LOS ANGELES - JANUARY 30: Head Coach Steve Lavin of the UCLA Bruins shouts to his team against the Oregon Ducks on January 30, 2003 at Pauley Pavillion in Los Angeles, California. Oregon won 96-91. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
A week ago, the St. John's men's basketball team cracked the top 25 for the first time in more than a decade. After defeating No. 14 Villanova on Saturday, the Red Storm now find themselves ranked 15th nationally.
Since a three-game conference losing streak in mid-January, St. John's is 8-1, including wins over Duke, UConn, Pittsburgh and Villanova. They also defeated Georgetown and Notre Dame to begin 2011.
Much of St. John's success goes to first-year coach Steve Lavin. In the two years prior to his arrival, the Red Storm were 33-34. With just two games remaining in the regular season, the team is 19-9 and playing some of its best basketball in years.
"This group, their entire careers have been in the lower half of the league or the cellar," Lavin told the New York Daily News. "That makes this a unique story of a turnaround in terms of the confidence this group is playing with.
"When you have seniors, you have an experienced, focused group that's highly motivated to finish on a high note," Lavin added. "With each passing game they're getting more swagger and they're enjoying how this feels. It puts more fuel in the tank to keep it going."
The Red Storm are currently tied for third in the Big East with a 11-5 conference record. A top-four finish would guarantee them a double bye into the quarterfinals of the conference tournament.