St. John’s forcing its way into NCAA Tournament picture

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St. John’s stunning upset of third-ranked Villanova on Wednesday night was about more than the moment. It wasn’t just the significance of a 9.5-point underdog thoroughly outplaying the premier program in the Big East. It wasn’t about proving the Red Storm’s recent stretch of solid play wasn’t a fluke.

It was about what this victory could do for Mike Anderson’s team five weeks from now.

“That win is going to have staying power and it’s certainly going to be an eye-opener,” Dave Ommen, a noted Bracketologist who publishes Bracketville.com, said in a phone interview. “Sometimes that is the difference between making it in and not making it in.”

Ommen was referring to the NCAA Tournament. Yes, St. John’s is now firmly in the mix, according to four Bracketologists — Jerry Palm of CBS, Michael DeCourcy of Fox, Ommen and Brad Wachtel of Facts & Bracks — The Post spoke with. Palm has St. John’s in the field in the First Four. DeCourcy has them in his Next Four Out. So does ESPN’s Joe Lunardi. The others haven’t updated their brackets, but said St. John’s is on the outside looking in at the moment.

The consensus among the experts is the Red Storm (12-7, 6-6 Big East) have now played their way onto the radar. The win over Villanova, the Johnnies’ fifth straight and sixth in seven games, garnered significant attention. Now they have to build on it, starting Saturday at Providence. Their résumé needs work.

“I see St. John’s as one of those teams in that First Four, Next Four Out range right now,” Ommen said. “They’ve certainly played their way into at-large consideration.”

St. John’s has only three combined Quad 1 and 2 victories in nine opportunities, at home over Villanova and on the road against Marquette and Connecticut. It has a NET rating of 67, the tool the selection committee uses to evaluate teams. It does have four wins away from home, which is traditionally important in the committee’s eyes, since the tournament is played at neutral sites. And, Palm pointed out, just one bad loss, at home to Marquette, a Quad 3 setback.

There will be plenty of opportunities for the Red Storm to improve their standing. They still visit Villanova and host Seton Hall and Xavier. A previously postponed home game against UConn is expected to be rescheduled. A 5-3 league record the rest of the way, Wachtel said, would likely get them in. A 4-4 Big East mark and a tournament bid would depend on who the Johnnies beat.

“They’re going in the right direction and the schedule gives them some really good opportunities,” Palm said.

According to all of the Bracketologists, the selection committee always considers who bubble teams have defeated when comparing them to one another. Beating other likely tournament teams is important. St. John’s has knocked off two of them, Villanova and UConn, and has the chance for more. A positive in the Johnnies’ favor is their 12-7 overall record. A number of bubble teams are dangerously close to .500. Only two at-large teams that have been fewer than three games over .500 have reached the tournament, DeCourcy said. But this isn’t a normal season, with teams playing a maximum of 27 games, which could lead to exceptions being made.

“I just can’t see them going there if they don’t have to,” DeCourcy said.

The bottom line is so much can happen over the next five weeks. If St. John’s stays hot, it likely will reach the tournament. It can ill afford any cold spells and their margin for error is slim. But it sure beats where St. John’s was only a few days ago. It controls its own destiny.

As Al Davis liked to say, “Just win, baby.”

Dancing would almost certainly follow.

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