There is a thing called March Madness and it refers to college basketball games played in March (and into early April) that matter more than anything previously played that year because in the world of the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) these games determine the national champions. For St. John's University basketball fans, it has been a long time coming for their team to be in the mix in a meaningful way.
In beating South Florida (9-21, 3-14) at home in the friendly confines of Carneseca Arena on the Jamaica, New York Campus, The Red Storm (20-10, 12-6) finished its best season in over a decade tied for third in the Big East. This places them as fifth seed in the Big East Tournament, with their first test coming on March 9 against the winner of the first-round matchup of Seton Hall and Rutgers.
Anyone who has ever witnessed a "Johnnies" game at home can attest to the excitement and roar of the crowd in the former Alumni Hall now named for legendary coach Lou Carneseca. After a long drought of years without much to look forward to, the fans are rooting for first year head coach Steve Lavin's team. Evident too was the respect and admiration the crowd felt for the team's ten graduating seniors who were honored before last night's game with a standing ovation.
Led by D.J. Kennedy (16 points), Dwight Hardy (14 points), and Justin Brownlee (13 points), St. John's beat FSU for the fifth straight time since the Florida team joined the Big East. There certainly is a confidence that is evident with this squad and Lavin should be credited with turning around this team in his freshman year.
Now St. John's moves on toward the Big Dance, and it is exciting for this alumnus to see the team being so successful again. This season has brought alumni back into the fold and earned the Johnnies new fans as well. Along with the resurgent New York Knicks, The Red Storm has New York fans revved up about basketball again.
And if anyone is worried about St. John's playing at Madison Square Garden, the Johnnie's are 5-1 there against ranked opponents. When they take the court on Wednesday afternoon look for St. John's to have overwhelming support from the home crowd. Steve Lavin and his team have given New Yorkers a good reason to get into the madness that is March college basketball.