March 13, 2011
NEW YORK - After compiling a resume that included wins against six Top 25 teams, four in the top 10, a return to the rankings for the first time since 2000-01 and winning 20 games for the first time since 2002-03, the St. John's basketball team has earned a No. 6 seed in the Southeast Region of the 2011 NCAA Tournament and will play against No. 11 Gonzaga at the Pepsi Center in Denver, Colo., at 9:45 p.m. (ET) on Thursday, March 17.
Winners of 10 of their last 13 and 4-2 while playing as a ranked team, St. John's is one of 11 BIG EAST teams in the tournament field, an NCAA record for a single conference. The Red Storm is making its 27th appearance in the NCAA Tournament and the first since its now-vacated appearance in 2002. St. John's is 27-28 all-time in the "Big Dance" in its previous 26 appearances, reaching the title game in 1952 and the Final Four in 1985. Only 17 Division I schools have made more NCAA Tournament appearances than St. John's.
"Today was a special day for our players. As a coaching staff, to be able to watch up close the experience that our team has had on its journey to the upcoming NCAA Tournament was something I'll never forget," said head coach Steve Lavin. "From day one this has been a special group to work with and it's been a very cohesive, close-knit basketball family that's stayed on track in their single-minded purpose in achieving their goal of playing in the NCAA Tournament. Seeing it come to fruition today was really special."
Lavin is making in his seventh trip to the NCAA Tournament in eight seasons as a head coach and is 11-6 (.647) all-time, including a 10-1 record in first and second round games. The Red Storm's first-year head coach has made five Sweet 16 appearances and has advanced to the Elite Eight once.
Gonzaga, St. John's Second Round opponent, defeated Saint Mary's to win the West Coast Conference Tournament and earn the automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament. The Bulldogs (22-9), which advanced to the Second Round of the 2010 NCAA Tournament, are making its 13th-straight appearance in the tourney and 14th overall.
The two teams have met just three times in an all-time series that dates back to a 97-69 St. John's win on Dec. 22, 1960. St. John's is 1-2 against the Bulldogs, including an 82-76 loss on March 18, 2000 in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. The matchup will mark the first meeting between the schools since a 65-58 Bulldog victory on Nov. 22, 2001 at the Great Alaska Shootout.
The winner advances to face either No. 3 BYU, the automatic qualifier from the Mountain West Conference, or No. 14 Wofford, which earned the automatic bid from the Southern Conference.
All fans are invited to attend a pep rally held in Carnesecca Arena at 3:30 p.m. on Monday, March 14.