After finishing with a winning record in conference play for the first time in more than half a decade, the St. John’s Men’s Basketball team will begin BIG EAST Tournament action on Thursday when it faces off against Seton Hall at 3 p.m. inside Madison Square Garden.
The quarterfinal matchup between the fourth-seeded Red Storm (16-10, 10-9 BIG EAST) and fifth-seeded Pirates (13-12, 10-9 BIG EAST) will be broadcast live on FS1 and 570 AM WMCA. Tim Brando and Jim Jackson will call the game for FS1 while John Minko and Brandon Tierney will narrate the action over the airwaves. The Learfield-IMG College Red Storm Sports Network radio broadcast will also be available through TuneIn Radio, as well as SiriusXM channel 207 and streamed through channel 967.
The no. 4 seed for the Red Storm is the program’s highest in more than two decades, as the Johnnies had secured no better than a full-field no. 5 seed since winning it all as the no. 3 seed in 2000. The Red Storm’s 10-9 record in BIG EAST play was its first winning conference mark since going 10-8 during the 2014-15 campaign, a year in which the Johnnies earned a no. 9 seed in the NCAA Tournament. The Red Storm also won 10 league contests during the first season of the realigned conference in 2013-14.
The Johnnies closed out the regular season strong, wrapping up with back-to-back home wins against Providence and Seton Hall. The Red Storm erased double-digit halftime deficits in both of those victories. In total, the Red Storm outscored its opponents by a 104-58 margin in the second halves of those final two games.
Julian Champagnie was named the final BIG EAST Player of the Week for his efforts against Providence and Seton Hall, averaging 19.0 points and 8.0 rebounds over his last two regular season contests. The sophomore tallied his league-leading seventh double-double of the campaign against the Friars, scoring 16 points and grabbing 10 boards. Three days later against the Pirates, Champagnie netted 22 points and pulled down six rebounds. The effort marked his 11th of the season with 20 or more points and his 24th double-digit scoring performance in 24 tries. Champagnie was named to the All-BIG EAST First Team on Sunday before garnering BIG EAST Co-Most Improved Player honors on Monday alongside Xavier’s Zach Freemantle. He became the 17th player in program history and just the fifth sophomore to find a spot on the conference’s top team, joining Chris Mullin (1983), Ron Artest (1999), Erick Barkley (2000) and Shamorie Ponds (2018) in that regard.
Fellow Brooklyn native Posh Alexander was also honored by the BIG EAST following the conclusion of the regular season, earning unanimous selection to the BIG EAST All-Freshman Team on Sunday before sharing BIG EAST Co-Defensive Player of the Year accolades with UConn’s Isaiah Whaley on Monday. The BIG EAST leader in steals this season with 2.6 per outing, Alexander became just the fourth freshmen in conference history to garner the league’s top individual defensive honor. The other three to do so are all enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame: Allen Iverson (1995), Alonzo Mourning (1989) and Patrick Ewing (1982).
Thursday will mark the first game of the season for St. John’s at Madison Square Garden, the team’s Manhattan home since 1931. The Red Storm is 434-303 (.589) all-time at “The World’s Most Famous Arena.”
Seton Hall comes to The Garden on the heels of a four-game skid to end the regular season. Three of those four losses came on the road.
The Pirates are led offensively by unanimous First Team All-BIG EAST selection Sandro Mamukelashvili, who ranks second in the conference with 17.8 points per game this season. He had a 15-point, 10-rebound double-double in the season finale at St. John’s, but scored just six of those points after the intermission, shooting 3-for-7 from the field in the latter stanza.
Jared Rhoden and Myles Cale also average double figures for the Pirates, pouring in 14.4 and 11.8 points per game, respectively. Shavar Reynolds, the team leader in assists with 4.3 per game, also chips in 7.8 points and shoots a team-best 38.2 percent from three-point range.
The winner of Thursday’s game between Seton Hall and St. John’s will face the winner of the quarterfinal between regular season champion Villanova and the winner of Wednesday’s no. 8/no. 9 game between Georgetown and Marquette. All BIG EAST Tournament games through the semifinals will air on FS1. The title game will air on Saturday at 6:30 p.m. on FOX.
St. John’s Head Coach Mike Anderson
On being named BIG EAST Coach of the Year…
“First of all when your voted by your peers that’s pretty special. Guys that you go to war with every night and it just tells me that we are doing some good things at St. John’s. None of this happens without players such as Posh [Alexander], my staff and all the support systems, the administration here at St. John’s that brought me in. … I am honored especially in a highly competitive league such as the BIG EAST. It’s a tremendous honor but there is still more to be done.
On how he galvanized this team to make a run …
“We were thrust right into the BIG EAST conference play [and we started] 1-5 in conference play. We didn’t even know who we were going to play because the schedule was constantly going in different directions, but at the same time I think guys got more experience. We started trusting our older guys that have been through the wars, the Greg Williams, Josh Roberts when we inserted him in the lineup along with Julian Champagnie and Rasheem Dunn. Those guys have been through it. Then you put in a guy such as Posh Alexander, I think that is when we started trending up and guys understanding their roles. Then our bench really started to develop, you saw Marcellus [Earlington], you saw Isiah Moore, obviously Vince Cole those guys really started stepping up with their play and I thought that made a big, big difference with this basketball team along with Dylan [Addae-Wusu]. This is the ultimate team as I have said it from the beginning and the sum of all the parts those parts are coming together. It’s like putting a puzzle together, I have a lot of pieces and we start putting the puzzle together and you can see it works. Even when we have guys go down we have some guys fill in roles and were able to continue to play at a high level. From that stand point, my teams always tend to get it together as the season goes on and guys understand their roles.
On Posh Alexander’s impact on the team…
“He is the igniter. What he brings to the table I have always envisioned. He is wired for defense. Most kids when they come from high school or junior college they come with their offensive arsenal, that’s what they want to impress everybody with that they can score. Well this guy I have said from day one he will pick you up right when you off the bus. That’s what he will do and I don’t even have to tell him that. When you have that instinctive ability and when you are playing the way were playing in terms of up-tempo basketball it just transcends your team and it ignites guys. … He just competes and plays at a high level. If you’re not out there doing the same thing you stand out, but you stand out for the wrong thing. He plays to win. I think when I describe this gut right here he’s got a big heart and kind of like the heart and soul of our team. … At this level in the BIG EAST he was thrown into the fire right at the beginning and he has responded well.”
On his team not looking ahead in the BIG EAST Tournament…
“We just played Seton Hall and split the regular season. It’s the tournament and it’s a one game season now. If you look at Seton Hall’s record over the course of the last two to three years in tournament play it’s been pretty good, so we know we are going to get the best version of Seton Hall and we got to be in the best version as well. It’s a one game season and we are not looking ahead. We’ve learned those lessons, so hopefully well come and leave everything on the floor as we get ready to play against a very good Seton Hall team. We were down 18 to nothing at our place so if that doesn’t get our attention then I don’t know what will.”
On talking with Lou Carnesecca…
“Coach and I talk probably once a week sometimes even twice a week. As a matter of fact, I talked with him today. He congratulated me on being Coach of the Year actually he told me to come down from the chandelier and I said ‘Coach I am not on no chandelier.’ If you know Coach Carnesecca that’s his humor there, ‘I am down on the floor, a matter of fact I am on the bottom floor’. There is more work to be done and that’s what he said ‘go to work.’ He is excited about the program and about the kids. Of course you could imagine that this is the program he built and is used to winning, used to bringing excitement so hopefully we can continue that.”
St. John’s Guard Posh Alexander
On being named BIG EAST Freshman of the Year…
“Being Freshman of the Year means a lot to me. Coming out of high school I told my coach my biggest goal is to come in and win Freshman of the Year and try and win a championship and be the best teammate I can be. With that being said, I give a big congratulations to my teammates and the St. John’s coaching staff for letting me come here and play.”
On proving the player he is this season…
“I don’t look at the rankings, I go out there and I just try to prove that I am one of the better [players on the floor]. I go out there every game try to preform every time I am on the court.”
On his availability tomorrow and status of sprained right thumb…
“Thumb is feeling a lot better and yeah I am going to able to play tomorrow.”
On playing Seton Hall for the second straight game …
“I feel like we have the right mind set. What we learned from the DePaul game is we can’t judge a book by its cover and think that we are just going to beat a team just becasue they are one of the worst teams in the league. I feel like Seton Hall is going to come out and throw their best shot, but as a team we are going to stay together and try to come out to get the win. Just try and win one game at a time, so that’s really it.”
On playing at Madison Square Garden at the college level…
“I get to play in front of my family for the first time on the college level [at Madison Square Garden]. Playing at the Garden it’s going to feel great. I am just happy, excited and I can’t wait to just play.”
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