With the Big East set to land as many as 11 teams in the NCAA Tournament field this year, there's a strange glow around the conference tournament.
On the one hand, you've got a staggering collection of talent on display. Thursday's quarterfinal round wouldn't be a bad day of action for the main event, and the big dance will have a tough time coming up with a session more entertaining than the afternoon double-dip of Kemba Walker's buzzer beater and the St. John's-Syracuse slugfest.
That said, it is also a lot of ado about nothing. With so many teams already holding tickets to the madness, there's an anti-climactic quality to the events. There doesn't need to be any larger narrative to enjoy great basketball, of course, but we wouldn't argue with a plucky upstart trying to upset the apple cart instead of watching the elephants fight over slight changes in seeding.
Because of that, the loss to Syracuse doesn't really matter to St. John's.
Winning is always preferable, of course, but they will still find themselves in a giddy frenzy on Sunday night when they find out where they will be playing as a four or five seed in their triumphant return to the tournament field.
Unfortunately for St. John's, the meaningless nature of the games only relates to the teams. For the players, there's always health on the line and D.J. Kennedy lost that battle on Thursday. His college basketball career came to an end when he tore his ACL during the first half against Syracuse, a loss that cost the Johnnies deeply on Thursday as the Orange battered them in the paint and on the glass throughout the second half.
That loss will be felt regardless of which team stands across from the Red Storm in the first round. For all of Dwight Hardy's individual brilliance, the Johnnies got to this point because they got so much from so many different players over the course of the season. Someone always stepped up to make a shot, rotated over to fill a defensive hole or made a play below the radar to set up a teammate. Kennedy was often that player and his absence means that Steve Lavin will have one less guy who can make that play when they will surely need it to keep their season alive.
It's a brutal blow for the team, but an even more devastating one for the player. Kennedy was one of the many seniors on this team who were ridiculed throughout their collegiate careers before finally blossoming this season. Now he doesn't even get to taste the reward for all that hard work.
Perhaps his teammates can still bring him a little bit of glory, but that feels a bit less likely without Kennedy standing in the middle of it all.