Once left for dead after losing its first five Big East games, St. John’s has stormed back and won five of six. The Red Storm are now at 15-9 overall and 5-6 in the Big East heading into Thursday night’s game at Seton Hall. Steve Lavin’s club seems to be hanging around the bubble. It’s been a roller coaster, so how might the Johnnies end up?
Well, right now while Ken Pomeroy sees the Red Storm as the favorite in five of their final seven games they’re still only projected to finish at 9-9 overall. Games at Villanova on Feb. 22nd and at Marquette on March 8th are especially difficult. Still, if St. John’s could get to 10-8 and 20-11 before the Big East tournament they’d probably be in pretty good shape and would have beaten at least a few fellow bubble contenders.
I ran 10,000 simulations of the Big East to see how likely that might be. The most likely scenario was those nine victories at 33% of simulations, but the next most common was 10 wins (27%). If you include the Red Storm’s potential to win 11 (10%) or 12 games (very small) then there’s about a 37% chance that St. John’s finishes Big East play over .500 and a 60% chance they’re at least .500 at the end of conference play.
Even if St. John’s doesn’t finish .500, they’re not going to fall too far. There are too many winnable games left on the schedule – for instance home against DePaul and Butler. Yes, the Red Storm will need to show up (remember they lost at DePaul by two points in mid January), but those should be wins. In fact, 7-11 seems like a worst-case scenario at this point. Only 108 of the 10,000 sims (~1%) ended with a worse record for the Red Storm. Of course anything less than 9-9 in the Big East definitely doesn’t get it done and even then the NCAAs might be a stretch at that point. Still, here’s a graph of the full distribution:
While place doesn’t really matter in the NCAA tournament selection, it certainly does matter in the Big East tournament. The teams finishing in 7th through 10th place have to play an extra day. Also, avoiding Villanova until the end seems like an ideal scenario at the moment. That would mean finishing in either 2nd, 3rd or 6th place to accomplish both goals. Right now 3rd and 6th seem achievable for the Red Storm. Take a look:
There’s about a 24% chance that St. John’s will have to play on the first day of the Big East tournament, either by finishing 7th or 8th. The most likely scenario is that St. John’s finishes 5th (20%) and takes on the fourth seed – most likely Xavier or Providence – in the quarterfinals.
A look at potential first round opponents for the Red Storm:
|Team||Percentage of 4th Places|
Still, St. John’s has a long way to go before it can worry about the Big East or NCAA tournament. Getting this far starts by taking care of business in the tough toss-up game at Seton Hall. Winning that one would go a long way towards solidifying the rise of Lavin’s club to a true Big East contender here midway through February.