It wasn't the NCAA bid that St. John's believed it deserved, but the team will play postseason basketball as a No. 1 seed in the NIT, hosting eighth-seeded Robert Morris (21-13) in a first-round game at 7 p.m. Tuesday. Robert Morris upset Kentucky in last year's NIT.
St. John's coach Steve Lavin had tried to hold out hope for an NCAA berth even after the Red Storm (20-12) lost to eventual champion Providence in the quarterfinal round of the Big East Tournament. He said the team is pleased to participate in the NIT, where it will have home-court advantage in each round leading up to the Final Four at Madison Square Garden.
"Any time you get postseason experience, whether it's the NCAA or NIT, it gives your younger players a chance to develop," Lavin said Sunday night during the NIT selection show on ESPNU. "So this is a great opportunity to move your program forward. Naturally, we wanted to play in the NCAA Tournament . . . but the NIT has a rich tradition and heritage when it comes to St. John's."
The school has won six NIT titles, though the 2003 championship was vacated because of NCAA violations.
Last season, St. John's (16-15) beat Saint Joseph's in the first round of the NIT before losing to Virginia -- now a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament -- in the second round.
Iona (22-10), coached by Long Islander Tim Cluess, plays Wednesday at Louisiana Tech (27-7).