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Andy Katz | Correspondent | February 16, 2018

Podcast: St. John's Chris Mullins talks Red Storm's big wins, NC State's Keatts discusses tournament hopes

St. John’s coach Chris Mullin says the Red Storm could make a run toward the NCAA tournament after the stunning upset wins over Duke and at Villanova.

Mullin, making the comments on the latest Sports podcast March Madness 365, said those two wins were two of the most satisfying in his long, illustrious career “because they were coming off the 0-11 January. That’s what made it more special.’’

Mullin said he told his team, which has won four in a row and doesn’t play again until Wednesday at Marquette, has proven itself capable. That all came after what he called one of the toughest tests he has faced, losing 11 games in a row. He said the Red Storm held each other accountable during the losing streak, but knew that only three of the 11 were out of reach. The rest were late possession games. And then once the Red Storm pulled off the upsets, he and they knew they could beat anyone on the schedule and make a late-crazy run toward a possible Big East tournament title or an NCAA tournament berth.

“We know it’s possible, that much we’ve proven not to ourselves but to everyone else,’’ said Mullin. “It will take being consistent defense and sharing the ball on offense. It’s more than it being a miracle run. It’s about making this the standard of how we’re going to play.’’

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St. John’s closes with games at Marquette, home against Seton Hall and Butler and then at Providence. Mullin said his players got a chance to experience what it’s like to win in New York after the Duke game and returning to campus post Villanova upset.

“The one thing I do know is that if you win in New York, there is nothing like it,’’ said Mullin.

Mullin discussed on the podcast his decision-making on returning to his alma mater, why he wasn’t an assistant first before taking the head coaching job and how he was preparing to become a head coach.

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NC State first-year coach Kevin Keatts discussed on the podcast the Wolfpack’s run toward an NCAA berth. When he saw the NCAA tournament selection committee’s top 16 reveal last Sunday, he immediately noticed NC State had four wins against the top 16 (Duke, Clemson, Arizona on a neutral court and at North Carolina).

Keatts said winning big games and doing so against the two teams in the triangle cannot be understated.

“It gives us great credibility,’’ said Keatts. “It helps you recruit. When you take over a program early on, you have to have a signature win. For us in the non-conference it was Arizona and in the conference it was beating Duke. It gives the fans the belief in the program that we are moving in the right direction.’’

Keatts also broke down his postgame road ritual of finding ice cream, no matter the time of night. The coaching staff is superstitious and doesn’t look before the game. That meant after late-night games at Pitt and Syracuse the staff had to get creative.

“We rode around looking for every little place we could (after the Pitt game),’’ Keatts said. “We went to McDonald’s but they didn’t have any soft serve. So we found a 7-11 and the managers ran in and got a bunch of ice cream and we enjoyed it.’’

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The one thing Keatts said he has learned during his brief tenure is to be much more patient.

“I’ve learned when you win a game, enjoy it,’’ said Keatts.

Clemson’s Brad Brownell joined the podcast prior to the overtime loss at Florida State.

He said the road win at Ohio State and beating Florida in Florida were the wins that changed the narrative for this season.

Brownell went into detail about his tenure at Clemson and was most appreciative of the support he has received.

“They showed patience and gave me more time so we could create a basketball culture that is sustainable,’’ said Brownell. "It has all culminated in an outstanding season."

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