D’Angelo Harrison

Steve Lavin's three seniors have the NCAA tournament in their sights (AP Photo)

NCAA tournament berth the final step for St. John’s senior class

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Steve Lavin’s three seniors have the NCAA tournament in their sights (AP Photo)

St. John’s has not been to the NCAA Tournament since 2011, Steve Lavin’s first year as head coach. Following that season the Red Storm were forced to replace ten seniors, an unparalleled task in college basketball.

“After our first year we didn’t have one single returning player with D-I experience and that’s unprecedented in my career as an assistant, head coach and broadcaster,” Lavin said. “I don’t know if it will ever happen again at this level.”

Lavin and his staff responded to this challenge by securing a recruiting class ranked third best in the country, comprising of seven players: Sir‘Dominic Pointer, Maurice Harkless, D’Angelo Harrison, Amir Garrett, Phillip Greene IV as well as junior college transfers Nurideen Lindsey and God’sgift Achiuwa.

Since then, Harkless, Garrett, Lindsey and Achiuwa have moved on from St. John’s, leaving Pointer, Harrison and Greene to try to get the Red Storm back to the NCAA Tournament.

In the group’s first three years together they failed to do so, in large part due to inexperience. However, Lavin sees the growth of his team. “We’re closer, every year we’ve gotten a little bit closer,” he said. “So I think this group has learned.”

It is the one blemish on a recruiting class that has produced two 1,000-point scorers in Pointer and Greene, one 2,000-point scorer in Harrison and an NBA Draft pick in Harkless.

“It means everything,” responded Harrison in regards to an NCAA Tournament berth. “It’s the only thing I want to do, the only thing we haven’t done as a group.”

What this group has done, in the eyes of Lavin, is stabilize the St John’s program. “They’ve undeniably, incrementally made progress year after year and as a result they’ve put St. John’s in a position where we are competitive again after going through a decade or more not being competitive,” Lavin explained. “We are back to being a competitive program and that was the goal.”

The next, and final, step for this class is to punch a ticket to the Big Dance. “Now we have work to do because we want to send them out as they deserve, on a high note with an NCAA tournament appearance,” said Lavin.

St. John’s currently sits fifth in the Big East with a record of 19-9 (8-7) with three regular season games remaining, including a showdown with sixth-ranked Villanova in the final game of the season.

In College Basketball Talk’s latest edition of bracketology the Red Storm are a nine-seed and the players know that a strong finish to the season will eliminate any doubt of a tournament berth.

“We go 3-0 in these last three games, we will be worried about where we are going instead of are we in,” said Harrison, a finalist for the Senior CLASS Award. “We finish the season on a high note and once we get there we know we can make noise. We just have to get there first.”

Coming down the stretch this is the focus for St. John’s. The individual accomplishments of these players are well documented, but they have not quenched their thirst for postseason success.

Big East Player of the Year contender Sir’Dominic Pointer summed it up, “As long as we make the NCAA tournament, that’s all that matters. These awards, they come, they go, the tournament stays with you forever.”

NBCSports.com Midseason All-American Team

Ty Wallace (Getty Images)
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source: Getty Images
Jahlil Okafor (Getty Images)

Before I get started on this, I want to make one note that I’m sure no one is going to pay attention to: We tried to build these teams into something similar to what you could actually put on a basketball court. Two guards, a wing, a couple big men, whatever.

The reason?

For starters, I’ve always thought that should be the way that it’s not. It’s the “All-American Team”, not the “All-American List”. Secondly, if all you want is a list, we do weekly Player of the Year Power Rankings.

They come out every Tuesday. Right here.

With that out of the way, let’s get to the All-American Teams:

MORE: The rest of our New Year’s Resolutions | Midseason catchups


Jerian Grant, Notre Dame: We can debate all we want about what position Jerian Grant is — for what it’s worth, I will always refer to him as a lead guard — but the bottom line is this: there is no back court player in the country has played better than Grant over the course of the last month. He’s averaging 18.2 points and 6.3 assists (along with just 1.3 turnovers) for an 11-1 team. Notre Dame’s schedule has been awful, I know, but I don’t think Grant’s numbers are a product of that.

Delon Wright, Utah: The Utes are 3-1 in their last four games, beating Wichita State, BYU and UNLV, the latter two on the road. The only loss? By three, at Kansas in Kansas City. In those four games? Wright is averaging 17.8 points, 6.0 boards, 4.3 assists and 2.8 steals while playing 39.8 minutes. He’s the most indispensable player in the country.

Georges Niang, Iowa State: Niang is the centerpiece of one of the nation’s most high-octane offenses. A power forward by trade, Niang has turned into one of the nations most skilled passers, averaging 4.2 assists. It’s a luxury for Fred Hoiberg to have Niang on the roster when his point guard, Monte’ Morris, is one of the best in the country.

Frank Kaminsky, Wisconsin: It feels like we haven’t heard from Frank Kaminsky in forever, doesn’t it? Well, that’s what happens when Wisconsin goes 18 days between meaningful games. Trust me when I tell you that The Tank hasn’t gone anywhere. He’s still averaging 16.0 points and 7.6 boards for the No. 6 team in the country.

Jahlil Okafor, Duke: The Player of the Year to date this season, and he proved it last week. Against an Elon team that was considerably overmatched in the paint against him, Okafor went for 25 points and 20 boards as the Blue Devils struggled to beat the Phoenix. Three days later, when Duke tripped up to New Jersey to take on UConn, Okafor finished with just 12 points and 10 boards, but he facilitated everything offensively, allowing Duke to work through him and take advantage of mismatches when the Huskies sold out defensively to double-team him. He also fouled Amida Brimah out in 13 minutes. Dominance.

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Ty Wallace (Getty Images)


  • Ty Wallace, California: Listen to this stat line: 19.5 points, 8.9 boards, 4.4 assists, 1.3 steals, 50.6% 2PT, 50.0% 3PT. And Cal’s record: 11-1. Not mutually exclusive.
  • Ron Baker, Wichita State: No one is replacing Cleanthony Early for Wichita State, but Baker is trying his best, as he’s become a more aggressive, well-rounded scorer this year.
  • Justin Anderson, Virginia: Anderson is a perfect fit for Virginia, a three-and-D wing that is shooting 60.0 percent from three, plays terrific defense and gets to the offensive glass.
  • Montrezl Harrell, Louisville: The leading scorer, leading rebounder and most versatile defender on a top three defense that struggles to score. Now only if he stopped punching people …
  • Willie Cauley-Stein, Kentucky: The Wildcats are going to go as far as their defense takes them, and Cauley-Stein is the engine that makes their defense run.


  • Nigel Williams-Goss, Washington: Williams-Goss is the engine for Washington, which may be the nation’s most surprising team. The irony: He may not even be their most valuable player. Robert Upshaw is.
  • D’angelo Russell, Ohio State: Russell was the last to make this list. His numbers are absurd, but OSU’s schedule has been awful and Russell is 10-for-37 from the floor and 3-for-16 from three against North Carolina and Louisville.
  • D’angelo Harrison, St. John’s: Harrison is having the best season of his career, averaging 19.8 points and 6.6 boards. He’s not a great decision-maker, but he’s as competitive as anyone and has sparked a number of St. John’s comebacks this season.
  • Stanley Johnson, Arizona: The leading scorer and biggest perimeter threat for an Arizona team ranked No. 3 in the country.
  • Jonathan Holmes, Texas: Holmes is the leading scorer for a Texas team that has a chance to be the first team to knock Kansas off the top of the Big 12.

You make the call: Did D’Angelo Harrison commit an offensive foul, or did Gary Bell flop? (VIDEO)

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St. John’s had the ball, trailing 69-66 to No. 10 Gonzaga with less than 20 seconds to play, after an official review gave the ball back to the Johnnies.

D’Angelo Harrison, the Red Storm’s go-to scoring option, looked to take Gary Bell of the dribble. Contact was made. Bell hit the deck. Officials whistle Harrison for an offensive foul. Gonzaga ended up icing the game from the free throw line to win, 73-66, to take the NIT Season Tip-Off title.

Let’s look at it from the angle provided on the replay: Harrison has a closed fist on Bell’s hip, which you could argue would cause Bell to lose balance and fall over, however, it doesn’t appear that Harrison full extended his arm. I also think you can make a strong case that Bell sold the charge after contact was initially made.

So, what do you think? Should Harrison have been called for an offensive foul?

St. John’s seniors say they ‘grew up’ against Minnesota, but have they?

D'Angelo Harrison (AP Photo)
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D’Angelo Harrison (AP Photo)

NEW YORK — For 20 minutes on Wednesday night, we got a glimpse of just how good this St. John’s team can be.

For 20 minutes, the talent and athleticism on Steve Lavin’s roster overwhelmed Minnesota, spurring the Johnnies to a 70-61 win in the semifinals of the Preseason NIT at Madison Square Garden.

For 20 minutes, D’Angelo Harrison was hitting clutch shots, and Sir’Dominic Pointer was making energy plays all over the floor, and Chris Obekpa was turning the paint into an area that Minnesota was scared to enter.

And once those 20 minutes were finished, Harrison and Pointer were open and emphatic about the fact that they “grew up”, as Harrison put it, during halftime. That the Tale Of Two Halves was the Johnnies, during the break in the action, found the maturity and intensity needed to beat an undermanned Minnesota team.

“We played like little kids in the first half,” Pointer said.

They’re right. They did play timid in the first half, and that did change during the second half, but the jury is still out on whether or not this group has actually “grown up”.

Because if St. John’s is only going to show up for a half at a time, they’re going to be in trouble.

This program has the pieces to be an NCAA tournament team. They have the talent to finish in the top three in a Big East that has greatly exceeded expectations through the season’s first two weeks. Obekpa is the nation’s best shot-blocker, a 6-foot-9 athlete whose arms are as long as his shorts are short. Not only did he block three shots on Wednesday night, but he changed at least four times that many. With every touch that a Minnesota big man got in the post, he was cognizant of where Obekpa was. Every driver that got all the way to the rim had to try and finish knowing that Obekpa was lurking somewhere, waiting to pin his shot up against the backboard.

Having a presence like that around the basket means that the Johnnies can get out and pressure in the half court. They can gamble for steals and try to create turnovers because they know that anyone that gets by them will have to deal with the big fella. And when you have a team with as many athletes as St. John’s has playing in front of that presence, it creates a situation where you can force 20 turnovers and gather 16 steals in one game.

For that defense to be effective, all the Johnnies have to do is play hard, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a team that plays harder than them when they want to

“That’s who we have to be if we’re going to have to have a special season,” Lavin said.

“We did it on the defensive end,” Harrison added. “We’re a defensive team.”

But, as the first half indicated, that’s not always the team that shows up.

There is not a program in the country that consistently makes head-scratching plays more than the Johnnies. You never quite know what is going to happen when Rysheed Jordan or Harrison has the ball in their hands, and, sometimes, that is a good thing. They’re talented kids that can make things happen in the open floor. But when Jordan starts trying to prove that he’s a future lottery pick — he’s not — and Harrison starts chucking up quick, contested shots, things can go south in a hurry.

And therein lies the biggest issue for St. John’s. Their two most talented players are also their two most unreliable, and that’s never a good combination.

This sounds like I’m being overly negative about a team that just put on an impressive second half performance in a huge win for their season’s end goal. That’s not my intention, because I’m actually bullish on this group after seeing them play and hearing them talk.

Let me explain.

This is an important season for Harrison and Pointer. They were part of Lavin’s massive, nine-man 2011 recruiting class, the one that he brought in to replace the guys that left after their trip to the 2011 NCAA tournament. That group has never reached the Big Dance, and this year is the last chance for the guys that are leftover — Harrison, Pointer, Phil Greene IV.

Their legacy is on the line here, and that’s only half of the battle.

It’s hard not to think that Lavin’s job is on the line this season as well. He’s been in Queens for five seasons now, making just one NCAA tournament. That was in his first season, the year that he was beating cancer and Mike Dunlap was coaching the senior class that Norm Roberts left when he was fired. He’s now had a full four-year recruiting cycle, and, with that group, all he has amassed is a pair of trips to the NIT.

That’s only the half of it. St. John’s missed on two of their most important recruits during Lavin’s tenure, losing Isaiah Whitehead to Seton Hall this season and Isaiah Briscoe to Kentucky in the Class of 2015.

What that means is that there is a lot riding on this season, and based on the way that Harrison and Pointer were talking in the press conference, they seem to understand this.

“It’s time for us to grow up,” Pointer said. “We’ve been here for four years and we’ve got a good team this year.”

“This was one of the biggest games of our careers,” Harrison said, doubling down on a point he made earlier in the week when he said, “to come out 2-0 in this tournament would be big for this program in making people take us seriously.”

The Johnnies seem to believe that they have turned a corner this season, that they have grown up and are ready to finally live up to the hype they had when they entered the program more than three years ago.

“We showed it in the second half,” Harrison said, “and when we put together two halves like the second half, we’re going to be tough.”

Only time will tell if we actually see those two halves in the same game.

St. John’s is down another big man

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For the second time in as many weeks, the St. John’s front court is without one of its newcomers.

Keith Thomas, a junior college transfer who averaged 15.7 boards per game at Westchester Community College, was ruled academically ineligible, the fallout of an alleged scandal involving the Westchester basketball program forging transcripts.

On Tuesday night, hours after a report from Roger Rubin of the New York Daily News, the St. John’s athletic department announced that freshman center Adonis De La Rosa was ruled a non-qualifier by the NCAA.

“The St. John’s athletic department was recently informed by the NCAA Eligibility Center of the change in certification status for Adonis De La Rosa after new information revealed the student-athlete does not meet eligibility requirements,” St. John’s Director of Athletics Chris Monasch said in a statement. “The University will continue to review the options available in this particular case.”

The 7-foot freshman center, who was listed as a three-star recruit by Rivals, did not play in the Red Storm’s first exhibition game, but did manage to score 10 points and corral five rebounds in 15 minutes against St. Thomas Aquinas College (New York) on Saturday afternoon.

St. John’s has arguably the top back court in the Big East led by D’Angelo Harrison, Rysheed Jordan and Phil Green IV. But its frontline is a serious concern heading into a season where the Red Storm expect to make a return trip to the NCAA tournament after being left out on Selection Sunday last March. Outside of junior shot blocker Chris Obepka, redshirt sophomore Christian Jones and freshman Amar Alibegovi are the only other Johnnies to play in the preseason who stand over 6-foot-7.

The Red Storm open the season on Friday against NJIT at Carnesecca Arena.

2014-15 Season Preview: Villanova is the heavy favorite in an uncertain Big East

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source: Getty Images
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Beginning on October 3rd and running up until November 14th, the first day of the season, College Basketball Talk will be unveiling the 2014-2015 NBCSports.com college hoops preview package.

Today, we will be previewing the Big East.

MORE: 2014-2015 Season Preview Coverage | Conference Previews | Preview Schedule

The 10-team Big East debuted during the 2013-14 season. The relaunch season featured national player of the year Doug McDermott, who went on to be a lottery pick, and Villanova, which ended up being a No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament. Villanova will remain a top-15 team heading into the 2014-15 season. After the Wildcats, there are several teams with questions that also have the tools to solve them over the course of the next five months.


1. Villanova will build off last season: The Wildcats had a disappointing finish to their 2013-14 campaign, but heading into this year, Jay Wright will have a more seasoned team. He gets four starters back, including Darrun Hilliard, JayVaughn Pinkston and Ryan Archidiacono. Villanova will be the flag bearers for the Big East as the only team ranked in the preseason. The Wildcats can make a statement in the non-conference, as they did last season, with games against VCU (potentially Michigan), Illinois and Syracuse.

2. St. John’s will go dancing again: In Steve Lavin’s first season at St. John’s, the Red Storm reached the NCAA tournament — Mike Dunlap, now at Loyola Marymount, was coaching while Lavin battled cancer — and hauled in a heralded recruiting class. The Johnnies won 20 games last season, but they did no favors by digging themselves into an 0-5 hole to begin Big East play. It’s been three seasons since St. John’s went dancing, and it would take some heat off Lavin and help the growth of the new Big East if the Red Storm could get back in 2015. And, if everything comes together, they should. D’Angelo Harrison, Phil Green IV and Sir’Dominic Pointer — all part of that heralded recruiting class — are now seniors. Chris Obekpa reversed his decision to transfer and, most importantly, x-facotr Rysheed Jordan is coming off a promising freshman campaign.

MORE: Can Kris Dunn ever be the player that he was coming out of high school?

3. Despite significant losses, Xavier has plenty of depth: Semaj Christon was drafted in the second round and Justin Martin decided to use his last year of eligibility at SMU. Despite the losses, Chris Mack will have plenty of options with six returners and seven newcomers — six freshmen and Indiana transfer Remy Abell. Seniors Matt Stainbrook and Dee Davis are back while Jalen Reynolds and Myles Davis could both be in line for big seasons.

4. Providence adds McDonald’s All-American: Kris Dunn was rated the top point guard in 2012 by Rivals. His collegiate career has gotten off to a slow start thanks to nagging shoulder issues that occurred before the start of his freshman season, limiting him to 29 games in two years. A redshirt sophomore, Dunn is finally healthy, giving Ed Cooley a lead guard to help fill the void left behind by Bryce Cotton. Add in LaDontae Henton, an all-conference caliber forward, and the Friars have a nice one-two punch.

5. March failure: The mark of a conference is how it fares in March. The 1985 Final Four featured three Big East teams, serving as the benchmark of NCAA tournament success. In 2014, the new Big East had 40 percent of the league dancing, only to hear the music stop playing after the first weekend. Xavier lost in the First Four, Providence nearly upset North Carolina, Creighton was caught in an unfavorable matchup against Baylor and Villanova was bounced by the eventual national champion UConn Huskies. Success in March will continue to be a topic of discussion for the Big East.

RELATED: The Big East will be better than their second season

D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera (AP)

PRESEASON BIG EAST PLAYER OF THE YEAR: D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera, Georgetown

As a sophomore, the 6-foot-3 Smith-Rivera averaged 17.6 points, 5.0 rebounds and 2.7 assists en route to all-Big East second team honors. He finished top 10 in scoring and was one of the best rebounding guards in the conference. This season, with the graduation of Markel Starks, Smith-Rivera will also be tasked with handling the ball for the Hoyas.


  • D’Angelo Harrison, St. John’s: Harrison is the conference’s top returning scorer, trailing only Doug McDermott and Bryce Cotton in points per game at 17.7 in 2013-14.
  • Darrun Hilliard, Villanova: The Big East Most Improved Player from a season ago averaged 14.3 points, 3.6 rebounds and 2.6 assists for the conference’s top team.
  • JayVaughn Pinkston, Villanova: The 6-foot-7 forward’s points, rebounds and shooting percentage all went up from sophomore to junior seasons. Arguably the best big man in the Big East.
  • Matt Stainbrook, Xavier: The Western Michigan transfer made an immediate impact last season with six double-doubles. The 6-foot-10 center will take on a greater role after the Musketeers lost several key players this spring.


  • Kellen Dunham, Butler
  • LaDontae Henton, Providence
  • Rysheed Jordan, St. John’s
  • Ryan Arcidiacono, Villanova
  • Isaiah Whitehead, Seton Hall

BREAKOUT STAR: Deonte Burton, Marquette

The former four-star recruit saw only 12.6 minutes of action a night, but was able to score 6.9 points per game during his freshman season at Marquette. The 6-foot-4 power wing showed what he could do in extended minutes last season with a season-high 23 points (in 24 minutes) in the last game of the year against Xavier in the Big East Tournament quarterfinals.

COACH UNDER PRESSURE: Oliver Purnell, DePaul

There are several coaches feeling the heat heading into this season. But the hottest seat in the Big East belongs to Oliver Purnell at DePaul. The Blue Demons are 9-57 in the Big East over the last four years. And it’s not like he’s stockpiling young talent either. A handful of players have signed their letter of intent to play at DePaul, only to never play a single game.

ON SELECTION SUNDAY WE’LL BE SAYING … : This league could be in line for five bids, but what if they only get one?

I’M MOST EXCITED ABOUT : A rivalry starting … somewhere … anywhere

At Big East Media Day I asked Georgetown head coach John Thompson III, who’s been around the Big East basketball since he was a child, about rivalries in the new league. “You know, the Georgetown-Syracuse rivalry didn’t happen in one year,” he said. It took battle after battle to develop those fiery rivalries back in the 1980s. In Year 2 of the Big East relaunch, hopefully we’ll start to see the foundation set for a new rivalry whether it be close game followed by an even better rematch, or controversial call that the losing team doesn’t forget the next time those two teams meet. Sooner or later a new rivalry will unfold.


  • Nov. 24, Villanova vs. VCU at the Barclays Center, Brooklyn
  • Nov. 26, Georgetown at Florida
  • Dec. 6, St. John’s at Syracuse
  • Dec. 10, Georgetown vs. Kansas
  • Dec. 20, Butler vs. Indiana at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis



1. Villanova: The unanimous pick to finish atop the conference standings for the second season in a row. Jay Wright has four starters back, as the Villanova adapts to having the target on its back.
2. Georgetown: With arguably the conference’s best player, the Hoyas look to bounce back from their 8-10 record in conference. Big question: how much of an impact will Josh Smith have?
3. St. John’s: Maybe the league’s most talented team, St. John’s has the pieces to not only finish in the top half of the conference, but could also be a threat to heavy favorite Villanova.
4.  Xavier:  The league’s deepest team will benefit from having seniors Dee Davis and Matt Stainbrook. That senior leadership can help the Musketeers reach their eighth NCAA tournament since 2007.
5. Providence: A healthy Kris Dunn helps combat the loss of PC’s two starting guards. Ed Cooley will have several young players who will need to make an impact. Come March, Friars could be back in the top 3.
6. Marquette: Hiring Steve Wojciechowski was a good move in the long run, but his Golden Eagles could surprise the rest of the league behind graduate transfer Matt Carlino and potential breakout star Deonte Burton.
7. Seton Hall: With five-star shooting guard Isaiah Whitehead, the Pirates bring in the conference’s top recruiting class.
8. Butler: Having Kellen Dunham back and Roosevelt Jones healthy is big for the Bulldogs, but for a program that has gone through a whirlwind of changes over the last five years, is this another transitional season?
9. Creighton: Greg McDermott and Co. are bound for a rebuilding season after graduating Doug McDermott and three other starters.
10. DePaul: The cellar is the likely destination for DePaul once again this season. Sophomore Billy Garrett Jr. is worth watching, though.