St. John’s basketball makes NCAA Tournament in Play-In matchup

St. John's basketball (Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports)
St. John's basketball (Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports) /

The St. John’s basketball team is heading back to the NCAA Tournament. 

Waiting eight days to learn its NCAA Tournament fate had to be brutal for the St. John’s basketball program and head coach Joe Tartamella, but it all paid off on Sunday night.

The Red Storm, right on the tournament cut line, learned that it earned a No. 11 seed in the Big Dance.

The Johnnies lost to Marquette, which received a No. 9 seed in the NCAA Tournament, in the quarterfinals of the Big East Tournament last Saturday and many figured that could be a presumptive play-in game to the NCAA Tournament with both programs hovering near the bubble.

It turns out that was not the case as both schools heard its name called.

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St. John’s will play Purdue in a First Four matchup on Thursday in the Columbus Regional as No. 6 seed North Carolina awaits the winner.

It’s the first time the Red Storm made the NCAA Tournament since the 2015-16, when it last won the Big East Tournament, and last time the Johnnies won a tournament game was in 2014.

St. John’s basketball thriving on new sense of life

St. John’s was trending towards the NCAA Tournament during the 2019-20 season before the tournament was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the last two years have seen the Red Storm finish well below .500 at a combined 20-34.

The heat was turning up on Tartamella, who was named as the Big East Coach of the Year and finalist for the Naismith National Coach of the Year, but he can attribute a cool throne to his team’w stunning victory in Hartford against then No. 4 UConn, 69-64.

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The victory proved to be the difference in getting into the field for the Red Storm, who also defeated then No. 13 Creighton in early December.

St. John’s started the season 13-0, the best start in program history, and managed to avoid any resume killing losses on the year despite being swept by Seton Hall.

Times and dates have not yet been finalized for the NCAA Tournament.

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