Postseason basketball was all but guaranteed for St. John’s even after their NCAA Tournament bubble disappointingly burst on Thursday in a loss in the Big East quarterfinals to Seton Hall, but it turns out that overtime loss at Madison Square Garden was it for them this season.
St. John’s announced late Sunday night after the results of the 2021 NCAA Tournament were revealed that they would not accept an invitation to the NIT — the once-prominent-now-second-tier college basketball postseason tournament that usually finishes off in the Red Storm’s backyard at MSG.
“There is no question that in a normal year our University’s decision would be different as we would be honored to compete in the famed National Invitation Tournament, which our program has a long and storied history with an unprecedented 28 appearances and five championships,” St. John’s athletic director Mike Cragg said in a statement. “However, this has been far from a normal year as there have been tremendous mental and physical demands on everyone in our basketball program due to extensive COVID-19 protocols dating back to July that have taken their toll.”
The NIT’s field was cut in half this season from 32 teams to 16 due to COVID protocols as the tournament is played out in the Dallas-Fort Worth area bubble instead of on campus sites with the final coming at Madison Square Garden.
St. John’s went 16-11 this season, including a 10-9 mark in Big East play. It was the first time in six years that the Red Storm had a winning record in-conference, helping head coach Mike Anderson earn Big East Coach of the Year honors.
Shooting guard and small forward Julian Champagnie became just the fifth-ever St. John’s sophomore to gain Big East First-Team honors after averaging 19.9 points and 7.3 rebounds per game this season while point guard Posh Alexander was named Big East Freshman of the Year.
“While it is disappointing for such a successful season to come to a close, this is a moment to celebrate all of our team’s accomplishments this year, including a fourth-place finish in the Big East with 10 conference victories,” Cragg said. “I thank coach Anderson, the 2021 Big East Coach of the Year, as none of our accomplishments would have been possible without his strong and determined leadership. We all look forward to a continued bright future for St. John’s men’s basketball program under his guidance in 2021-22 and beyond.”