NEW YORK --- The weeks of talk on whether coach Norm Roberts would return to St. John's ended Friday: He was fired after six seasons with the Red Storm -- only two of them with a winning record.
"To say it was a difficult decision would be to minimize it," St. John's athletic director Chris Monasch said. "Norm took over a program that was at a low point and at a time when there was a minimal amount of Big East level talent. Norm has restored integrity to our basketball program."
But he didn't win enough games.
The Red Storm lost to Memphis in the first round of the NIT on Wednesday to finish the season at 17-16, giving Roberts an 81-101 record with the school. St. John's has not been in the NCAA Tournament since 2002.
Roberts told The Associated Press on Friday that St. John's handled everything "with class."
"They really tried to support us and give us what we needed to be successful and we were," he said. "This program was in disarray in a lot of different ways and we were able to move it to postseason play."
St. John's returns all five starters and 94 percent of the scoring from last season's team. But whether Roberts would run the team next season was a big question the past six weeks.
The Red Storm won three of four games, including wins over Louisville and Notre Dame, to raise the possibility that Roberts had done enough to earn a reprieve. Then came three consecutive losses followed by two wins, including a 73-51 thrashing of Connecticut in the opening round of the Big East Tournament.
Marquette beat St. John's in the second round of the Big East Tournament and the Red Storm lost to Memphis, both by two points.
"We were monitoring how things were going all season and said we look at the program at the end of the season," Monasch said. "It's easy to get caught up in the highs and lows on a daily basis. That's the beauty of a 30-game season, that you have the entire year to assess where we are."
MISSISSIPPI 90, MEMPHIS 81
In Oxford, Miss., Mississippi guard Terrico White, struggling with inconsistent shooting for most of the season, picked the best time of the year to regain his touch.
White scored 21 points, including 3 of 4 from 3-point range, as the Rebels defeated Memphis in the second round of the National Invitation Tournament.
Ole Miss advanced to the quarterfinals and will play host to the Texas Tech-Jacksonville winner Tuesday.
"It feels good to see my shots going down again," said White, who scored 27 points in an NIT opening-round win over Troy. "My confidence is back up and so is the team."
A midseason slump and an SEC tournament loss to Tennessee ended hopes of an NCAA Tournament berth. But the Rebels (24-10) have won six of the past seven outings and improved to 10-1 in NIT home games.
"We're a couple of bounces away from being in the other tournament," Mississippi coach Andy Kennedy said. "But this team has won six of the last seven games and has an opportunity to keep playing with a lot at stake."
Leading 50-47, Ole Miss went on a 14-4 run to take a 64-51 lead with 7:23 left. White had six points, an assist and capped the run with a dunk.
Memphis (24-10) never got closer than six points again.
OBAMA'S BRACKET: The presidential bracket is looking pretty good.
President Barack Obama correctly predicted 10 of 12 winners, with four games remaining Friday, on the tournament's second day. That came a day after he went 12 for 16 in Thursday's first-round games.
Obama's only blemishes Friday were 13th-seeded Siena, which lost to fourth-seeded Purdue 72-64, and ninth-seeded Florida State, which fell to No. 8 seed Gonzaga 67-60.
The First Fan took a few chances on his bracket, which he filled out for ESPN for the second consecutive year. Siena was the second No. 13 seed he picked; he correctly chose Murray State to upset fourth-seeded Vanderbilt on Thursday.
Obama also had 12th-seeded Cornell topping No. 5 seed Temple -- and the Big Red came through with a 78-65 win.
Obama has his Final Four intact: Kansas, Kansas State, Kentucky and Villanova.
His biggest miss so far was Georgetown, which he predicted would reach the round of eight.