Rick Pitino still sees improvement in St. John's basketball despite latest setback

Rick Pitino is still encouraged by the St. John's basketball team despite its loss against Xavier

Jan 31, 2024; Cincinnati, Ohio, USA; St. John's Red Storm head coach Rick Pitino during the first
Jan 31, 2024; Cincinnati, Ohio, USA; St. John's Red Storm head coach Rick Pitino during the first / Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports
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Rick Pitino was much more subdued as he spoke following the most recent St. John's basketball loss against Xavier.

He was frustrated, but there was no million dollar soundbite or harshness to his tone like in previous defeats.

Pitino knew his team did not play its best game and still had a chance to steal one from the Musketeers but the same issue of not corralling a loose ball late in the game plagued the Johnnies once again.

Xavier (11-10, 5-5 Big East) ended the game on a 13-2 run over the final 2:43 and won, 88-77.

"We're not a great team, we're a hardworking team getting better," he said.

The Hall of Famer has explained all season that he believes this team will be playing its best basketball in February and rolling into March with momentum, and the Johnnies (13-8, 5-5 Big East) are going to need some of that quickly.

Losing four of its last five games, St. John's will welcome No. 1 UConn (19-2, 9-1 Big East) to Madison Square Garden on Saturday afternoon (12:00 p.m. ET, FOX) and then have a brutal roadtrip beginning next weekend after its date with dreadful DePaul (3-18, 0-10 Big East) against No. 9 Marquette (16-5, 7-3 Big East) followed by a trip to Providence (14-7, 5-5 Big East).

"We were an average team and now we are a good team, so I would say we are improving."

It could easily extend to a lengthy losing stretch if the Red Storm are not careful, although the final six games of the regular season appear to be very favorable to the Johnnies.

St. John's is not in danger of missing the NCAA Tournament at the moment as most bracket projections have them safely in the field with a NET of No. 38 and KenPom ranking at No. 36. The Johnnies have a combined 7-7 record in Quad 1 and 2 games, although the team is just 2-6 in Quad 1 matchups.

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