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red storm rising

St. John’s Pads Their Tournament Résumé

St. John's won 80–68 at Marquette last night to improve their overall record to 16–9, and their record in the Big East to 8–5. They've now won four straight overall, including back-to-back road victories. And since their 25-point loss to Georgetown on January 26, they've dropped just one game — and a nonconference one at that. It's probably safe now to stop wondering if the Johnnies will qualify for the NCAA Tournament, and instead concern ourselves with the seed that'll appear next to their name on Selection Sunday.

As long as the Red Storm takes care of business against Big East bottom dwellers South Florida and DePaul — and avoids a similarly bad loss in the conference tournament — they should be in. Those two wins alone would give them eighteen, and their upcoming schedule also includes a winnable game at Seton Hall, in addition to two more contests against ranked teams.

And that's before the conference tournament begins, giving them more chances still to add to the win column and further impress the selection committee. Really, the only thing keeping us from declaring with certainty that St. John's has already sealed its Tournament bid is this: If you can lose to Fordham — and we say this as a proud alum of that institution — you can lose to DePaul, or South Florida, or anyone really. So anything's possible still. (Reason No. 233 why it's frustrating to follow Fordham basketball: The "bad losses" graphic shown during each and every St. John's broadcast, which basically serves as a reminder of how embarrassed the Johnnies should be for losing at Rose Hill.)

But St. John's has turned their season around since that loss, so barring something catastrophic, the next couple of weeks are all about seeding, both for the NCAA Tournament and the Big East Tournament at the Garden. (The top four seeds get a double-bye, and the next four get a single-bye. Right now, St. John's is tied with Villanova at 8–5, a half-game back of fourth-place Louisville.) And this weekend brings yet another ranked opponent to the Garden: No. 4 Pittsburgh, which boasts a 23–2 record, and perhaps more impressively, an 11–1 mark in the Big East.

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Photo: Jeffrey Phelps/AP