This is the second year in a row that St. John's could finish the season as one of the Big East's best four teams yet fail to make the Big East Tournament. In 2013, a loss to Georgetown at a neutral site location on Long Island sunk the Red Storm, giving the Hoyas the deciding head-to-head tiebreaker between the two schools (both finished their league campaigns with identical 3-3 records). The Johnnies were superior to Georgetown over the course of the season, but a bad beat ultimately doomed the hopes of St. John's to have a postseason adventure.
In 2014, St. John's has seemingly run into a similarly difficult situation: Losses to Rutgers and Marquette in league play -- games in which the Johnnies were favored (favored but not heroically favored) -- have put the Red Storm in the unenviable position of (1) needing to win its final league date against a difficult opponent, and (2) wishing terrible things happen to the rest of the league so that they may personally gain (alternatively known as "The Ex-Girl/Boyfriend Theory"). The Johnnies, though, shouldn't be in this position; the Red Storm are solidly within the conference's top four from a performance expectation position:
|RANK||TEAM||PYTHAGOREAN WIN EXPECTATION||NATIONAL RANK|
What math expects from St. John's relative to the rest of the Big East, however, isn't the reality in which the Red Storm are functioning. The Johnnies are sitting in the worst position in the league at the moment -- fifth, one position away from transferring to the conference's lacrosse bonanza:
|TEAM||RECORD||WINS||LOSSES||STILL TO PLAY|
|Denver||4-0||Rutgers, Georgetown, Villanova, St. John's||None||Providence, Marquette|
|Villanova||3-1||Marquette, Georgetown, Rutgers||Denver||St. John's, Providence|
|Marquette||3-1||Rutgers, St. John's, Providence||Villanova||Georgetown, Denver|
|Rutgers||2-3||Providence, St. John's||Denver, Marquette, Villanova||Georgetown|
|St. John's||2-3||Georgetown, Providence||Rutgers, Marquette, Denver||Villanova|
|Georgetown||1-3||Providence||St. John's, Villanova, Denver||Marquette, Rutgers|
|Providence||0-4||None||Rutgers, St. John's, Georgetown, Marquette||Denver, Villanova|
The Johnnies are in the frantic position of being between a nuclear explosion and a nuclear meltdown, but the team does have a fairly direct path to the Big East Tournament:
- St. John's must beat Villanova at home.
- Georgetown must beat Rutgers at home.
- Marquette must beat Georgetown at home.
That's the most direct way to get at least one game at Villanova in early May. (There's an incredibly convoluted scenario where St. John's, Villanova, Marquette, and Rutgers or Georgetown -- but not both -- could finish the year with identical 3-3 records. I refuse to think through that scenario right now, which is why the direct path for St. John's to the Big East Tournament includes Marquette beating Georgetown in Milwaukee to avoid a situation where Marquette, Georgetown, and St. John's all finish with a 3-3 conference record. Anyone remember the Big East's situation in 2012 when a three-team tiebreaker excluded Georgetown from the league's postseason? That's the problem with a multi-team tiebreaker at the moment.) The issue for the Johnnies, then, is the likelihood of those results occurring. In a log5 environment, two out of the three scenarios are pretty reasonable to come through, with the third -- one that St. John's can't control -- looking like a long shot at the moment:
|Villanova at St. John's||Villanova (54.83%)||St. John's (45.17%)||Rutgers at Georgetown||Rutgers (70.75%)||Georgetown (29.25%)|
|Georgetown at Marquette||Marquette (67.25%)||Georgetown (32.75%)|
Counting on Georgetown to beat Rutgers requires a belief in the universe's leveling qualities that would drive Neil deGrasse Tyson insane. It's possible that the Hoyas could bite Rutgers, but St. John's is still relying on a team to find a win in a really tough spot. There is a faint glimmer of light in the distance, but the Johnnies aren't in control of whether it realizes what lies in the beyond.