Maybe the Red Storm were going to make a run. They defeated Georgetown last Wednesday in the Big East Tournament, ending the game on a 23-0 run.
They looked to upset Creighton, the No. 1 seed in the tournament, the next afternoon in front of a nearly empty Madison Square Garden. St. John’s was winning at halftime and then the tournament was canceled over the coronavirus pandemic.
“Our guys are very disappointed,” said St. John’s head coach Mike Anderson. “We feel like we’ve been playing some of our better basketball, but at the same time this is bigger than basketball with this coronavirus. This has a worldwide effect and that’s a game of life.”
The coach said the decision to cancel it was the right one.
The Big East was the last conference to cancel its conference tournament, as the others made the announcement around the time St. John’s and Creighton began playing.
Once the NBA suspended its season, it looked increasingly unlikely that college basketball could go on.
The NCAA looked to play games in front of nearly empty arenas but as concerns grew over COVID-19, the decision was made to cancel the tournament completely.
After all the games played during the season, there will be no champion. The only comparison is the 1919 Stanley Cup Finals between the Montreal Canadiens and the Seattle Metropolitans, which was canceled before what would have been the deciding game due to an outbreak of the Spanish flu.
There was talk of postponing the 1981 NCAA Championship game between Indiana and North Carolina after President Ronald Reagan was shot hours before tip-off but the decision was made to play the game after receiving assurances about his condition. The Academy Awards, which were occasionally on the same night as the championship game, was postponed for a day.
Looking to stop the spread of the coronavirus, St. John’s indefinitely paused operations of all 17 Division I programs and will not have classes on campus.
“While this is a challenging time for all of us, I firmly believe it is important to take action, despite the unfortunate impact it will have, in order to help ensure the safety of everyone involved with Red Storm Athletics,” athletic director Mike Cragg said in a statement about the teams.
We’ll never know what would have happened if things remained normal. A win over Creighton would have put St. John’s in the Big East conference semifinals for the first time since 2000. Maybe they would have run out of gas, playing a noon game only hours after defeating Georgetown the night before.
St. John’s started the season 11-2, fell back to .500 but then played well in the final games of the season. Anderson, in his first season at the school, was able to keep the team together after a bunch of close losses.
“It tested my patience, I know that,” said Anderson, who led the team to a 17-15 finish. He’s never had a losing season as a head coach. “I had to constantly preach to these guys, just don’t let go of the rope. We’re close guys, we’re close.”
St. John’s will have something to build on for next season, whenever that may begin.