Tomorrow, St. John's will be facing a tough opponent in fourth ranked Pittsburgh. Although St. John's is the lesser of the two teams, they have played well at home against big opponents like Pittsburgh.
This season, the Red Storm have defeated Duke, UConn, Georgetown and Notre Dame; all home games at Madison Square Garden, which is the venue for Saturday's battle against Pittsburgh.
Had St. Johns only won one of these games it would be safe to call that upset a fluke. With four big upsets, however the Red Storm are a force to be reckoned with, especially coming out of a conference with as much depth as the Big East.
Before their game against Marquette, the Red Storm were given the nickname "Giant Slayers" by ESPN's anchor Stan Verrett because of their ability to take on top ranked schools and defeat them. Let's see just how they earned that name.
Before the game, not many expected St. John's to win. Earlier in the season, they had a terrible loss where they blew a lead of over twenty points to a sub-par Fordham team (Fordham has not won a game since December 22nd).
In this game, the Red Storm did a great job of distributing the ball. Justin Brownlee was named the top performer with 15 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists and a block. He scored 2 points in the final 10 secondsof the game, which ultimately decided the game.
Although this was a huge victory for St. Johns, many considered it a rare win because of the last few years of mediocrity.
Bringing more attention to New York college basketball this season was St. John's second big win. This time it was against Big East rival Notre Dame.
Prior to this game, Notre Dame was being looked as the sleeper pick for the Big East's top team. Led by Ben Hansbrough, the Irish were looking to finish what they started after beating the Red Storm eight days prior. St. Johns and their fans in Madison Square Garden had other ideas in mind, however.
St. Johns won in convincing fashion, with an 18 point victory. For the second time all season, Malik Boothe scored in double digits as he and DJ Kennedy led the team in scoring.
After going on a three game losing streak, the Red Storm returned to New York to take on the Duke Blue Devils on January 30th. The game was supposed to be a blowout and it was, but the other team won.
St. Johns beat Duke 93-78, bringing down another top team. Ultimately defense won the game for St. John's. Although they did allow Kyle Singler and Nolan Smith to run all over them and score a combined 52 points. On average, Duke shoots 39 percent from behind the arc. Against the Red Storm they shot 5-26, or just 19.2 percent.
In addition to containing the Blue Devils offensively, each starter for St. John's, except forward Dwayne Polee Jr., scored over 10 points. To compensate for Polee's bad game, bench forward Sean Evans scored 10 as the Red Storm went on to defeat the Blue Devils.
For the umpteenth time this season, Dwight Hardy led the charge against another ranked foe entering Madison Square Garden. In the UConn game, it seemed as if Hardy had a chip on his shoulder as he scored a season-high 33 points.
Along with Hardy, guard/forward DJ Kennedy made a big impact on offense and defense as he recorded a double-double with 20 points and 11 rebounds (8 of them being defensive rebounds).
The combination of all the players has been a force to be reckoned with this season. This game was just another example. Connecticut guard, Kemba Walker, is known for his ability to carry his team and lead his teams to victory, but against the Red Storm, he was held to 15 points.
You may be wondering what those four wins mean, well I'll tell you. When big teams like Pittsburgh or Duke or Connecticut roll into Madison Square Garden to take on St. John's, don't expect the Red Storm to roll over.
Steve Lavin has instilled a sense of confidence in his team and has provided them with a strategy that is a great fit for their skills. This weekend against Pitt, expect a similar type of game where the crowd will be into it and the Red Storm will be eyeing another big win.
If they win, there is a very likely chance that they will be ranked, which will improve their seeding in the Big East tournament and NCAA tournament. Below is St. John's remaining schedule:
Feb. 19 vs. No. 5 Pittsburgh
Feb. 23 vs. Depaul
Feb. 26 @ No. 7 Villanova
Mar. 3 @ Seton Hall
Mar.5 vs. USF