As the clock strikes midnight early Friday morning, an anniversary will be celebrated by either the No. 6-seeded St. John's Red Storm (21-11) or No. 11 Gonzaga Bulldogs (24-9), who meet in Denver, CO. in the second round of the the 2011 NCAA Tournament Thursday night (9:50 p.m. on CBS). The winner, which will advance to player either No. 3 BYU or No. 14 Wofford in the Southeast Region's third round, is either going to be celebrating a 11-year period of mediocrity ending; or cheering for a repeat of history that spawned a decade-long period of success.
Don't remember March 18, 2000? Well, on that date the then No. 2-seeded Red Storm, who had just snuck past No. 15 Northern Arizona in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, advanced to the second round against a small, West Coast biased squad called Gonzaga University (seeded No. 10). Back then, the Bulldogs were simple known as John Stockton's college, but that all changed when the 'Zags upset the Johnnies, 82-76. The Bulldogs collected one more victory to advance to the Elite Eight, but their Cinderella-run came to an end after a loss to No. 6 Purdue Boilermakers.
From there, the two programs went in completely different directions. St. John's has appeared in just one NCAA Tournament ('02), while Gonzaga will be making their 13th straight appearance. The Johnnies have had four head coaches (Mike Jervis, Kevin Clark, Norm Roberts, Steve Lavin), while the Bulldogs just needed one (Mark Few). St. John's vanished from national relevance, while Gonzaga has never left.
It's amazing what one victory can do for a program. And, the Johnnies are hoping a 2011 version of St. John's-Gonzaga turns the tides on the college basketball karma.
The Red Storm, led by All-Big East First Teamer, senior guard Dwight Hardy, have the leadership and the experience on the sidelines (Lavin made five Sweet 16s with the UCLA Bruins) to bring back positive postseason vibes to Queens, NY. However, Gonzaga has a solid big three in Robert Sacre (7-foot-0), Steve Gray (6-foot-7) and Elias Harris that could shutdown an undersized, but athletic Johnnies team.
-- For more on tonight's matchup visit SB Nation's Southeast Region coverage.