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St. John's Red Storm (20-10, 12-6 Big East): Johnnies Having Best Season Since 2002

St. John's Red Storm (20-10, 12-6 Big East)

Big East Tournament Seed:  No. 5; play Seton Hall Pirates or Rutgers Scarlet Knights on Wednesday (2 p.m. on ESPN.

Head Coach: The first-year head coach of St. John's, Steve Lavin, had a few months to morph nine seniors into winners and he's done a fantastic job. Last season, with Norm Roberts at the helm, the Red Storm finished in 13th place in the Big East Conference standings (17-15, 6-12) with basically the same group of players. Now, they are a contender for a Big East Tournament title.

Team MVP: Senior point guard Dwight Hardy, the SB Nation New York's Big East MVP and All-Big East First-Team, has ice water running through his veins. The 6-foot-2 guard reminds me a lot of former Texas A&M clutch performer Acie Law IV (2003-07), who led the Aggies to a Sweet 16 appearance. The three-time Big East Player Of The Week has been playing at an extremely high level (23.9 points per game) in St. John's last 11 games.

Playing For: A 60-59 victory over No. 4/6 Pittsburgh, Feb, 19, punched the Johnnies ticket to the NCAA Tournament. Now, the Johnnies are looking for something more -- a No. 4, possible 3 seed? Whereever the selection committee places the Red Storm, they will playing in their first NCAA Tournament since 2002.

Breakdown: St. John's began league play with a 4-5 record, but then rallied with a seven-game conference winning streak that including beating Pittsburgh, UConn and Villanova. This season, the Johnnies have defeated six top-15 teams, including the No. 4/5 Duke Blue Devils, a number match by no other men's Division I program.

Senior Justin Brownlee is the second-best scorer (12.1 ppg) and rebounder (5.2 rebound per game) for the Johnnies. The 6-foot-7, 220-pounds forward does nothing spectacular, but he's strong, athletic and a versatile scorer. Believe it or not, Brownlee can take opponents off the dribble and can hit the occasional 3-pointer. All these aspects create tough matchup for opposing teams. Despite being just 6-foot-5, senior forward D.J. Kennedy is a bully inside. Kennedy is averaging 10.7 ppg and 5.9 rpg.

-- Written by Jared Smith