It’s been a good week. It started with the conference schedule preview and the player review of the pre-conference season. And St. John’s has taken their first three games. 3-0 in the Big East, with 2 road wins and a home win over a ranked squad? It’s been a good week. Here’s how it happened:
* So, you might have heard that the Red Storm beat #13 ranked Georgetown at Madison Square Garden. A good deal of the city is waking up to the idea that there is college basketball in New York, and it is good. The Johnnies will try to keep up the momentum; but they have a few days off of game action after the stretch of 3 games in 6 days. We did a Q and A with Georgetown blog Casual Hoya, who is keeping his hand off of the panic button.
* Before that, St. John’s squeezed out a close win against the Providence Friars on New Year’s Day, with some clutch late plays by Paris Horne.
* In the other surprise of the week, St. John’s beat West Virginia fairly handily on December 29th. The difference in score was only 10 points, but on the road in Morgantown, the Red Storm seemed to be in control of the whole game. They Johnnies dew fouls, ran their offense, got deep position… it was a tough, solid win.
Transplanted New Yorker and now Midwesterner Peter a/k/a Pico writes for Johnny Jungle, doing the Calm Before the Storm posts and also for the Church of Bracketology. Pico is also on Twitter, @ECoastBias. Add the East Coast Bias to your .rss feeds; or follow by email.
What I’m reading these days:
While you try to figure out why teens are not tweeting; why passengers were stuck on an airplane for a full night on the tarmac; why in heaven’s name Kathy Griffin was at the teen choice awards, and why with Levi Johnston (you may know him from the Palin Family Values campaign tour); why Nancy Grace is writing a fictional book about… herself.
Or maybe you’re fixated on why “town hall” meetings have not only erupted into (planted) shouting matches, but now include anti-health care reform icons who need to solicit donations for their own health insurance costs, while Sarah Palin is channeling the best of Phyllis Schlafly… as Chuck Norris is ANGRY about lengthy LOGICAL LEAPS he has MADE from a few words of a document?!!
We live in a ridiculously partisan country. And celebrities are selfish, Ayn Rand-loving morons.
I am wondering how someone came up with the idea of a hand cream against sex trafficking… I think it was intentional. And the Chevy Volt’s “230 miles per gallon” number may be a bit exaggerated, dependent on where/ how far you are driving. Still, it may be time to go get your hybrid on. Please enjoy a “what Pico is reading” update, and a picture of Party Down’s Lizzy Caplan looking skeptical below. My wife doesn’t think she’s very cute, I disagree.
But this is a sports blog, and I am following a few other blog for sports news; I will be returning to the 2008-2009 player in review posts for St. John’s basketball. Technical difficulties got in the way. So to pass time in the slow part of the summer for college basketball fans, I’m checking out…
MLB’s online baseball package… soon coming to the Roku, which I own.
Rush the Court‘s “Teams of the 2000s” series, starting with #10, Maryland and #9, Syracuse. I wish I could have convinced people to use the term “the naughty Aughts” for the “zeros” or the “first decade,” but I gave up my crusade in about March of 2000.
From Welsh-Ryan Ramblings, what does need to happen for the perception of Northwestern basketball to change?
Gary Williams speaks to Mike DeCourcy of Sporting News. He is aiming at the ACC title next season (every coach is, that’s a non-story), and talks about his incoming size (Jordan Williams and James Padgett) and the criticism he received last year.
NBE Basketball has started a brilliant staff support series, with interviews with the assistant coaches who do some heavy lifting in near-anonymity.
Also: the Big East is looking to eliminate the double-byes from the conference tournament, instead pitting the #1-4 teams against the 13-16 squads… Linas Kleiza, former Mizzou Tiger, signed with Greek team Olympiakos instead of taking the Denver Nuggets‘ qualifying offer… Jamie Dixon and Pitt got a transfer from Centenary College who is eligible to play point guard this year due to Centenary’s dropping down to Division III… former Knick GM, coach, and pariah Isiah Thomas got a big-time recruit to commit to Florida International… and USC‘s football team breaks into song in a meeting:
5 Points, or, Keys to the Game
Forward Effort? Two free throw attempts by Rob Thomas. 6 shots by Sean Evans with 4 turnovers. 3 boards from Justin Burrell , and 5 apiece from the other two; the team gave up 17 offensive rebounds to a team that missed 27 shots? And only picked up 8 offensive boards on 28 misses. St. John’s didn’t just get defeated on the glass, they were mutilated. Score: F.
Young Legs: The postgame remarks below talk about tiredness, lack of energy (and preparation). The team defended poorly, got out-hustled, and couldn’t score. Score: F.
Defense and Pace: The game was at St. John’s slower pace, but it didn’t matter; the team turned the ball over anyway. Marquette couldn’t score early, but that didn’t really matter, because St. John’s scored like an elementary school team. The defense was hardly there. Score: D.
Repeat Performances: Horne wasn’t terrible, overall, but not an impact player early. Kennedy was relatively okay. Sean Evans didn’t have a repeat performance in him, and the rest of the team actually performed far worse in this matchup than against Marquette on Valentine’s Day. Score: F.
The Basics – Make Shots: Wow. They couldn’t even get shots off. It was sad, disgusting, and I still haven’t seen the second half. Score: F.
(click on the “read the rest…” to see the postgame media and quotes below.) Read more…
With the nominally employed Chris Mullin in the stands, St. John’s lays one supreme egg, losing 74-45 to Marquette. The Johnnies scored 10 points in the first half on three field goals, couldn’t throw the ball into the Hudson, and basically looked defeated with a minute left in the first half.
Hope springs eternal, and way for the Red Storm players to stomp on it. In some cases (see: Sean Evans) the effort wasn’t really there. And the talent is hit and miss, and Paris and DJ couldn’t get going. The shots didn’t fall, and the Johnnies got outhustled by a fresher Marquette team for reabounds…
But that was embarrassing.
Why is Chris Mullin in the stands when he is technically employed by Golden State (though is now a General Manager with no decision-making power)? Is Louie trying to bring one of his own back into the fold? I wouldn’t necessarily think so, but… it strikes me as curious.
St. John’s (likely) ends the season with a 16-17 record, unless the lame CBI tournament comes calling and the Red Storm want to go.
The big question for St. John’s: will point guard Malik Boothe play?
From the NY Post:
Roberts is hoping to get some minutes out of point guard Malik Boothe who underwent surgery to repair torn ligaments in his left thumb on Dec. 21. Roberts said Boothe would not start but he’s hoping to get him some spot duty.
From the NY Daily News:
However, the Johnnies won’t get help from starting point guard Malik Boothe, who is coming off hand surgery. Roberts said he is not yet ready to play in games, but should in the next week.
Which writer is right? At his best, Malik Boothe can make the difference between a close contest and a turnover-filled smashing at the hands of the Pitt Panthers.
The Panthers, are focused for today’s game:
Since the Associated Press Top 25 was released Monday, the Pitt players have displayed a healthy mixture of pride, humility and focus.
“We know it’s out there,” senior forward Tyrell Biggs said. “But we’ve got a lot more work to do. Our goals aren’t finished yet. It’s early.”
Amazingly, Pitt is only the second program to sit atop the AP regular-season Top 25 men’s basketball poll as a Big East school in the past 19 years. The other is Connecticut, which was No. 1 for 21 different regular-season polls in 1998-99, 2003-04 and 2005-06.
St. John’s is focused as well. NY Post:
Following his team’s 71-65 upset of Notre Dame at the Garden last weekend, Roberts’ task was to make sure his players didn’t come down with a collective case of “Big Head Syndrome.”
Boston College took care of that problem. After pulling a shocking upset of North Carolina, the Eagles got flipped by Harvard.
“We saw that,” forward D.J. Kennedy said. “Coach tells us all the time that anyone can beat anyone, but when you see it happen to another team, it’s right there. You know it’s true.”
“Now they are No. 1 and trying to hang on to it,” Kennedy said. “There’s a lot of pressure that comes with being No. 1. And we come in feeling good and with nothing to lose. No one is giving us a chance in this, but no one gave us a chance last weekend.”
St. John’s (10-4) got a taste of what it’s like to send a shiver through the college basketball world when it defeated then-No. 7 Notre Dame, 71-65, last Saturday at the Garden. The Johnnies got that win by doing two things that they hadn’t: play with intensity for the entire game and not collapse in the face of adversity. When the Irish led big early, the Red Storm mounted a comeback. When its lead was threatened, St. John’s beat them back.
“We showed them how to win,” Johnnies coach Norm Roberts said. “I can’t tell you if the light went on for them. We’re preaching to them to stay focused and intense. We want them to stay confident.”
I suppose I could say something about it taking them this long to “learn how to win,” and stay focused… more on that from the New York Times:
The Red Storm underwent a bit of an attitude adjustment after a 21-point loss to Providence in its Big East opener on Dec. 31. The players said a heightened dedication in practices and the subsequent, and, admittedly, uncharacteristic effort against Notre Dame proved rewarding….
“We learned a lot about playing 40 minutes,” the sophomore forward Sean Evans said. “We have to bring this mind-set to every game.”
Evans spoke about how much more focused he and his teammates were in practice. The sophomore forward Justin Burrell said that the team was working harder in practice than he could remember, and that there was none of the bickering or distracting side conversations that had been too prevalent in the past. And the sophomore swingman D. J. Kennedy confirmed that that had been the way the team had operated since the Providence loss. Even Roberts was willing to acknowledge a rise in intensity, though he attributed it to preparing for a hard-nosed team like Pittsburgh (14-0, 2-0).
“We’ve emphasized being much more physical in practice,” Roberts said.
He showed his team on film things it did against Notre Dame that it needed to continue doing. Those things have roots in effort and determination like rebounding with both hands and playing tough on-ball defense; the Red Storm held Notre Dame to four 3-pointers compared with its average of 9.3 a game. It also includes executing the offense with patience to get the ball inside and attacking the basket in transition rather than settling for jump shots.
Again, why it takes so long to get a team to play the right way… but if they can keep it up, it will be water under the bridge.
DJ Kennedy’s coming home to play in front of friends and family.
Huge Pitt stop for St. John’s, from the NBE Basketball report.
The Vegas point spread is 19.5 points in favor of Pittsburgh..
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???
For your viewing and information enjoyment, some changes in the blog. You’ll notice on the top navigation and under pages that a few pages have been added:
- 2007-2008 schedule. Yes, the year is over, but when you want to look back and see how that Red Storm 11-19 record came about, how Lawrence was from game to game, and how Mason and Burrell were against various opponents, here is your resource, with links to boxscores. If you pause your mouse over each result, you’ll see a short comment from me.
- The main 2008-2009 section includes each anticipated St. John’s player for the coming year, including walk-ons and recruits, with their currently listed heights, weights, and home towns (though Jasiulionis is originally from Lithuania, and Coker is originally from Nigeria). If you want to read the East Coast Bias’ evaluation of each of the 2007-08 players, check each players links on the 07-08 main page.
- The 2008-2009 St. John’s Red Storm schedule is not officially out, but we know the team has some out-of-conference obligations (Niagara, Miami (FL), Duke) and a slate of 18 conference games, with 6 being home-and-away games, and the other 12 scheduled based on this year’s game location. As we know more about the schedule, the page will be updated.
While you’re at it, check out Johnny Jungle’s updated Big East Links page, with official, unofficial, blog, and message board sites for each of the 16 Big East teams.