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St. John's Selected To 2014 Postseason NIT; Faces Robert Morris In First Round

Red Storm makes record-29th appearance in nation's oldest postseason college tournament.
Sunday, March 16, 2014

QUEENS, N.Y.  – The St. John's University men's basketball team (20-12, 10-8 BIG EAST) was selected for a berth into the 77th Postseason National Invitation Tournament (NIT) and will host Robert Morris (21-13, 14-2 NEC) of the Northeast Conference at Carnesecca Arena on Tuesday, March 18, at 7 p.m. on ESPNU.

“Our team is looking forward to participating in the NIT because it gives us the opportunity to extend our season and play more games. Being a No. 1 seed is an honor because we get to play on our home court in front of our own fans in New York City,” said head coach Steve Lavin. “Anytime you get postseason experience, whether it is the NCAA or the NIT, it gives your younger players a chance to develop. We start three underclassmen and we saw the development of this team as we went along over the course of the season. In particular freshman Rysheed Jordan began to blossom, so this is a great opportunity to move our program forward.”

Tickets will go on sale on Monday at 10 a.m. Fans can stop by the Carnesecca Arena Ticket Office, call 1-888-GO-STORM or buy online at Individual tickets will be available beginning at $25. Tickets for groups of 20 or more are $15 and can be purchased by calling 718-990-2142. SJU students can purchase tickets at the Carnesecca Arena Ticket Office for $5 by presenting a StormCard at time of purchase.

With the NIT selection, St. John's has now received a postseason berth in three of the first four years of The Lavin Era (2011 NCAA Second Round, 2013 NIT, 2014 NIT). The last time the Red Storm program pieced together three combined postseason NCAA or NIT appearances in a four-year span was when St. John's made three-consecutive NCAA appearances from 1998-2000.

After winning the NEC regular season title, Robert Morris fell in the NEC Tournament Championship game to Mount St. Mary's, 88-71, on March 11. In the 2013 Postseason NIT, the Colonials upset national-power Kentucky, 59-57, before falling in their Second Round game against Providence, 77-68. Tuesday's matchup with the Red Storm will be the first-ever meeting between the two programs.

“Robert Morris is a conference champion that is no stranger to postseason success,” said Lavin. “They play an aggressive zone defense. They shoot the ball well so we know we have a challenge. Any time you play a team that has won a conference championship, they have established a culture of winning so as a result we have to be on our A-game if we expect to have success in this tournament.”

“It's disappointing of course to not be in the NCAA Tournament, but we have to have short-term memory. We're glad we got the No. 1 seed so that we can play at home and we're going to try and win out. It's all home games for us so that's a big advantage and we're looking forward to it,” said junior guard D'Angelo Harrison. “Robert Morris beat Kentucky last year and won their league this year. They're well-coached and are going to be a tough team to play. We have to come ready to play. We'll be ready.”

The Red Storm will appear in the NIT for a record 29th time and for the second-straight year. St. John's holds NIT records with 29 appearances (30 ***), 41 victories (46 ***), 15 semifinal appearances (16 ***) and five championships (6 ***). The 2003 appearance, championship and victories were all vacated by the NCAA in 2006.

Under Hall of Fame coach Joe Lapchick, the Redmen captured four NIT titles in the 1940s, 50s and 60s. Captain Andrew "Fuzzy" Levane and Harry Boykoff keyed SJU to its first title in 1943, followed by a second-straight championship run in 1944 that starred Haggerty winner (NYC MVP) Dick McGuire, captain Hy Gotkin and NIT MVP Bill Kotsores. Tournament MVP Tony Jackson and captain Alan Seiden led the Redmen to the crown in 1959, and MVP Ken McIntyre and co-captain Jerry Houston sent Lapchick off in style in 1965. MVP Jayson Williams keyed St. John's to the only NIT title under Hall of Fame coach Lou Carnesecca in 1989, while Marcus Hatten led the postseason run in 2003.

“My father played in the NIT back in the 50s so I have an appreciation for the rich tradition and heritage of what this tournament represents when it comes to college basketball history,” said Lavin. “We're fired up because it's about playing more games. We have a term we use, which is ‘next play.’ So we have to turn our attention now to Robert Morris.”

Playing its best basketball of late, the Red Storm has won 11 of its last 15 games overall and earned a share of third place in the final BIG EAST standings by winning 10 of its last 13 conference games. St. John's is a combined 8-3 in February/March to post its second 20-win season under Lavin (2010-11, 21-12). St. John's 10 BIG EAST wins and third-place finish were also its best since the 2010-11 campaign (12-6, tied for third), Lavin's first year on the SJU sidelines. The Red Storm has already amassed its second-most non-vacated wins since 1999-2000 (25-8, NCAA Second Round; 2010-11: 21-12, NCAA First Round).

St. John's owns a current RPI of 68, with the 49th-toughest schedule in the nation (14-4 home; 4-5 road; 2-3 neutral). St. John's has posted six wins vs. the RPI Top 100 to date, including a 70-65 victory over current RPI No. 10 squad Creighton on Feb. 9 at The Garden.

The Red Storm owns an 8-1 record on campus in 2013-14 headed into its First Round NIT matchup. Now in its 53rd season, St. John's is 443-83 (.842) all-time in 526 games at Carnesecca Arena, with a 27-5 (.844) mark during The Lavin Era.

*** Figure reduced due to St. John's 2003 NIT participation being vacated by the NCAA in 2006.