Why this St. John’s tease was extra-painful

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Somehow, these previous few days made this season really feel worse. More painful. More disappointing. 

It could be one factor if St. John’s was one-and-done within the Big East Tournament. If it snuck previous DePaul on Wednesday evening and was overwhelmed by Villanova 24 hours later. 

That could be simpler to take care of. Even tolerable. Instead, Johnnies followers noticed their workforce run DePaul — an improved DePaul that entered the match enjoying so effectively — off the Garden flooring. They noticed Julian Champagnie, Posh Alexander and Co. outplay the eighth-ranked Wildcats for big stretches, construct a 17-point lead and are available inside a bounce or a good whistle of an enormous upset. 

It makes you surprise: Where was this workforce? Where was this protection? Where was this depth and focus and self-discipline? Why did it solely seem in a handful of video games? 

After the gut-wrenching loss, coach Mike Anderson acknowledged this ought to have been a match workforce. He lamented that it took so lengthy for this group to come back collectively. Villanova’s Jay Wright stated his workforce was not stunned by the 17-15 Johnnies — it knew how good it’s opponent can play — and felt the big deficit was extra about what St. John’s was doing in comparison with what the Wildcats weren’t. 

That is an indictment on Anderson. Clearly, the items have been in place to at the least go Dancing. To end within the prime half of the league. To keep away from enjoying on the opening evening of the match. 

Mike Anderson
Mike Anderson
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It took him too lengthy to determine what he had. His rotations have been too erratic, his substitution patterns too inconsistent. Not sufficient changes have been made to suit the roster. As good of a job he did his first two years, and I believed the 62-year-old Anderson overachieved, he was nearer to the opposite finish of the spectrum this winter. 

You can’t use the novelty of the roster, not when so many different coaches handled related conditions in this, the period of the switch portal. Yes, the 17-day COVID-19 pause was unlucky, however others handled that, too. Sure, freshman guard Rafael Pinzon lacking two months was vital, particularly when you think about this workforce felt a guard quick. But simply look throughout the Hudson River. Seton Hall had a number of new gamers. It had a prolonged pause. It misplaced its prime scorer, Bryce Aiken, in early January, and the Pirates gained’t even need to sweat Selection Sunday. 

If you watched the primary few days of the match, you noticed how effectively St. John’s performed — notably on protection, limiting the celebrities on DePaul and Villanova — the one groups that have been clearly superior have been the Wildcats and UConn. There isn’t any motive the Red Storm shouldn’t be sitting in the identical place as Seton Hall and Marquette, ready on an opponent and placement on Sunday relatively than hoping for an NIT bid. 

But that’s the unhappy, sobering actuality. This workforce couldn’t win a detailed sport in opposition to an honest opponent, going 5-11 in video games determined by single digits and 2-9 when these video games concerned a Big East opponent. It couldn’t come by means of within the clutch, whether or not that’s on the coach, the gamers or a mixture of the 2. But principally, it didn’t convey its sport — the sport we noticed over the primary two nights of the Big East Tournament — wherever near sufficient instances. 

St. John's
Julian Champagnie helps up Posh Alexander throughout St. John’s loss to Villanova.
Getty Images

This 12 months now goes proper up there with the irritating 2013-14 season, when a Sweet 16 workforce on paper fell a win in need of the match. You can argue which season is extra disappointing. I really feel that group, that includes JaKarr Sampson, D’Angelo Harrison, Chris Obekpa and Sir’Dominic Pointer, was extra proficient in a weaker Big East. That two of essentially the most anticipated seasons of the final decade resulted in NIT berths speaks volumes of this snakebitten program. 

That’s sadly how this workforce will probably be remembered: for what might have been, perhaps ought to have been. Wednesday and Thursday evening showcased the potential that existed inside this roster. It additionally added one other layer of disappointment to a season stuffed with what-ifs. For long-suffering St. John’s followers, it made this underachieving 12 months even worse. 

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