St. John's Didn't Get Much Love From Selection Committee - NBC New York

St. John's Didn't Get Much Love From Selection Committee

A tough draw awaits the Johnnies in Denver



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    It was great to see the elation on the faces of the St. John's basketball team Sunday evening as their long walk in the desert officially came to an end with a bid to the 2011 NCAA Tournament.

    The senior-laden team suffered an endless run of slings and arrows during their first three years, culminating in the firing of the man who brought all of them to Queens in the first place.

    Steve Lavin has been very classy in the way he's credited Norm Roberts for a hand in this team's success, and we're hoping Roberts got some enjoyment from the scene on CBS Sunday.

    As a basketball coach, though, he may have found himself a bit more concerned with what lies ahead of the Johnnies than savoring that moment of celebration.

    The selection committee was swayed more by the Red Storm's quarterfinal loss to Syracuse and, more significantly, the injury to D.J. Kennedy than the thrills their return to basketball's upper echelon when they made their decision.

    The Johnnies fell from a projected fourth seed last week to a sixth seed heading to Denver for their first-round game.

    They will face off against Gonzaga, a team that appears to be peaking at just the right time. They've rolled off nine straight wins, including a West Coast Conference tournament final win over St. Mary's. The same St. Mary's that started the St. John's season with a loss, as it happens.

    Gonzaga would be tough on any floor, but they'll be making the shorter trip to Denver as well.

    That might not translate to a major difference in crowd noise, but you'd prefer to be playing closer to home. You'd also prefer to be playing a team with a little less experience in these spots.

    Gonzaga makes the bracket every year, which means they won't have a moment of the happy-just-to-be-there excitement we saw from the Red Storm on Sunday.

    Should they get past Gonzaga, St. John's will likely face off against BYU. The location will be a bigger factor here as Denver isn't all that far from Provo and BYU fans will be out in force with a trip to the Sweet 16 on the line.

    Jimmer Fredette, the nation's top scorer, will have to be stopped and it will have to happen without Big East refs used to the physical style favored by the Red Storm.

    After a season spent making mincemeat of expectations, we're putting nothing past this team just because the draw looks rough on paper.

    We have been jolted back to reality, however. Before Kennedy's injury, it was easy to start dreaming about deep runs through the field because of how hot the Johnnies were down the stretch.

    Now we're more aware of how hard they'll have to work to take each step. That's how it should be and hard work is something that has come easily to this team.

    Let's hope that doesn't disappear with the change in time zone because anything less than the best St. John's team will make this a very brief return to tournament life.

    Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City. You can follow him on Twitter and he is also a contributor to Pro Football Talk.