The Selection Committee decided that St. John’s was not good enough for the NCAA tournament. Providence sent the Johnnies to the National Invitational Tournament, beating them 79-74 in the Big East quarterfinal last Thursday at Madison Square Garden.
“What I shared with the team is that at this stage, things are in the Selection Committee’s hands,” Steve Lavin said after the loss. “If you look at our body of work and a number of criteria the Committee considers, we clearly have pluses. But losing in the first round of your conference tournament is not a good thing when you’re trying to build your resume to play in the NCAA Tournament.”
St. John’s entered the 32-team NIT tournament as a 1-seed, but it is tough to miss the NCAAs when winning 20 games in a major conference. Ed Cooley, who led the Friars to the Big East title, felt that St. John’s was worthy of a spot in the NCAAs when asked about the Johnnies chances.
“I’d be shocked. I’m not in that room and selecting anything, but I’ve played them now three times,” said the Providence coach. “They have matchup problems all over the place. They’re a tournament team, deservedly so, because they come out of the Big East and this conference is a monster.”
The Red Storm lost to Robert Morris Tuesday night in the first round of the NIT, 89-78.
Lavin understood the importance of not getting the automatic bid to the tournament that would’ve come with a Big East title.
“You’d prefer to take it out of the Selection Committee’s hands by winning today, winning tomorrow, and winning on Saturday.”
Still, the coach spoke fondly of his team.
“This group has taken us for a ride that I’ll never forget,” Lavin said. “To have a team that started the league 0-5 – and at one time had a record of 9-8 overall and 0-5 in the conference – to finish in league 10-8 in a tie for third, that’s no easy task.”