St. John's Aims To Recover After Stunning Loss At The Garden

University of Pittsburgh

Shocking losses are an inherent part of college basketball, but that doesn't mean they don't hurt. As such, on Saturday, the St. John's Red Storm dropped a heartbreaker at home against the Pittsburgh Panthers, as Pitt's Jamarius Burton hit a game-winning floater with 0.4 seconds remaining. Even with their current 8-3 record and sixth-place standing inside the Big East conference, the Red Storm understand that, as a probable bubble team, their chances of an NCAA tournament berth could hinge on the results of any given game, making this defeat extra painful.

Despite the absence of star forward Julian Champagnie (he tested positive for COVID-19 on Friday), the Red Storm led most of the game against their former conference rival. In the first half, the Red Storm came out strong, even building a 10 point advantage midway through the half. Throughout the second half, though, the Big East competitor witnessed their offense forced to take tough shots, not score inside the paint, and get blocked at the basket. Worse, they turned the ball over 10 times in the second half.

While this is definitely a bad loss to a mediocre bad Pitt team (ranked 186th by KenPom), it could also be a learning experience for St. John's as they enter conference play. Once Champagnie returns, the Red Storm will have a chance to prove themselves as a potential Tournament team. Over the next few weeks, the Red Storm will play three of their first four conference games at home before entering a difficult three-week stretch on the road, where trips at No. 20 UConn, No. 16 Seton Hall, and No. 9 Villanova are on tap (January 8th-29th).

There's no doubt the Red Storm has enough talent and coaching to compete for a tournament bid, but that isn't the expectation for this year's team. Deep down, they probably acknowledge an extensive postseason run next March can happen next year and that this year is more about building the foundation for consistent success. Going forward, the Johnnies won't have to settle for lower seeds and play-in games, which ultimately led to their routine early-round exits during the Chris Mullin era (2015-'19).

But the Red Storm understands business has to be handled over the next two months. Every game is a must-win game, regardless of who's on the court because that's how championship-contending teams treat them.

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