St. John's basketball has biggest advantage over every opponent

The St. John's basketball team has its biggest weapon during every game standing on the sidelines
Jan 6, 2024; Villanova, Pennsylvania, USA; St. John's Red Storm head coach Rick Pitino reacts during
Jan 6, 2024; Villanova, Pennsylvania, USA; St. John's Red Storm head coach Rick Pitino reacts during / Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

There have not been many times in which the St. John's basketball program held a significant advantage over on the sidelines when it took the court.

In fact, the Johnnies have never had a consistent advantage with the man pulling the strings in the last two decades and the team was always playing at a strategical disadvantage ever since Chris Mullin was hired in 2015.

Those days are now long gone for the Red Storm because of Rick Pitino.

The Hall of Famer gives St. John's the edge it has been looking for and it was on full display on Saturday afternoon against Villanova.

Pitino led the Johnnies to its first on-campus road win against the Wildcats since 1993 and did it by putting Wildcats head coach Kyle Neptune into a mental pretzel.

St. John's consistently switched its defenses from a press, to man-to-man, to zone and Neptune didn't have any answers but to let his players shoot from 3-point range in hopes the 'Cats would catch fire or hope the officials would call fouls on the Red Storm.

Sometimes, Pitino used all three defenses within two possessions.

Villanova looked unprepared for the different looks St. John's gave them, very similar to how the Red Storm would look under previous coaching regimes against Big East foes.

Sean Miller said after the Johnnies defeated Xavier in the league opener that he wasn't expecting Rick Pitino to have his team ready to play zone after not utilizing the defensive strategy in non-conference play.

It's another testament to the advantage that having the best coach in the conference gives you.

Now, having Pitino does not automatically give St. John's wins, like in early season losses to Michigan and Boston College, but it does allow players to develop during the season at at rate like no other team in the country and give the Johnnies a chance every time it steps on the floor.

It's been shown in players such as Brady Dunlap, who was a seldom used bench player until his breakout performances against Butler and Villanova, and Drissa Traore, who was never used under Mike Anderson last season and has turned into a serviceable backup forward this year.

St. John's is 3-1 in the Big East, its best start in the league since the 2010-11 season, something not many could have seen coming in mid-December and it has a chance to continue its winning ways against Providence on Wednesday night (6:30 p.m. ET, FoxSports1) at Madison Square Garden.

Matchups loom on the road against No. 22 Creighton and Seton Hall, which is followed by the Johnnies' first matchup of the season with No. 11 Marquette, but if we have learned anything over the last three weeks it's that Rick Pitino will have his team ready to play no matter who the opponent is.

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