Rick Pitino attacks 'fraudulent' March Madness metrics as St. John's exits

College basketball

March Madness 2024

The NCAA Tournament bubble didn't burst Sunday in St. John's because it turned out it never existed at all.

More than just being left out of the 68-team bracket, the selection committee revealed that St. John's wasn't even among the top four teams left out of the NCAA Tournament, despite a late-season surge that included six straight wins and pushing defending national champion UConn to the limit In the semifinals of the Big East tournament.

“If I could just give the guys a hug and take the pain away, I would wave my magic wand and do it,” head coach Rick Pitino said via Zoom after the team watched the draft pick privately out of disappointment. Looming. “But unfortunately I was unable to do so.”

A weekend that saw automatic bids stolen across the country took St. John's (20-13, 11-9) off the bubble completely, a surprise given its No. 32 NCAA ranking.

St. John's Red Storm coach Rick Pitino reacts against the Connecticut Huskies during the first half at Madison Square Garden. Robert Deutsch – USA Today Sports

Since the advent of the all-important metric, the highest-ranked team on the gridiron to miss the tournament has been North Carolina (33rd) in 2019… so far.

“I think we all probably should never mention that word [NET] “Again because it is fraudulent,” Pitino said. “I think the network is something that shouldn't be mentioned anymore. I think we have good strength of schedule [in] Kenboom [rankings]. Why do I mention it? We tried to play a tough schedule, we tried to do things the right way, and we couldn't. But I never make excuses.

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The final four teams were Virginia, Colorado State, Boise State and Colorado, which set up two play-in matchups earlier in the week in Dayton, Ohio, for a pair of No. 10 seeds.

The first four teams out are Oklahoma, Seton Hall, Indiana State and Pittsburgh.

St. John's was looking to enter the tournament for the first time since 2019, hoping to continue its hot streak of earning its first Big Dance win since 2000.

Pitino was trying to become the first coach to bring six different schools to the NCAA Tournament.

“There's no consolation — whether you're fourth or fourth — the only thing about it is success,” Pitino said. “Although all the players were very excited and passionate, the room became more and more gloomy with each round.”

St. John's will decline an NIT bid, end its season and shift focus to the transfer portal because Pitino says “seven or eight” new players need to be recruited.

The top seeds won only 11 of the 32 tournaments, and the madness started early.

North Carolina State (ACC), Oregon (Pac-12), Duquesne (Atlantic 10), and UAB (American Athletic Conference) unexpectedly crashed by winning conference championships, and Richard Pitino Jr.'s New Mexico exited the bubble with a win. Western Mountain.

St. John's did not make the NCAA Tournament despite a NET ranking of 32.
St. John's did not make the NCAA Tournament despite a NET ranking of 32. Charles Wenzelberg / New York Post

The Post has you covered with a printable NCAA bracket featuring the full March Madness 2024 field of 68 teams.

“Every possible disruption occurred and all three of us got hurt because of it,” Pitino said. “You have to say the committee did its best. We were not taken into consideration…and we are moving forward.”

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It looked like St. John's punched its ticket Friday by avenging two regular-season losses with a blowout win over Seton Hall in the Big East Tournament quarterfinals.

Instead, the result knocked the Buccaneers out of the bracket as well, leaving the Big East with just three teams as Providence joined St. John's and Seton Hall in disappointment.

Pitino said he knew St. John's would “have a very difficult time finding success” after Colorado, Florida Atlantic and North Carolina lost in their tournaments. It is the first time in his long coaching career that he has seen a bubble burst – if there ever was one.

“We're not going to complain, we're not going to say we made a mistake,” Pitino said. “Bitterness doesn't help. I've had enough gallbladder in my life to last a lifetime.”

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