q-1 wins including two against Marquette and one against Villanova.

    “Obviously, I’m not on the [NCAA Selection] Committee but they’re a terrific team,” Marquette coach Steve Wojciechowski said Thursday. “They’re unusual in that they start five guys who can all play on the perimeter. They have terrific isolation players and they have a guy in [Shamorie] Ponds who can take over a game. Their defense is unusual because they can switch on ball and off ball.”

    “I think they’re an NCAA Tournament team, I’m hopeful that that will be the case. I personally think they’re worthy of it. I’m not sure the Committee cares what I think.”

    Mullin is now headed to his first NCAA Tournament as a coach.

    “I was pretty confident,” he said. “I had a positive mindset before we practiced today. I voiced my opinions to the players and things worked out. I am very grateful for that.”

    St. John’s will join local school FDU among the First Four. FDU will play Prairie View A&M on Tuesday.

    Photo: St. John’s BB


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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.