Rick Pitino criticizes ‘fraudulent’ NET rankings after St. John’s NCAA tournament failure

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By journalsofus.com

While Rick Pitino acknowledged that “bitterness doesn’t help” after St. John’s was overlooked by the NCAA selection committee, the coach criticized the NCAA Evaluation Tool (NET) rankings, which play a significant role in evaluating college basketball teams.

“I think we should all probably never mention that word (NET) again because I think it’s cheating,” Pitino told SNY on Selection Sunday after the Red Storm missed the NCAA Tournament.

St. John’s entered the bubble the day after losing by five points to defending national champion and No. 1 overall seed UConn in the Big East Tournament semifinals on Friday. The Red Storm (20–13 overall and 11–9 in the Big East) had a NET ranking of 32, second-best among teams that missed the tournament, behind No. 28 Indiana State.

“I think we had a good strength of schedule going into the KenPom (rankings),” Pitino said. “We tried to play a tough schedule, we tried to do things the right way, and we couldn’t succeed.”

Pitino added, “I never make excuses.” “I respect the committee for what they do. They give their time, they give their energy. “They didn’t think we were up to their standards and we would take it very positively as men and move on.”

Despite six consecutive wins before the loss to UConn, St. John’s was not one of the first four teams to miss the tournament. They were Oklahoma (NET rank: No. 46), Seton Hall (No. 67), Indiana State and Pittsburgh (No. 40). Pitino said in a statement Sunday that St. John’s would decline a bid to the NIT.

“First and foremost, we have great respect for the National Invitation Tournament and St. John’s storied history in this event,” the statement said. “After careful consideration of what happens in postseason participation, we believe it is best for our team and basketball program to prepare for next season at this time.

“We are focused on building a championship-level basketball program here at St. John’s. I want to thank all of our fans for their amazing support this past season and look forward to a bright future for St. John’s basketball.

The Big East will be represented by three teams in March Madness, including UConn (East Region No. 1), Marquette (South Region No. 2) and Creighton (Midwest Region No. 3).

“We’re not going to complain, we’re not going to say we screwed up,” Pitino said. “None of this helps. Bitterness doesn’t help. There is so much bitterness in my life that will remain for the rest of my life.”

Pitino joined St. John’s last year after leading Iona to an NCAA Tournament appearance and a MAAC Tournament championship. The Basketball Hall of Fame coach won national titles with Kentucky and Louisville and has made seven Final Four appearances (with Providence, Kentucky and Louisville).

Pitino’s son, Richard Pitino, is coaching New Mexico, which will appear in the NCAA Tournament as a No. 11 seed in the West Region.

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