St. John’s slump leaves slim margin for error to make NCAA Tournament
St. Johns has eliminated its margin for error.
Any breathing room it had is gone.
Five losses in six games have given the Johnnies no more leeway for the NCAA Tournament.
They have gone from safely in the tournament to right on the cutline, three established Bracketologists Brad Wachtel of Facts & Bracks, Lukas Harkins of Heat Check CBB and Dominic Lese of Bracketometry told The Post.
I would say theyre 50/50 if the teams were getting selected today, Wachtel said. I feel good about them being the last team in right now, but every day things change.
All three currently have St. Johns (13-9, 5-6) in the tournament at the moment, but among the last four teams in.
They are by no means comfortable.
Their rsum needs improvement.
Coach Rick Pitinos team lacks a marquee win and has just two victories over at-large teams Utah at a neutral site and Butler at home in the field.
3The St. John’s bench looks dejected during a loss to UConn on Saturday. Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY SportsSt. Johns only has one bad loss, at home over disappointing Michigan, and its NET ranking of 43 the tool the selection committee uses the most to assess teams is solid for a bubble team. The Red Storms 2-7 record in Quad 1 games (the highest quality of victory based on the NET rankings) needs improvement, but their 5-1 mark in Quad 2 games is an asset that has kept them in the mix, according to Lese, the top-rated Bracketologist last year.
Big Easts elite teams are still a notch above improving St. John’s
Adding more quantity will keep those rsum metrics in pretty good standing, Harkins said. Sometimes all it is is just the one elite win that gives a team an edge. But look at Florida for example. If at Kentucky is its only Quad 1 win the rest of the year, and St. Johns doesnt have a win of that level, but it has four Quad 1 wins compared to Floridas one, the edge would flip to St. Johns even without a great, great win at the top.
What St. Johns can ill afford is a loss to one of the Big Easts woeful duo of Georgetown and DePaul. It will face each team twice, starting with DePaul on Tuesday at UBS Arena.
Those are potential landmines.
Of course, those two teams have combined to win only one league game all year, and it was Georgetown knocking off DePaul at home by three.
Otherwise, opportunities to improve the rsum are there.
3St. John’s coach Rick Pitino USA TODAY Sports via Reuters ConA trip to seventh-ranked Marquette on Saturday is the most obvious one. The Golden Eagles beat the Johnnies by one at the Garden recently.
A home game against No. 19 Creighton at MSG on Feb. 25 is another potential needle-mover. There are also Quad 1 chances against Providence and Butler on the road and Seton Hall at home, which is a Quad 2 contest.
A 3-2 record in those games would likely be enough. Even two wins in those five contests might suffice, as long as they dont lose to Georgetown and DePaul.
Adding two more quality wins and no more bad losses on the rsum, I think thats probably enough barring a bad loss then in the Big East Tournament, Lese said. Even if they get the two that are against Butler and Providence that arent the high-, high-level wins, thats still two more Quad 1 wins on the rsum. You get both of those and beat all the other teams youre supposed to, then I think even without that high-level win, theyre fine.
Interestingly, Wachtel singled out one Big East team as significant for St. Johns path to the tournament.
3Chris Ledlum passes the ball against UConn on Saturday. APThe Johnnies swept Villanova, which at the time was considered significant. But the Wildcats have struggled of late, falling out of tournament projections.
However, they did wallop Providence on Sunday. Villanova playing its way back into the field would be important.
I think they will get in ultimately, which is going to benefit St. Johns, Wachtel said. Whats important? Wins over at-large teams, wins over tourney teams.
In the end, St. Johns has to start stacking wins.
The last few weeks havent ruined its tournament chances, but it has hurt them. All along, the thought was that the back end of the league schedule was in the Johnnies favor. It has to take advantage of that slate.
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