03 Notre Dame | 11 @ Pittsburgh | 15 Connecticut | 18 @ Villanova | 22 Cincinnati | 24 Rutgers | 28 @ West Virginia
Now for the conference part of the schedule. I held off on writing/ posting this because watching a team ball against the worst teams in Division I says very little… but I didn’t think it was say THIS little. The games against three ACC teams that will not be top-4 seeds in the NCAA tourney did not hold promising results. A repeat of a chart from yesterday’s Providence pre-game post is in order. Again…
|3 Game Averages||
|FG Att + FT Att||
Note that whipping on the boards, and how each team has averaged 8 more opportunities to score (assuming that each field goal attempt has around a 50% chance of going in, so one point for each attempt. Which isn’t true, but for the purposes of this exercise, it’ll have to do, pig); if this is the result against weaker opponents, how will they fare against the superpowered Big East?
This look will also refer to the Notes on the Big East Preview I posted months ago . I’ll be using AP Poll, RPI, and Pomeroy Rankings expressed in parentheses like (AP Ranking/RPI Ranking/Pomeroy Ranking) rankings throughout.
The Notre Dame Fighting Irish (7/80/33) basketball team is one of extremes – extremely efficient on offense and surprisingly low on free throw attempts. Good at not sending other teams to the line and bad at forcing turnovers. Somehow, I think it will work out for them. Same cast, with Luke Harangody and Kyle McAlarney more than making up for the lesser offensive production of Tory Jackson and Zach Hillesland, with the addition of Ryan Ayers playing well. Not gonna be pretty. Though there are more forwards to check Harangody this time around, and last time the Red Storm did slow them down.
I had thought DeJuan Blair was way too undersized for the NBA. But a guy who rebounds on both ends like that? He needs to be considered. If they can just enhance his “basketball height” he’ll get some serious NBA looks. As for the Pittsburgh (3/2/4) game, last year’s matchup against the Panthers was one of many horrifying beatings on the Madison Square Garden floor. With Pitt rolling on all cylinders, the game in Pittsburgh’s Peterson Center, and no Anthony Mason Jr. to put in 29 of 57 points that the Johnnies scored, this could be clownishly bad. They are passing well and right now are the scary-good contender for a #1 seed in March.
Connecticut’s (2/9/7) players probably started envisioning going undefeated… then Georgetown happened. I would say that it was a learning experience, but the thing I noticed was the play of Greg Monroe setting the pace early. How many high post/ 3-point shooting centers with basketball IQ who know how to get Thabeet out of the post will they face? Not that many. But perhaps the rest of the team will wake up and play a bit harder against weaker foes; Coach Jim Calhoun is good at motivating. As for this game, Calhoun loves to run it up on Coach Norm. Last year’s game involved bad turnovers and a lot of running after those turnovers. Jerome Dyson had a career day with 9 steals. U Conn is still there among the top of the league. But for today, at least, they are at the bottom. What can I say, I’m a hater and I revel in it. The U Conn fans will fill the Garden and revel in their victory.
I had some doubts about Villanova (15/35/28) but they have really honed their game. Dante Cunningham is aggressively taking shots on the inside and Reynolds and Stokes are stroking from the outside. Corey Fisher… well, he’s contributing. They clean the glass on both ends, they win the turnover battle handily, and they get to the line. College basketball really is a guards’ game for the Wildcats. After last year’s game against the Red Storm, there were longer pieces in the media about how the Red Storm were so far away from competing in the Big East. And this was after a game where ‘Nova’s offensive production could have lost it for them, but St. John’s was just THAT BAD at shooting the ball. If the Wildcats are getting their shots off, it’ll be very hard for the Johnnies to catch up.
So the “break” in the schedule comes from that Cincinnati (NR/57/55) team that has had some rough spots but also sports some talent, along with a LOT of size. This is a relatively winnable game at home, but who’s to say the Bearcats won’t be on a streak here? They have a lot of talented finishers, pass the ball very well for a team without a true point guard (passing is everybody’s job!) and are tops in the nation at grabbing offensive rebounds. The Storm and the ‘Cats split their games last year, with St. John’s winning by 12 (!) and then losing by 16 on the road without Mase.
The freshmen of Rutgers (NR/172/140) will hopefully not have grown into their games yet. Really, I see Mike Rosario coming on really strong at the end of the year; and Echenique will as well, if they find someone to get good at actually passing the ball. Corey Chandler has a high assist rate, but he also has a high “taking shots he doesn’t make” rate. There really has to be some question about how the talent that’s on the team – not overwhelming, but there – still can’t find ways to score as consistently as they need to. St. John’s won a boring sludge of a game against the Scarlet Knights last year… this one may be just as ugly, but could go either way. Right now Pomeroy’s Predictor says the Storm has an 83% chance of winning. That will change downward.
West Virginia (NR/15/3) is currently unranked. Their RPI is 15. Pomeroy’s site, which has been pretty good about calling up unknown but very good teams, has them at #3. Who’s smarter, the AP poll or the nerdy numbers? Truck Bryant (who publicly stated that he wanted to come to St. John’s) has been fantastic, as have Alex Ruoff and Da’Sean Butler. Of course they defend and of course they rebound well. Freshman Devin Ebanks’ numbers seem to indicate that he will see his sophomore year instead of a handshake at the podium with David Stern while wearing a team cap. The efforts of Joe Alexander put the Mountaineers over the top last year against St. John’s. Someone else will have to abuse the Red Storm forwards off the dribble this go-‘round as St. John’s closes out their first month of Big East play.
How many of these games do you think St. John’s will win???
According to the NY Post, former Pittsburgh Steelers coach Bill Cowher decided he is not interested in the Jets job. He wanted his own personnel man and no Brett Favre meddling. Who wouldn’t want Brett Favre meddling? In between interceptions, he’s the best “white-TO” at QB in the NFL!
The St. John’s invitational, aka the Aeropostale Holiday Festival, is back. And the squad finally gets some time in the Garden. The first match-up is against the Red Foxes of Marist College, that fine institution on the banks of the Hudson… in Poughkeepsie, that not-so-fine “Queen City of the Hudson”, where the snow comes down heavier than it does downstate. The second match up will be against the winner of the Columbia/ Virginia Tech game on Sunday, and it’s a reasonable expectation that the Hokies will beat on the 3-5 Columbia Lions.
Unfortunately, the games also come on the heels of the news that forward Justin Burrell is definitely out for the weekend, and perhaps longer. This is the kind of blow a young, thin team does not need; Justin was playing fairly well in limited time (and many would say, with limited touches).
This observer was hoping to see what St. John’s would do when they needed to use Burrell more. But that is not to be. Instead, we will have a chance to see how Coker has developed as he plays taller opponents, and how the squad will defend against size.
The Red Foxes are a regular opponent recently, losing to St. John’s 62-59 last year, a game where Tomas Jasiulionis hit a career high of 12 points while Geno Lawrence and DJ Kennedy struggled. David Devezin and Ryan Schneider played in that game; St. John’s offensive rebounding and free throw shooting (10 attempts from Geno) saved the day.
As a whole, the Red Storm has admirably cut down on the turnovers, has played with decent offensive flow, and gets after it rebounding hard at both ends. The players get to the free throw line with a notable exception in Paris Horne, who only has 11 attempts. He’s the only active player with more than 10 attempts who hits over 70% from the charity stripe at 82%… everyone else is under 70%.
Against some very weak competition, the players have really shined with Boothe as the facilitator and Kennedy and Horne as the shooting options. Evans has taken a breakneck speed, dirty-work style and found some offense, even if he only hits half of his free throws; Sean has been tremendous on the offensive glass as well. No back up point guard has emerged, and the centers have not played many minutes.
The game against Marist should still be very winnable. They have struggled while integrating a new coach (former St. John’s assistant Chuckie Martin), a new style (Memphis’ Dribble Drive Motion) and many new players. The returnees Ryan Schneider, David Devezin, and DeJuan Goodwin are playing well in the new style. Still, Marist has lost 6 games – though to decent-to-good competition (Delaware, Rutgers, St. Bonaventure, Siena, Cleveland State, and Memphis). They’ve beaten Iona, New Hampshire, and Robert Morris.
The problem for the Red Foxes has been a boatload of turnovers in each game; their turnover percentage ranks in the bottom 10 in the nation, and they are not getting offensive rebounds, going to the free throw line, or shooting well enough to compensate. They also get their shots blocked more (by percentage) than anyone in the country. On defense, they do make the games tough, rebounding and defending decently.
St. John’s played much of the end of the Bethune-Cookman game with 4 guards and Sean Evans, so perhaps that was practice for life without Justin. So though he probably won’t start, freshman Smooth Quincy Roberts (4.7 ppg, 2.2 rpg) will get a good chunk of time. Dele Coker would be the candidate to be on court at tip off; if he can stay on the court, his rebounding and shot blocking would be a welcome sight. Rob Thomas (4.1 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 54%FG) will have to shake off the rust and make plays, which he does on the offensive glass. TyShwan Edmondson, Tomas Jasiulionis, and Phil Wait will likely see some time – all hands on deck with the Red Storm’s two focal points (Mason and Burrell) both out.
Expect to see St. John’s try to apply pressure on the ball and goad driving guards into bad drives. The Red Storm will want to get out and run on the Foxes and draw some fouls; they do not want to play in the half court for a whole game. When in the half court, the team must work the ball around and get a good shot going to the basket. They will also need to make the Marist shooters work for outside shots; there are some solid outside shooters on the Marist team.
PG 3 Malik Boothe SO 9.3 ppg/ 5.2 apg/ 3.9 rpg/ 1.2 spg
G/F 1 DJ Kennedy SO 14.3 ppg/ 6.9 rpg/ 1.2 spg/ 37% 3pt
G 23 Paris Horne SO 12.5 ppg/ 3.9 rpg/ 2.5 apg/ 37% 3pt
PF 5 Sean Evans SO 9.4 ppg/ 5.4 rpg/ 1 spg/ 54% fg/ 50% FT
C 15 Dele Coker SO 4.4 ppg/ 2.9 rpg/ 1.1 bpg/ 51% fg
I could make a lame crack about Parris on Paris action, but I’ll leave your minds to fill that one in. Seriously, Javon Parris might be singlehandledly be killing this team’s chances to win. Against Cleveland State he was the ultimate in bricklayer, going 1-10 from the field and 0-5 from beyond the arc; his shooting percentages are simply terrible, though he is going to the free throw line a fair amount.
Dejuan Goodwin is their most efficient threat; Ryan Schneider is the player who will be on the court the most. Point guard David Devezin sat out the last game against Cleveland State, and may be a game-time decision. If he can’t go, freshman RJ Hall will log some time. Greek freshman Alex Vouyoukas started the Cleveland State game; Lawrence Williams (8.6 ppg, 6 rpg) started the previous 8 contests and will see some time if he does not start.
Marist will look to take outside shots, and will try to make St. John’s shoot from the outside as well. The Red Storm has been able to win despite their terrible outside shooting; Marist may pack in their defense and/ or play some zone; if they choose to run their usual pressing style, St. John’s will get the ball to the rim and run the Red Foxes out of the gym.
44 F Ryan Schneider SR 6’7″ 200lbs 13 ppg/ 8.6 rpg/ 1.1 bpg / 37%FG, 37% 3PT
33 G Javon Parris JR 6’4” 180lbs 6.2 ppg/ 4 rpg/ 1.2 spg/ 27.9% FG/ 59.1%FT
11 G DeJuan Goodwin SO 6’2” 171lbs 7.3 ppg/ 3.9 rpg/ 58.3% 3PT/ 46.9% FG/ 54.5% FT
24 PG David Devezin JR 5’10” 180lbs 12.3 ppg/ 3.8 apg/ 1.9 rpg/ 50%3PT
14 F Alex Vouyoukas FR 6’9” 225lbs 2.1ppg/ 56%FG
Five Points, or, Keys to the Game
Turn of the Season. St. John’s is facing a team that commonly turns the ball over. The guards have to keep their hands and feet active to get the Foxes into spots on the floor they can’t be effective in, and snatch the ball away on drives. Breaking their rhythm will cause a poor offensive team to try an score one-on-one; I like the Red Storm’s chances in that kind of game.
You’re Big Enough. Especially against a slightly smaller team in Marist, St. John’s has to remember not to overcompensate. Don’t try to put them away with a barrage of jump shots. Don’t be too eager to block a shot (that means Dele). It’s a fine line between aggressiveness and being too eager to make a play. Let the offense flow, pass the ball, look for the open man, play the game. And keep the hands up – there will be shots blocked in this game.
Crash Those Boards. So far, Marist has done a bad job of keeping teams off the offensive glass. Sean Evans’ activity and Dele Coker’s sheer size should get them second shot opportunities.
Energy. Keep that energy up! The best thing about this year’s squad is the energy they bring to the game. And it needs to be there every time out. No looking ahead to Virginia Tech. No lackluster periods. Intensity. Concentrate on the opponent at hand.
Defend Them at the Arc. The way Marist can win this game is with hot three point shooting. St. Johns’ guards have to keep track of their men and keep them from getting a clean catch and a clean look from beyond the arc. Bump, jostle, anticipate – play tough defense and skin these Foxes.
Skimming an article on USA Today this morning, I saw the kind of invective that just makes this blogger hate the nature of internet comments. There is an article, about Stephon Marbury’s stasis, and the commenters come out with the:
"This guy is so dumb its frightening."
"Would someone PLEASE give me $21 million so I can be DUMB…
PLEASE give me a $10 million "paid" vacation so I can be DUMB…"
"If Mebury or Isiah actually "show up" for work they would not get paid. They are being paid by the Knicks to "stay away" from the rest of the team.
The rest of the business world would just Fire Them both and not pay them another penny."
I can’t stand it when people call athletes "dumb" – assessing their intelligence based, usually, on one or a limited number of quotes, usually about the nexus of money and respect. We don’t know whether the player is dumb or not without interacting with him personally for a period of time. The framework of professional sports, from the employee protections to the contractual obligations to the sheer uniqueness of talent also allows for a certain myopia of thought that most people would not be allowed in their jobs.
Similarly, I would like to think that everyone has noticed that quirks are allowed more and more as one moves up the importance ladder in any organization.
These comments are jealousy speaking out – the "OHH, IF I HAD MILLIONS" whining, the use of logic that is based on being an athletic observer and not an athletic talent, and the use of experience gained following a mythos of how the business world works.
Stephon Marbury, with all of his faults included, is a one in 500 talent in the world. Even at his quirkiest, he is so much more talented than a schmoe off the street that the proper corollary would be a Vice President at a very large Fortune 500 company. That guy hardly gets fired when he is being petulant, when the new CEO wants a new staff. No, that guy gets a giant golden umbrella, or gets assigned to a less critical part of the organization, or goes on to another organization based on his rep.
"Fire them both?" AIG is spending money on “retention payments” bonuses after they came hat in hand to the government for WELFARE. Other companies are still giving out bonuses, even if in reduced fashion. Failure doesn’t mean "fired with no money," it means reductions, severance packages; the market is a win/ lose game to investors, not to the employees who need to be kept around.
The point is this: people think they know their athletes, based on puff pieces and ESPN investigative reporting compressed into 5 minute segments or 30 second post-game interviews. And fans sometimes think they can go around name calling from behind their keyboards at work? You don’t know these people. Enjoy their abilities, talk about their in-game decision making, even call them out when they ask for above-market value on their contract. But don’t call them dumb. And it’s worthless to fantasize what you would do with the contract, because you are not nearly capable or single-minded enough to become a top-level athlete.
There is another comment by the first poster about how we’re lucky that Marbury plays ball, because "he would have hurt someone by now"… the ignorance in that comment is evident enough that it does not warrant a post.