Seton Hall Pirates vs. St. John’s Red Storm Pick & Prediction MARCH 14th 2024

NEW YORK — On Feb. 18, St. John’s squandered a 19-point lead against visiting Seton Hall and lost for the eighth time in 10 games — prompting coach Rick Pitino to publicly criticize many of his players and call his first year on the job the “most unenjoyable experience of (his) lifetime.”

The Red Storm have not lost since. They rode a five-game winning streak to the No. 5 seed in the Big East tournament, where they’ll get a rematch with fourth-seeded Seton Hall on Thursday.

“I know you guys don’t believe me, but what I said was all staged to try to get them to wake the hell up, and they woke up in a big way,” Pitino told the media after beating Butler on Feb. 28.

“I knew if we didn’t get better defensively, it was over.”

To be sure, the streak included two wins over Georgetown and one over DePaul, the two worst teams in the league. But the Red Storm also upset then-No. 15 Creighton 80-66, limiting a potent offense to 39.7 percent shooting from the field and 23.1 percent on 3-pointers.

It’s the right time for St. John’s (19-12) to play its best all-around basketball of the season. The Red Storm are an NCAA Tournament bubble team, and a loss Thursday would dent their chances. The winner between Seton Hall and St. John’s will face top-seeded UConn in the semifinals.

Seton Hall (20-11) swept its rival in the regular-season series. In an 80-65 home win on Jan. 16, the Pirates strung together a 28-0 run from late in the first half into the second. Then came the 68-62 comeback win on the road that left Pitino despondent.

Bracket projections have Seton Hall more safely in the field than St. John’s after the Pirates won five of their final seven regular-season games, most recently an 86-62 triumph over DePaul.

While All-Big East first-team selection Kadary Richmond has averaged 16.2 points, 6.6 rebounds, 4.8 assists and 2.0 steals, Dre Davis has become a dangerous second option. Davis averaged 21.0 points on 57.1 percent shooting over the last five games.

“(Davis) and Al-Amir Dawes are the two guys that never, ever, ever have a bad practice from a standpoint of they’re not giving me everything they’ve got,” Seton Hall coach Shaheen Holloway said. “When you’ve got guys like that, I’m not surprised that this is happening.”

St. John’s leans on big man Joel Soriano (14.1 points, 9.4 rebounds per game, 13 double-doubles). Leading scorer Daniss Jenkins (14.7) has averaged 16.8 per game during the Red Storm’s win streak and Jordan Dingle has averaged 15.4.

–Adam Zielonka, Field Level Media

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