Tag:St. John's
Posted on: January 19, 2011 11:35 pm
Edited on: January 20, 2011 10:11 am
 

What we know and don't know: Wed night edition

Posted by MATT JONES

It was a relatively quiet night in college basketball, headlined by blowouts and embarrasing performances. Duke beat N.C. State, West Virginia got clipped by rival Marshall and Ohio State kept rolling by crushing Iowa. As far as the other important games, a review of what we know and what we don't know coming out of each of the most important scores of the night (picture of current St. John's "assistant" Gene Keady's hair included just for my amusement):

TEXAS 81,  TEXAS A&M 60

What we know: Mark Turgeon’s team is talented enough to get victories against good opponents at home, but tonight showcased that it is nowhere near worthy of its current top-10 ranking. The Aggies were dominated in every facet of the game in Austin and took a beating that should for the time being eliminate them from their status as a March “sleeper." Fortunately for Texas A&M, this was only one of two road games against ranked teams it will play, giving Turgeon’s group a chance to still finish with a gaudy record, before collapsing in March.

What we don’t know:   How good can Texas be? When their freshmen are playing under control and Rick Barnes is able to get big time production from Jordan Hamilton, Texas can look scary. The loss at home to UConn made me skeptical, but maybe we just write that up to the travelling show that Kemba Walker has become. Tonight, Texas was quite impressive and looked like a national contender, setting up a great battle on Saturday versus Kansas for early Big 12 supremacy.

LOUISVILLE   88,   ST. JOHN’S 63 : 

What we know : Louisville coach Rick Pitino has put together one of the better coaching performances of his career, taking arguably the worst set of talent he has had since the early Kentucky days and turning it into a team that will make the NCAA Tournament. This demolition of the team that in the preseason Pitino said could win the Big East, combined with the amazing comeback against Marquette, has the Cardinals sitting pretty as they head to the meat of their Big East schedule.

What we don’t know: What type of team is St.John’s? The Red Storm is in the middle of a brutal stretch in which it plays five ranked teams in six games and thus in theory, one dud of a performance isn’t a shock. But to lose by 25 in a winnable road game against a team that potentially could have provided a needed quality win ... well that makes one wonder if the senior-laden team will be worthy of its assistant coach's marvelous hair down the stretch.

PURDUE 63, PENN STATE 62

What we know:   Purdue got handed a gift by a costly referee error that will sting the 10 people in Nittany Lion country who care about basketball. With Penn State up one and five seconds to go, a ball was clearly deflected off a Purdue player out of bounds, thus giving the Nittany Lions a likely road victory. However the referee standing right in front of the play gave the ball back to the Boilermakers for no discernable reason, giving Purdue one last shot at saving face. The Nittany Lions can only look in the mirror for the poor defense and open look on the ensuing play, but the opportunity should have never occurred.

What we don’t know:   Will Penn State’s run of shocking finishes be enough to get an NCAA Tournament bid? The Nittany Lions are only 3-4 in the Big Ten, but have beaten Michigan State and Illinois and nearly pulled off shocking upsets at Ohio State and Purdue. The schedule still gives Ohio State, Minnesota and Wisconsin at State College, and if the plucky group could win 2 of those 3, they could be the surprise story of the Big Ten.

GEORGIA TECH 74   WAKE FOREST 39

What we know: Wake Forest is bad. I mean, like, historically bad. In the worst ACC in at least 20 years, Wake Forest has a legitimate chance to go winless, placing it in the discussion for worst team in the history of the conference. Think I am exaggerating? Then you didn't watch this travesty of a performance.

What we don’t know: Will Paul Hewitt save his job? Georgia Tech is now 9-8 overall and 2-2 in the ACC. One of those wins is an impressive victory over North Carolina, but the natives are still restless. The non-conference mediocrity probably puts a NCAA Tournament bid out of reach, thus his future job prospects likely rest on a finish above .500 in the ACC.

NOTRE DAME 66, CINCINNATI 58

What we know:   Notre Dame is a different team when in South Bend than when they travel to non-Irish climates. The Irish are now 4-0 at home and 0-3 on the road in the Big East, and every game has been a relatively wide margin of victory or defeat. The Irish are able to beat anyone on their home court, but the chance to get a good seed in March will come down to grabbing road victories in the winnable matchups at Depaul, South Florida and Providence.

What we don’t know:   Will Cincinnati get any win to impress? The Bearcats are an impressive 16-3 overall, but in the Big East, their losses are to Syracuse, Villanova and Notre Dame, while the wins are over Depaul, Seton Hall and South Florida. No team is more difficult to rank nationally, or even in conference, as games against teams of similar strength have been few and far between. One of those however comes this weekend against at St. John’s in the first true test to see if the Bearcats are worthy of our attention.

SOUTH CAROLINA 81 , ARKANSAS 74 (OT)

What we know:   South Carolina’s early conference success means that the six best teams in the SEC likely all reside in the SEC East. The Gamecocks are now 3-1 in conference and have the potential to sneak into the discussion for an NCAA Tournament berth, after a start that included a road win at Florida. Darrin Horn’s team has a huge home game coming against Kentucky on Saturday, which could officially turn them into a conference contender. For Kentucky, coming off a loss to Alabama, the game has become somewhat of a must-win, making Saturday’s game in Columbia a sneaky must-watch.

What we don’t know:   Will any team from the SEC West make the NCAA Tournament? With the return of Renardo Sidney and Dee Bost, Mississippi State looks to have the talent of a member of the field of 68, but early losses while the two were ineligible probably keep them out of the field. The only two other teams with legitimate chances to go dancing are Arkansas and Alabama and the loss by the Razorbacks tonight will hurt come Selection Sunday. The SEC West as a division owns college football and is low mid-major in college basketball.

Posted on: January 5, 2011 12:11 pm
Edited on: January 5, 2011 12:22 pm
 

The drought is over? Embracing the Storm


Posted by Matt Norlander

You can sense that, “Oh, no, I won’t let it happen to me again” feeling with this team, can’t you? We — the fans, the college basketball media, the community at large — are not quite ready to buy in. Who can blame us?

Right now, many don’t want to be thinking it, but are — is St. John’s a fraud?

New coach, a bunch of seniors that’ve never proven anything before. This is a flash in the pan, this 3-0 start in the loaded Big East for a team that’s not even a shell of the program it was a score (and many, many scores) ago.

Can’t be for real, right?

No. Wrong.

This St. John’s team, it exists, I assure you, and it is for real, though “real” can and must be quantified. At the very least, I have to proclaim Steve Lavin’s team is no fraud. Not with a win on the road at West Virginia and clutch home victory over Georgetown, one of the most efficient, adaptable teams in the nation. That win over then-undefeated Northwestern was a feel-gooder as well.

But back to that game against Georgetown Monday night — that was fun. A lot of fun! And in terms of the team’s recent history, it was unprecedented. The Johnnies held off a storming Hoyas squad late. It was a trade-your-punches type of game at the Garden. G-town’s gotten used to winning those types of games (even if they have been prone to lose close ones this year) under John Thompson III. Often times, before The Arrival really happens for a team — before they win that super-duper-big game — a few smaller-yet-still-important victories come along the way.

That’s what the Georgetown win signified. Whether St. John’s makes it back to relevance in three weeks or a full year from now, Lavin and those in the program will no doubt point to the Jan. 3, 2011, win over the Hoyas as the ever-important turning point. The corner that got turned. Clichés will abound, and they’ll all be true.

New York City has been pump-faked by this program many times since the early part of last decade (oh, how badly does NYC and the Big East want St. John’s to be good again; the argument could be made it’s a greater desire than the NBA’s craving for a competent Knicks club), but with this sort of evidence, it may be time to for Red Storm fans to let down their guard and allow this team a chance to fulfill and break their hearts.

Breaking hearts is OK; at least that will be some sort of emotion, which hasn't hovered around the program in, again, a long, long time. And in order to have a heart broken, expectations have to be lifted. Lavin, surprising and converting a few along the way, appears to be the guy to do it.

If you’re a college basketball fan who’s still in college, then you probably barely know anything about the Red Storm. This team has been on the bad side of mediocre basketball for as long as you’ve paid attention to the sport. St. John’s hasn’t won 20 games in a season since 2003. Hasn’t made an NCAA Tournament since 2002. The previous drought that lasted this long … never happened. The ’53-’58 dry spell was the darkest period in St. John’s hoops prior to the past eight years.

The natural progression of a column like this is usually to explain why all of this is happening. I can’t give you all the answers, but I do want to give you a couple to pack for lunch. This column is as much about St. John’s being on its way back as explaining why that’s happening. Let’s talk about that now.

The team has eight seniors, led by Dwight Hardy (right), and that is absolutely helping. The Johnnies are the fourth-oldest team in the country, and also on the shorter side. Lavin’s gotten lucky with that (could be a tiny part of why he took the job, to have that first year he knew wouldn’t be utter chaos with a bunch of newbies), because all that experience and closer dribbles to the floor (not a lot of beanstalks on this team) means the Storm's one of the best at not turning the ball over.

Another positive sign: St. John’s doesn’t allow teams to get to the foul line at an unusual rate, yet squads are making a higher percentage of their charity chucks (74.3) against the Storm than all but 13 other teams in the country. That means the Johnnies are a bit unlucky. Expect that percentage to worm its way down, slowly, as Big East play continues. The conference is notorious for its plethora of foul-shot opportunities, and with more opportunities comes more misses.

The 3-0 record out of the Big East gate will wind up being a life preserver of sorts, because there's not a good chance Lavin's team can get out of January (2-0 right now) with a better-than-.500 record. Not when the team has Notre Dame (twice), Syracuse, Louisville, undefeated Cincinnati, a rematch on the road with Georgetown and a home game against Duke.

Losses are going to come, but getting a head start in the race — no one else is 3-0 in the conference right now — is crucial. It’s what catalyzes columns like this and indicates change, finally, is come — if it hasn’t already. The win Monday night and the ones over West Virginia and Providence (eh) on the road probably offset the bad losses to Fordham and St. Bonaventure earlier in the season.

Expect St. John's to be in the bubble conversation well into February.

Lavin and Co., and Red Storm fans, can feel good. Not comfortable, but good. And we, the college basketball community, can get excited about the Big East having its centralized team back in the mix — for now. The Big East is better, for many reasons, because St. John's is finally proving it can get better — and hopefully stay that way for seasons to come.

Photos: US PRESSWIRE
Category: NCAAB
Tags: St. John's
 
Posted on: January 4, 2011 12:37 am
Edited on: January 1, 2012 10:16 pm
 

Red Storm off to surprising 3-0 start in Big East

Test(Getty Images)

Posted by Matt Norlander


The Johnnies picked up their most significant win in, well, a long, long time tonight.

The 61-58 home victory over No. 13 Georgetown was not a stunning win, despite the AP's headline linked above, but it was still a bit unexpected. After all, St. John's had stumbled against St. Bonaventure and Fordham, losing those games back to back just three weeks ago. I'll disagree with our good friend Rob Dauster, who is trying to poop on partiers in Queens tonight. (Such a downer, that Dauster.)

After a 3-0 start in Big East play, those memories of bad losses have to feel 4,000 miles away.

The clutch win, catalyzed by the play of Dwight Hardy (an impressive 20-point, onion-filled performance), was a big one in the big picture, as St. John's now faces a gauntlet unlike anything any other team in the country will endure: at Notre Dame, Syracuse, Notre Dame, at Louisville, Cincinnati, at Georgetown, Duke.

Then January ends.

Who knows if Georgetown's really sliding. But in a game that featured just 54 possessions (a very low number for the tempo-free ignorant), St. John's, not the veteran team that's shown the capability to adapt to different pace, kept its cool and didn't faulter down the stretch. The Hoyas rebounded and shot better, but it was because St. John's turned over the ball on only 7.5 percent of its possessions that it had a chance. The free-throw shooting also came in handy.

A fun game that got the Garden alive (legendary former head coach Louie Carnesecca was the beneficiary of about 35 cutaway TV shots, too), it's now time to change our perception of the Johnnies, even if they do go on a skid upcoming, we'll know they're capable of some good wins. They'll be capable of, at the very least, playing spoiler.

Right now, they're early contenders.

Photo: Getty Images

Category: NCAAB
Tags: St. John's
 
Posted on: January 3, 2011 11:54 pm
Edited on: January 4, 2011 12:39 am
 

Three takeaways from Monday's games

Posted by Matt Jones

A quick scan of what you should care about from Monday's slate of games:

St John’s is for real  

We knew going into the season that St. John’s would be improved.  Steve Lavin’s club had its supporters, including Rick Pitino, whose comment that the Red Storm would win the Big East made one wonder if he lost more than his stamina in his old age.  However an NCAA berth still seemed a stretch to many and early success in the Big East was met with more skepticism than compliments.  With tonight’s 61-58 victory over Georgetown, it has now become clear that St. John’s will be a force for the entire Big East season.  The Red Storm finished strong down the stretch and had the Garden rocking in a manner that doesn’t’ yet hearken back to the days of Mullin, Berry and Jackson, but does at least get the blood flowing.  The next seven games however will give a test unlike any we have seen in college basketball in some time.  St. John’s will play Notre Dame twice, Syracuse, Cincinnati, Louisville, Georgetown and Duke, all teams ranked in this week’s poll.  If Steve Lavin’s team can simply come out of this stretch with a pulse, relevant college basketball in New York City could be back in February and March for the first time in over a decade.

Michigan State is on track

It has been the usual difficult trip for Tom Izzo and the Spartans during the nonconference season.  An ambitious schedule led to more losses than Michigan State had hoped and the start of Big Ten play brought some trepidation about how the team would fare in a much-improved conference with significantly more depth.  Tonight’s 65-62 win at Northwestern helps alleviate some of the initial worries, as Sparty controlled tempo and helped keep the Wildcats’ star John Shurna at bay, holding him to 11 points on 1-11 shooting.  Northwestern fought back from a late deficit with an 12-0 run that put them within one with, as Kalin Lucas went to the line with 13 seconds left.  After a free throw miss, Draymond Green made another big play for Izzo’s team, by getting a key offensive rebound and scoring to solidify the win.  It was a tough loss for Northwestern, who needs a couple of resume building wins for March, while Michigan State showcased that even with the early struggles, it is exactly where we believed it would be in the preseason…atop the Big Ten and grinding out victories on the way to postseason.

Butler and Florida State are Fraudulent

Two weeks ago in Hawaii, Butler and Florida State faced each other in a well-played game that suggested both teams were ready to make real noise going into conference play.  Butler had seemed to overcome its horrendous star, while the Seminoles seemed poised to overcome their traditional underachieving and become a real contender for the title of second best team in the ACC.  In fact, the game was so engrossing that I almost forgot that I was watching it two days before Christmas and risking the wrath of my entire family.  Now tonight it was proven once again that both teams are the frauds that we thought before their Hawaiian adventure.  Butler was embarrassed in a conference game, losing 76-52 to Milwaukee in a game that will cripple the Bulldogs’ at-large berth potential come March.  Even worse, Florida State lost 65-60 to the worst college basketball team in a BCS conference, Auburn.  Previously the Tigers had fallen to UNC-Asheville, Campbell, Presbyterian and Samford, but luckily for Tony Barbee’s team, the schedule brought the disappointment juggernaut that is Florida State into its arena and with it, a much-needed victory.  For both Butler and Florida State, the promise of two weeks ago has diminished and reality has since set in.  Each is the same team   that we saw before they met in Hawaii, meaning neither is yet worth our full attention.



 
 
 
 
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