St. John’s, who was probably headed for a four seed on Sunday when the NCAA announces its tournament dance card, can expect to receive a lesser seed and a much rougher travel scenario because of the torn ACL suffered by well rounded guard/forward DJ Kennedy, who is at worst the 2nd or 3rd best player on the Johnnies. Kennedy suffered the tear on Thursday in the quarter-finals of the Big East Tournament against Syracuse, in a game St. John’s ultimately lost, 79-73.
The Johnnies weathered the loss of Kennedy early on, taking a 37-32 lead into the half, but were significantly outplayed in the 2nd half by the Orange, despite taking a point lead with about 3 minutes to play. In light of the injury to Kennedy, Steve Lavin went to a bigger lineup, playing Evans, Burrell, and Brownlee in the forecourt. But without Kennedy, the team looked disorganized on defense on crucial possesions late, giving up easy dunks in the paint and an offensive rebound that resulted in a layup for Syracuse which essentially sealed the game.
The selection committe has been known to drop teams’ seeding when they lose key players late in the season. Losing to Syracuse alone, a higher ranked squad, would probably not have led to a worse seed. But losing Kennedy from an already thin team will. The injury also concerns us because it could serve to deflate a group that had been playing with a lot of confidence.
Dwayne Polee II, who had little success after a strong start to the season, should be looked upon by the coaches as someone who will need to step up in the place of Kennedy. Though we will admit to being disheartened by the loss of Kennedy, we would expect no less from this coaching staff than to see this team come out fully ready to play next week in St. John’s first trip to the tournament in 10 years.
And we hate to put sour grapes out there, but truth is, we just don’t see the importance of The Big East Tournament, which is more grueling than the NCAA tournament, for example, with a team like UCONN playing 5 games in 5 days, and the possibility of injury one week before the NCAA championship tournament. Sure, small conference tournys are fine where you are playing for a bid. But let’s face it. Unless there’s a fluke, a good team that’s already going to the dance is going to win the Big East Tournament. And a Providence or a Seton Hall, should they pull off a miracle, still should not get the luxury of wiping away a season of bad results by capturing lightning in a bottle for a few days in New York.