St. John’s and Seton Hall’s seasons really ended at the Garden late last week. Officially, they came to a close Sunday night when both declined invitations to the NIT.
The two Big East programs, in separate statements, said playing in the March Madness consolation tournament was not worth the continued risk of COVID-19.
“There is no question that in a normal year our University’s decision would be different, 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,” St. John’s athletic director Mike Cragg said in a statement.
The NIT downsized from 32 to 16 teams this year and will take place in the Dallas-Fort Worth area bubble, as opposed to campus sites and Madison Square Garden as in previous years.
Initially, St. John’s (16-11) had planned to play in the NIT but, according to sources, the players were worn down after a long year of isolation and expressed reservations about going into the bubble in Texas.
Also on Sunday, forward Isaih Moore announced his intentions to enter the transfer portal. The 6-foot-10 forward, a junior college transfer, improved as the year went on, but was suspended for one game and benched for another for disciplinary reasons. A source characterized it as a mutual decision.
St. John’s and Seton Hall both needed strong Big East Tournaments in order to qualify for the NCAA Tournament, as their respective performances during the regular season did not qualify either for an at-large bid.
The Red Storm lost to the rival Pirates in overtime of the quarterfinals before Seton Hall fell to eventual tournament-champion Georgetown in the next round.
Seton Hall (14-13) seemed on its way to a fifth straight NCAA Tournament berth before a four-game losing streak at the end of the season delivered a death blow to its chances at an at-large bid.
Despite missing the tournament, this was seen as a successful season for a young St John’s squad. Anderson was named Big East Coach of the Year, while star point guard Posh Alexander earned the league’s freshman of the year honors, sophomore forward Julian Champagnie was an All-Big East first-team selection and the Johnnies finished fourth in the league.
— With Mark Fischer