|Shamorie Ponds. @StJohnsBball.|
The St. John's Red Storm have made the NCAA Tournament for the first time with Head Coach Chris Mullin at the helm.
The Red Storm won 21 games this season, the This season, the Red Storm has matched its highest win total since 1999-2000 by emerging victorious in 21 games.
They started the campaign with 12 consecutive wins, entered Selection Sunday with five Quad One victories on its resume, including a neutral site triumph over VCU and three wins in four regular season attempts against Marquette and Villanova .
St. John's NCAA Tournament journey will begin on Wednesday night in Dayton, Ohio, as the Red Storm will square off with Arizona State. The game will air on truTV. They are the second game of the night, with tip off around 9:00 p.m.
The winner of that game will earn the right to play the no. 6 seed in the West Region, Buffalo, on Friday in Tulsa, Okla.
The West Region was the one that was announced last during the Selection Show on CBS Sunday night, making it quite tense for a team on the bubble.
Mullin said of his emotions as the selections were announced, “I was pretty confident. I had a positive mindset before we practiced today. I voiced my opinions to the players and things worked out. I am very grateful for that...
“I had never been through that before. I’ve been through a lot of tough losses and great wins, sitting at the [NBA] Draft but that was authentic emotion. They popped up so fast that I couldn’t see the screen. To me, that was a new experience. The guys will remember this.”
On being selected to the NCAA Tournament, Mullin said, “It’s about the university, the team, the student body, our fan base, and the people that support us. Historically, this is what St. John’s has always been. To get back to that point, I’m very happy for my players. We’ve gotten progressively better, taking small steps and this is a big step forward.”
St. John’s will make its 29th all-time NCAA Tournament appearance, a total that is tied for 23rd in the history of Division I. The Red Storm last made the Tournament in 2015 and last won an NCAA game in 2000.
They have advanced to the Sweet 16 nine times and made six appearances in the Elite Eight. The last of St. John’s two Final Four berths came in 1985, when the team was led by National Player of the Year Chris Mullin.
The Red Storm are led by two-time First Team All-BIG EAST selection Shamorie Ponds. He one of just five players in program history to earn multiple First Team All-Big East honors, ranks third in the Big East in scoring while placing second in assists (5.2 per game) and first in steals (2.6 per game). He also leads the conference in assist-to-turnover ratio at 2.6-to-1.
St. John's is one of just two teams in the Big East to feature five players averaging double figures.
Ponds said of the Red Storm being the last team selected, “It definitely adds fuel to the fire. We should go in there with that mindset since everyone wanted to count us out. We have to prove everyone wrong and play St. John’s basketball.”
On being selected to the Big Dance, Ponds said, “I’m excited to go out there and play. This is what we work all year for and we finally have an opportunity to take advantage of it. It’s a blessing. As it was winding down, I kept thinking, are we in? It definitely felt good to get in.”
St. John’s redshirt junior guard Justin Simon, who was named the Big East Defensive Player of the Year, said of getting into the tournament, “I was really just waiting the whole time until I saw our name on the board. Once I saw the matchup against [Arizona State] I was really excited. They beat us last year at the STAPLES Center so I am just really excited for that game.”
Simon said of how their campaign ended, with losing four of five games to end the regular season and then winning just once in the Big East Tournament, “We didn’t finish the year the way we wanted to but we are excited for a fresh start. In the postseason everybody starts out 0-0. We have an unbelievable opportunity to get a win in this tournament. Our goal is to move on to the next round and excited to take it game-by-game.”
St. John’s redshirt forward Marvin Clark II said of getting into the tournament, “It is most definitely a relief because we are in but at the same time I have to maintain my composure and stay poise because at the end of the day we have job to do. I am definitely ecstatic about getting this program back to the tournament and having another opportunity to play basketball. I am just thankful that my senior year isn’t over...
“We didn’t end the season the way we wanted to but this is a new opportunity. New life. In the tournament nothing is ever promised. Everybody has the chance to win and everybody is presented the opportunity to play and I feel like all we need is that one opportunity.”
St. John’s junior guard Mustapha Heron said of the team’s mentality heading into Wednesday night, “Not really nervous. We are just excited to go and play basketball in March. We just talked about how not many teams make it, just 68 teams. To be one of those is exciting…
“Same feeling as November 6th. It’s a 0-0 clean start.”