The St. John's basketball program saw its 2010-11 season come to an end early Friday morning as the No. 6-seeded Red Storm (21-11) were "upset" by the No. 11 Gonzaga Bulldogs, 86-71, in a second-round NCAA Tournament contest in Denver, CO. I put the word upset in quotations because it was clear from the opening tip that the Zags (24-9) were the better TEAM. I put the word team in bold because the Johnnies had the better athletes on the floor, but the Bulldogs were flawless with their execution and game plan. I italicize execution because that was what happened to the Johnnies outstanding season, which featured six top-15 victories, a top-25 ranking (their first since 2000) and an invite to the NCAA Tournament (their first since '02).
"I said to the kids right after the game that while losing is heartbreaking and losing in the NCAA tournament is heartbreaking, when they get out a month, two, three months, a year, five years from now, they're going to look back and realize that they brought St. John's basketball back," said first-year head coach Steve Lavin. "I really wanted the team, the players, to be aware that while it doesn't take the sting away from this loss, they set the bar high for anyone that follows.."
It was difficult to see senior guard Dwight Hardy, who netted a game-best 26 points, end his collegiate career on a sour note, but that's an aspect of March Madness that fans and experts don't talk about much. Yes, the upsets and dramatic buzzer-beaters produce one heck of a show and bring such joy to the winners, but for the losers it's a whole different storyline. Only one team in the NCAA Tournament ends its season on a positive note, the rest are just trying to delay the pain of losing.
But for St. John's nation this is a different kind of pain. This is good pain that was earned. That type of pain that turns into pride, which turns into more success, then more pain, but one day a lot of satisfaction. The rest is best explained by SB Nation's Pico Dulce of Rumble In The Garden (St. John's basketball blog):
"Losing sucks. Getting carved up while the Johnnies' defense imitates a broken toy is even worse," wrote Dulce Friday morning. "But it's great to get to this point."
"St. John's fans are all happy for the season they got to enjoy despite this tough ending. Imagine - NCAA Tournament Thursday and we're still talking about St. John's? The Red Storm are part of someone's busted bracket? We can talk about "wait til next year" (hold off on that one, folks, that's a lot of youth coming in!!)?"
"This is a taste of success. And the bitter taste of an end of season defeat."