The St. John’s Red Storm have had a woeful season. You don’t have to even be a casual fan of Big East basketball to know that. Entering Saturday, the Johnnies were hobbling through an 11-game losing streak, in which they lost all their games to their fellow Big East opponents. That combined with the Marcus LoVett injury has provided a double whammy of pessimism that has permeated through Queens this year. A season that started with much hype and promise turned into a lost season in the blink of an eye.
That all being said, we’re now an hour removed from one of the biggest upsets of the entire college hoops season. That aforementioned Red Storm team, the one caught in the midst of a debilitating 11-game losing streak, just knocked off the Duke Blue Devils. Yes, those Dukies. The ones with Marvin Bagley III, the much-ballyhooed pro prospect who will likely go in the Top 4 of next year’s NBA Draft. The one with chief agitator Grayson Allen. The same Duke with Gary Trent Jr. and Wendell Carter Jr. Those Blue Devils who are still likely one of the title favorites among the pack of touted college hoops teams.
College basketball has seen a lot of crazy things happen. This, though, was certainly one of the craziest things. It’s not that the Red Storm aren’t talented, though. This isn’t like a Southland or an NEC team took down the Dukies. But still, losing to a team that’s 0-11 in their conference and hasn’t won a game since 2017 is quite the black eye for Duke. So the question coming out of this game is:
Did St. John’s just knock Duke off the top line for the NCAA Tournament?
It’s a question worth pondering. Let’s consider the following:
- Villanova, who is 21-1 (in case you forgotten) has no bad losses this season, and is barreling towards the #1 overall seed.
- Virginia, who is also 21-1, has no bad losses this season either. They beat Duke last weekend at Cameron Indoor. They, also, appear to be on a collision course with a #1 seed.
- Purdue, at 22-2, lost to Western Kentucky at Atlantis. WKU is a fringe tourney team at this point, and their other loss is to Tennessee, who is a surefire lock to make the field of 68 at this point. The Boilermakers are mowing through the Big Ten, and as long as they don’t trip up, they’ll likely grab the 3rd #1 seed.
So, you have three teams who have #1 seeds essentially wrapped up at this point. Then, there’s a slew of teams fighting for the last #1 seed. You have Duke, you have the Kansas Jayhawks, you even have the Xavier Musketeers of the Big East. A team that could possibly sneak up on everyone is the Auburn Tigers, who rank 7th in the RPI. And, additionally, there’s the Clemson Tigers, who rank 4th in the RPI as of now. The committee essentially covets the RPI, so that may prove to be a factor. For what it’s worth, Duke still ranks 5th, but the rankings have to obviously change.
The thing with Duke and the top line, and all the other teams competing with them for that fourth #1 seed is that almost none of them now have as bad a loss as Duke does. The defeat to the Red Storm may very well bungle their chances of getting that fourth 1 seed, especially when you consider they’re 110th in the RPI rankings right now. Clemson’s worst loss is to N.C. State, who ranks 65th in the RPI. Most, if not all of the other squads in contention, don’t own losses any worse than 65th, and mostly hover around the Top 50.
Ironically, the only loss worse than Duke’s to St. John’s? It also came on Saturday. Kansas was rolled by the Oklahoma State Cowboys, who ranked 115th in the RPI coming into the day.
Fittingly, Xavier has a great chance to grab the fourth 1 seed with this St. John’s upset. They’re third in the RPI as of right now, have no bad losses (worst is to Providence, who ranks 36th in the RPI right now) and still have an opportunity to knock off Villanova, the Seton Hall Pirates, Creighton Bluejays and Butler Bulldogs again, all of whom are in the Top 30 of the RPI. They own victories over the latter three to this point, and owning season sweeps against them would only help their chances. If the Red Storm’s win leads to the Musketeers grabbing the fourth 1 seed, that would be conference camaraderie at its finest.
The loss from Duke may very well open the door for someone else to grab that elusive fourth No. 1 seed. If that happens? Well, we can look back to February 3, when the Johnnies did the unthinkable at The Garden.