NEW YORK — Ed Cooley didn’t mince words when asked if he feels St. John’s should be one of the Big East teams selected to the NCAA Tournament.
When the subject turned to whether his Providence squad has done enough to get off the proverbial bubble and move closer to lock status following Thursday’s 79-74 victory over St. John’s, Cooley refrained from politicking on the Friars’ behalf.
“The Big East should have five, six teams in the NCAA’s every single year, but I’m not concerned about that,” said PC’s head coach. “I’m concerned about Seton Hall and how we’re going to guard their interior, quickness and three-point shooting. I’m worried about Seton Hall. Everything else will take care of itself.
“But I do know one thing: When you play in this league and on this stage, we’re the best teams in the country when it comes to playing competitively night-in and night-out, and that’s why we’re in the situation we’re in,” Cooley added.
Thursday’s quarterfinal-round matchup between the Red Storm and the Friars had that “do or die” vibe to it. The winner would increase its NCAA prospects while the loser would submit a body of work that the selection committee would likely stamp “NIT” on it.
St. John’s now hopes that a 20-12 record that includes 10 Big East wins will be good enough to receive a berth to the Field of 68. In Cooley’s eyes, the Red Storm are NCAA worthy.
“I’d be shocked. I’m not in that room and selecting anything, but I’ve played them now three times. They have matchup problems all over the place,” Cooley said. “They’re a tournament team, deservedly so, because they come out of the Big East and this conference is a monster.”
It was largely assumed that the Friars would need at least two wins this week at the Big East Tournament in order to feel safe come Sunday. The second chance comes Friday night against Seton Hall. The Pirates threw a monkey wrench in Villanova’s plans to win both the regular season and postseason titles by staging a one-point win Thursday as Sterling Gibbs beat the final buzzer.
“I hope so, but we just have to focus on winning,” said sophomore Josh Fortune when asked if the Friars have enough of a convincing case at this very moment.
Added LaDontae Henton, “We’re not focusing on that right now. We’re focusing on winning the Big East Championship. We’ve got a tough team in Seton Hall. We’re going to do whatever we can to get that one.”
Follow Brendan McGair on Twitter @BWMcGair03