St. John’s basketball can prove contender status against Villanova

St. John's basketball guard Posh Alexander and Joel Soriano (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)
St. John's basketball guard Posh Alexander and Joel Soriano (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images) /

The St. John’s basketball team has a chance to prove its contender status against Villanova. 

Everyone is lukewarm on the St. John’s basketball team.

College basketball experts, analysts, and, most importantly, the metrics.

The Red Storm (11-1, 1-0 Big East) boast one of the best records in the country but did not receive a single vote to be included in this week’s Associated Press Top-25.

North Carolina State (10-3), LSU (10-1), and Missouri (10-1) are the only other power conference programs with at least ten victories and no votes in the AP Top-25 Poll.

The Johnnies are No. 73 in the NET Rankings, No. 49 in KenPom, and are a consensus “Last Four In” NCAA Tournament team, according to BracketMatrix.

The primary reason most are skeptical on the Johnnies is the schedule the program has played thus far.

St. John’s has only one ‘Quad 1’ game on its schedule and the team found itself in a 17-2 hole to begin the game against then No. 23 Iowa State and could never recover.

Nebraska, Syracuse, and Florida State were the only other power conference teams on its schedule — none of which are in the Top-80 in KenPom or NET Rankings — and its lone Big East game came against DePaul, who is quickly proving it is one of the worst teams in the league this season.

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KenPom currently ranks the strength of St. John’s non-conference schedule as No. 334 out of 363 teams. The schedule had been as low as No. 350 if not for recent victories by its previous opponents.

“We’re getting better,” head coach Mike Anderson said following Saturday’s victory over Florida State and completion of the non-Big East portion of its schedule.

However, the Red Storm can take the next step in its development in proving it is a legit contender for an NCAA Tournament berth on Wednesday night (6:30p.m. ET, FS1) against Villanova.

St. John’s basketball has major opportunities waiting

The Wildcats (6-5) are not the typical crown jewel of the conference this season after its nightmare November under head coach Kyle Neptune where the program lost five of its first seven games.

Superstar freshman Cam Whitmore (thumb) missed those seven games before the ‘Cats rattled off a four game winning streak coinciding with the return of the future NBA Lottery Draft selection.

Justin Moore (achilles) remains sidelined and the metrics are not great for Villanova due to its poor beginning of the season.

The Wildcats are No. 100 in the NET Rankings — meaning Wednesday night is currently a ‘Quad 2’ game for the Red Storm — but No. 55 in KenPom’s rankings.

“We know that when you get into conference play the magnitude of the games really go up. The sense of urgency needs to continue to kick in,” Anderson continued.

By no means is this a ‘must-win’ for the Red Storm but a victory would go a long way in proving to the rest of the Big East, and the nation, that St. John’s strong start was not a byproduct of its weak schedule.

Things do not get any easier for the Johnnies after its trip to Pennsylvania as Xavier, Seton Hall, No. 24 Marquette, and Providence await the Red Storm beginning on December 28.