college basketball


Georgia Tech junior guard Iman Shumpert (above).

Basic Statistics

Year League Team GP Min Pts FG FGA FG% 2Pt 2PtA 2P% 3Pt 3PtA 3P% FTM FTA FT% Off Def TOT Asts Stls Blks TOs PFs
2008/09 NCAA Georgia Tech 31 31.6 10.6 3.4 8.7 39.1 2.4 5.5 43.8 1.0 3.3 31.4 2.8 4.2 65.6 0.7 3.2 3.9 5.0 2.1 0.2 3.7 2.9
2009/10 NCAA Georgia Tech 30 30.1 10.0 3.5 9.0 38.5 2.2 5.3 42.1 1.2 3.7 33.3 1.8 2.5 72.0 0.9 2.7 3.6 4.0 1.9 0.2 3.1 2.3
2010/11 NCAA Georgia Tech 31 32.0 17.3 5.7 14.1 40.6 4.4 9.2 47.4 1.4 4.9 27.8 4.5 5.6 80.6 1.7 4.2 5.9 3.5 2.7 0.2 2.3 2.8

 http://www.draftexpress.com/profile/Iman-Shumpert-5156/stats/#ixzz1Q9VpXmx8

We do not know what to make of this.  The whispers are that the kid can’t shoot straight.  We liked the idea of Shumpert in addition to a forward, and we were hoping that the Knicks got Faried or Singleton or fell into Kemba Walker.  If this is all they do, the jury will be out on this draft for a long time, and we doubt that this kid gives the Knicks any immediate help.
 
Knicks GM Glen Grunwald was interviewed by ESPN, and said they love Shumpert’s defense.  He also said they have a lot of ideas on how to fill out the rest of the roster.  They better.  Personally, we like Marshon Brooks way better than Shumpert, if you are going guard here, and we agree with ESPN’s panel on the notion that Shumpert was a reach.
 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fIgSarOjhKw

We have a definite soft spot for Dwayne Polee II (above).  When we heard earlier this week that he was transferring, we were a bit perplexed.  As we opined early on last season, Polee could be a 1 and done talent, only we were thinking NBA, especially after a few highlight reel dunks in the season opener.  As it would turn out, there weren’t too many more of those moments for Polee, who, for the sake of appearances and what well may really be, wants to be closer to home for family reasons, a sick family member, we think.

Polee never really fit in here and that is a terrible shame, because his commitment to the program–the first major talent to sign on–helped St. John’s get the ball rolling in terms of buzz and recruiting, helping them land Norvel Pelle and nearly Remi Barry, other California kids who had a zillion options.  Polee, a symbollic starter for a portion of the season, lost his claim to real minutes early on, after some uneven performances, bad shooting, and terrible decision making.  But he talked the talk, and seemed to have confidence in the program.  One knew as much after an awful Syracuse loss at the Garden, after which Polee spoke to the media about marking the loss and avenging it.

But it couldn’t have been easy for Polee, the only freshman, a guy from the left coast who was much heralded, to join a cliquey St. John’s team, with players who were probably looking at him like competition.  There was a Pennsylvania clique and a JC clique, and there’s the lanky kid from Cali who may not have had anyone to bond with.  Polee probably looked ahead a bit to next season, which was already becoming quite cliquey, and the cliques again did not involve him.  Maurice Harkless, Jakarr Sampson (see his impressive highlights on www.youtube.com above), and D’Angelo Harrison all played on a national all-star team recently, and seemed like they were having a good time together, while tearing it up.  Harkless and Sampson both have a bit of a position clash with Polee, as does Sir Dominic Pointer, who also played in that competition.

Pointer’s high school teammate, Dwight Meickle, has also skipped out on St. John’s, as Steve Lavin announced last month.  Meickle, who is whispered to be only 6’6 and not 6’9, is probably doing the Johnnies a favor.  The quality of recruit St. John’s is now typically in the mix with is well above the talent level of a Dwight Meickle, and we are sure that Lavin and staff will redistribute that scholarship and bring in a bigger talent.  For 2012-2013. 

Right now, as it sits, St. John’s has an extremely thin roster, with only 10 players signed for next season.  One of whom, Nurideen Lindsey, the supposed starting point guard, may not be eligible for the fall.  Of those 10 players, only 1 has NCAA Division I experience, and that’s point guard Malik Stith, who we made fun of all year for his lack of talent.  So we find ourselves questioning St. John’s for next year, though they recently completed a coup by signing power forward God’s Gift Achiuwa.

It was probably never the best thing for the program to give out so many scholarships so quickly.  Not when so many young kids want to wear the jersey.  Was all the pub about the biggest and best class in St. John’s storied history a bad thing?  Not at all.  It was important in getting the program re-established.  And so was Polee, who we are genuinely sad to see go.  He’s a great kid, and we wish him well.

Meickle?  We don’t think he woulld have played much, and we’d just as soon have somebody else.  And from what we hear, with the attention Lavin’s staff is showering on Kyle Anderson, who at 6’8 can play 5 positions, and Ricardo Gathers, we think St. John’s would rather have better players.  They might even get a better player in here to replace Polee, though we were content to sit with him and see his development, and hail him as the first to come.

We still will.  Too bad it will have to be from afar.

Crack (http://crackbillionair.wordpress.com, www.crackbillionair.com)

College is college, and you can never trust a draft eligible player’s listed height, and we’ve all heard how Kenneth Faried (above) of Morehead St. can’t shoot a jumpshot, and never even attempts any.  For a four, he’s a midget, right?  At 6’8, 225 lbs.  While we’re at it, should we throw those college stats out the window, even though this young man has averaged 13, 13, and 14.5 rebounds a game since sophomore year?  Thankfully team president Donnie Wheelchair has been watching closely, and hopefully, he is in love with Faried as many outlets are reporting.

We’ll tell you what.  We’ve seen the Knicks blow it in this spot a million times.  The too short four.  Michael Sweetney?  Ouch.  But Sweetney was fat.  How about the too short free agent four?  We’ve seen that a million times too.  Clarence Weatherspoon?  We shudder to recall.

This kid has been the best rebounder in the nation for 3 years, was the best rebounder at the Portsmouth Invitational, and if you put him on the Knicks right now, he’d be their best rebounder by a mile and would rebound Amar’e Stoudemire under the table.  Did anyone notice how little energy Stoudemire played with and how poor his rebounding numbers were since Carmelo arrived?  He’s not the best rebounder to begin with, but 6 a game?  This particular draft seems to be the ideal situation for the Knickks, who can draft for need and pick up the best player in 2 years at that need, if it’s true Faried isn’t expected to go until late in the first round or later.

The Knicks got killed in the paint, especially on the boards, and if they draft this kid from Moorehead St., it’s no longer an issue.   Let the scorers score and let this rebounder from Newark, who’d love love love to be here, rebound.  Not a comparison in any way, and we couldn’t care if this kid doesn’t shoot 5 times a game, but he isn’t that differently sized than Blake Griffin.  For what the Knicks need and will be asking of their four, Faried is going to give it to them: hustle, energy, defense.  And of course, rebounds.  The Knicks will be playing small ball a good deal for D’antoni, which means Faried would be working between Stoudemire and Anthony, and when D’antoni’s gone, the intense Mark Jackson (we hope it’s him so much) will love having Faried on the team.

The Knicks need to forget about Europe and little men.  Especially since they only have 1 pick.  If they can buy themselves another, sure, we’d still rather a big, but we’d understand the logic behind taking a point guard.  But not at the expense of Faried.  And yes, we were the ones who were giddy about Kemba Walker and the Knicks during the Big East Tournament, but that’s understandable.  If that type of lottery talent and home town product is available at 17, jackpot.  But where the Knicks are picking, it is highly unlikely they are going to have a shot at a small man talent great enough to make them pass on their greatest need.

FARIED!!!!!

Let’s get this taken care of.  We need at least 8 guys who are ready and able to roll.  Faried makes a solid 3rd of the 8.  The Knicks can address the point after Billups is gone.  They must get a rebounder at 17.  And if Dolan wants to buy us a few extra picks, then we can talk about the lanky kid from Florida or the young one from Michigan.

And please please please no Jimmer Freddette. 

Crack (http://crackbillionair.wordpress.com, www.crackbillionair.com)

Eerie CC All-American God’s Gift Achiuwa (below).

Eerie, Pennsylvania JUCO star by way of Nigeria, God’s Gift Achiuwa, the 9th leading scorer and 10th leading rebounder last season in NJCAA, has finally committed to St. John’s University after recently ruling out Washington and Kentucky, and then selecting the Johnnies over Big East rival Cincinnati this week.  For those of you who are confused about the lad’s name, or already under the impression that God’s Gift walked St. John’s sideline–Steve Lavin–understand that we are talking about a 6’8/6’9 beast of a power forward who Lavin and staff have been recruiting for months.  Achiuwa, the son of a Nigerian minister, is 1 of 6 siblings who all have unique first names, including “God’s Will”, “Promise”, and “Peace.”

It’s been a good month for St. John’s, who in the wake of their first tournament berth in 10 years, retained their X’s and O’s wizard Mike Dunlap, who looked to be in the running for top spots with Oregon and UNLV at the final four, and who insiders credit as having taken apart Duke video for 9 months in preparation for St. John’s astounding 93-78 blowout of the then defending national champions.  That the St. John’s staff suffered no defections thus far, with most head coaching vacancies already set, must be considered a victory.  By the way, did anyone notice that the guy who almost took Lavin’s job, Paul Hewitt, accepted the top spot at George Mason, earlier today?  We’re convinced that no one is second guessing that near miss after Hewitt’s 2nd straight shaky season at Tech and a conference downgrade, not to mention the boatload of dollars Hewitt was able to walk away with because of his fancy rollover contract (every year rollover contracts re-set to the original dollars and duration, meaning Hewitt walked with the full value of the contract his agent renegotiated last spring).

Though most publications and media outlets that rank incoming classes already had the Johnnies near the top (www.rivals.com currently has St. John’s at #2 behind Kentucky), as close observers, we believed that God’s Gift, or “Gift”, as the staff refers to him for short, was a crucial get for the Johnnies, who will not win big without size.  St. John’s first round loss to Gonzaga underscored how a lack of size will kill you in the tournament, as did Big East tournament loss to Syracuse on our home floor.  Though the incoming class is being heralded for its shooting and athleticism on the wing, it is comprised of only two big men: Norvel Pelle and Dwight Meickle, and there are questions about both.  Pelle, probably the best of all St. John’s recruits, is a very thin 6’9, and the common notion is that he needs a heavy to do his dirty work for him.  That heavy would be God’s Gift, who is about 240 lbs. of solid muscle.  Meickle, a Long Island product, appeared to be a back of the rotation guy or perhaps less, and that was before God’s Gift made it official.

Those wondering about the look of the starting five are not in the minority.  Though Lavin himself has confirmed that scoring point guard Nurideen Lindsey would be eligible for the start of the 2011 season, we are hearing that he has many credits to complete and that the hopes for his eligibility are ambitious.  There are also loud questions about his commitment to defense, which, if true, will see him languish on the bench when he does arrive, despite his ability to score at will.  Most considered Queens product Maurice Harkless the gem of the class, though it now seems Mo may not crack the starting 5 due to the team’s depth at the 3 and probable need to start both Pelle and Gift.  Harkless is competing for minutes with standout Ohio prospect Jakarr Sampson, and Sir Dominic Pointer, a Detroit prospect who, last year was hailed as a defensive stopper, and now is considered the best all around player in St. John’s class.  And Sophomore Dwayne Polee II will also be vying for minutes.  We can’t imagine a line of freshmen coming in and surpassing Polee, who has already acclimated to the program.

We’d be a bit surprised if Polee, Pelle, and Achiuwa don’t start up front.  We think Harkless and Pointer will see heavy minutes up front as well.  It wouldn’t surprise us if Malik Stith gets some minutes at point, returning for his junior year.  We’ve made fun of him on numerous occasions, but we think the coaches will opt for the stability he offers over a shoot first freshman point guard.  He also may play a little better with better talent around him.  As the year goes on, we think the coaches might stash Stith on the bench in favor of Phil Greene and that Amir Garrett will get a lot of minutes as the 3rd guard.

In 2012, Jevon Thomas comes in and takes the reins as the high quality talent pass first point guard, which, at the moment, is the only position the Johnnies lack.  The staff must also open a few scholarships in the hopes of landing local standouts Kyle Anderson, a 5 position player in high school, and power forward Ricardo Gathers.  Both Anderson and Gathers are frequently mentioned as kids who are giving a lot of thought to coming to St. John’s.

Best news of all regarding the program has to be the nature of Steve Lavin’s prostate cancer, which doctor’s are confident will be cured.  We weren’t surprised at all to learn that Lavin knew about his health situation and had kept the condition a secret while he worked tirelessly to build the foundation of the program.

Crack (http://crackbillionair.wordpress.com, http://www.crackbillionair.com)

http://www.nydailynews.com/sports/college/2011/03/13/2011-03-13_johnnies_to_get_cbs_treatment.html

A hobbled DJ Kennedy (above, middle), of St. John’s.

St. John’s, who was probably headed for a four seed on Sunday when the NCAA announces its tournament dance card, can expect to receive a lesser seed and a much rougher travel scenario because of the torn ACL suffered by well rounded guard/forward DJ Kennedy, who is at worst the 2nd or 3rd best player on the Johnnies.  Kennedy suffered the tear on Thursday in the quarter-finals of the Big East Tournament against Syracuse, in a game St. John’s ultimately lost, 79-73.

The Johnnies weathered the loss of Kennedy early on, taking a 37-32 lead into the half, but were significantly outplayed in the 2nd half by the Orange, despite taking a point lead with about 3 minutes to play.  In light of the injury to Kennedy, Steve Lavin went to a bigger lineup, playing Evans, Burrell, and Brownlee in the forecourt.  But without Kennedy, the team looked disorganized on defense on crucial possesions late, giving up easy dunks in the paint and an offensive rebound that resulted in a layup for Syracuse which essentially sealed the game.

The selection committe has been known to drop teams’ seeding when they lose key players late in the season.  Losing to Syracuse alone, a higher ranked squad, would probably not have led to a worse seed.  But losing Kennedy from an already thin team will.  The injury also concerns us because it could serve to deflate a group that had been playing with a lot of confidence.

Dwayne Polee II, who had little success after a strong start to the season, should be looked upon by the coaches as someone who will need to step up in the place of Kennedy.  Though we will admit to being disheartened by the loss of Kennedy, we would expect no less from this coaching staff than to see this team come out fully ready to play next week in St. John’s first trip to the tournament in 10 years.

And we hate to put sour grapes out there, but truth is, we just don’t see the importance of The Big East Tournament, which is more grueling than the NCAA tournament, for example, with a team like UCONN playing 5 games in 5 days, and the possibility of injury one week before the NCAA championship tournament.  Sure, small conference tournys are fine where you are playing for a bid.  But let’s face it.  Unless there’s a fluke, a good team that’s already going to the dance is going to win the Big East Tournament.  And a Providence or a Seton Hall, should they pull off a miracle, still should not get the luxury of wiping away a season of bad results by capturing lightning in a bottle for a few days in New York.

Crack (http://crackbillionair.wordpress.com, www.crackbillionair.com)

On a buzzer beater by Carmelo Anthony, the Knicks salvaged a win last night in Memphis after blowing another ten point lead, this time with 3:37 to play.  Melo, after popping the jumper, had some interesting interplay with the Grizzlies’ bench.  Defensive “stopper” Tony Allen, did little to contain Anthony overall, who put together another great stat line (31 pts, 5 reb., 6 assts).  Anthony, who an excited Memphis bench regaled with sentiments his game winning shot was off when it left his hands, went back at the Memphis sideline and said simply, “I do this” when the shot fell.

Exciting times for the Knicks indeed.  Don’t mistake our silence on the Carmelo saga and on the beginning of this era as a lack of excitement for what’s going on.  We stated here months ago that Gallinari, probably Chandler, and a pick swung from Minny for Anthony Randolph was going to Denver.  We wrote–months ago–that Melo was engineering a trade to NY and that privately he had shot down the Nets.  Even publicly, he couldn’t even fake being lukewarm toward the proposition of NJ.  He could’ve had a deal to the Nets at any point since June.  Instead, when Denver obviously begged their disgruntled star to thow them a bone in the form of some leverage, Anthony spoke not of New Jersey but of perhaps signing the extension with Denver.

http://crackbillionair.wordpress.com/2011/01/20/espn-nets-melo-drama-a-farce/

http://crackbillionair.wordpress.com/2010/10/05/carmelo-anthony-no-to-nets/

http://crackbillionair.wordpress.com/2010/09/28/carmelo-anthony-to-nets-pipedream-crushed/

We’ve had a big picture view on the Knicks dating back about 6 years now.  The Anthony acquisition is a major step, but part of a much larger long term process.  First, we rooted for Thomas to do enough damage to get himself fired, which finally happened with an assist from Stephon Marbury who testified about pressuring a young female Garden employee into giving him a blowjob.  Then, Thomas had to be replaced with a quality hire.  Sure, we’ve made fun of Donnie Wheelchair, and we hate his draft acumen, but he is a pro.  He had a plan and stuck to it, giving the Knicks the chance to slot in stars the magnitude and calibre of the ones now on board.

These exciting times and last second wins?  Great to be excited, but putting teams away when up 10 or 12 in the 4th quarter is a lot more gratifying in our minds.  Still, it’s a long view.  You know our feeling on Mike D’antoni.  We’d never hire him.  Ever.  Not for the Knicks, not for a Division III school, not for an AAU gig, not even to mop up court sweat.  We’ve never seen any facsimile of speedball win big on any level.  Showtime out in LA and all fast break basketball is predicated on stops, rebounds, and turnovers that lead to easy scores.  Remember the Riley credo: “No rebounds, no rings.”

http://crackbillionair.wordpress.com/2010/03/23/before-they-can-worry-about-free-agents-knicks-need-a-coach/

The next step in the Knicks progression is probably going to be growth from within.  Fields and Douglass have upside and are improving.  We expect 7 or 8 guys from this squad to return next year and that they’ll improve as a group.  Seven foot pivot Jerome Jordan, a 2nd round pick last year, will probably be imported from Europe.  He’s a big who showed polish and promise in college, and who is currently showing a knack for scoring down low overseas.  The Knicks must draft wisely in round 1 this year (BTW, did anyone hear Kemba Walker lobbying this week to come to NY?), and may be served to buy another pick, ala the Toney D. selection, which they acquired for cash from the Lakers.

But Mike D.?  If we could only sell him off.  Short practices, disinterested walkthroughs and shoot arounds.  Mishandled player relations (Nate Robinson, Jordan Hill, etc.)  We guess Walsh can live with it so far.  But all the late blown leads and not running plays late in the games?  Our media is already tiring of this act.  The Post this week had a snappy headline in which they referred to him as “Done-toni.”

http://www.nypost.com/p/sports/knicks/after_season_mike_may_be_done_toni_EoEp0beiA3opwRMF02MkyJ

If Garden management is so slow to take care of Walsh, who always represents the team in a respectful fashion, why would they be in a rush to extend the coach?  Especially one whose rationale for not calling a timeout to set up a play at the end of games is along the lines of ‘we basically know what to do.’  Really?  Did they know what to do in Phily weeks back when they blew another double digit lead in the 4th, went down 10, and cut it to 2 in the closing seconds?  D’antoni didn’t call for a timeout, the Knicks had no play, ran something we’d describe as chaos, and watched Shawne Williams, fresh off the scrap heap, force a drive when the Stoudemires, Chandlers, Gallos, and Feltons of the world watched.

We will suggest right here that D’antoni is also mishandling Chauncey Billups and his injury situation.  Billups hurt his quad 6 games ago.  D’antoni has termed him day to day the whole while.  How is a guy not named John Abraham day to day for 2 full weeks?  Not only do we not think D’antoni is being honest, we also don’t feel he and Billups are on the same page.  Billups said of a Sunday return, “not looking good.”  D’antoni said Billups is “coming back Sunday.”  We think D’antoni is afraid to tell the media the truth about Billups, in part.  The guy is a self preservationist, and he must know that a 3rd free pass in a row, at $6M per, is unlikely, even from the imminently wasteful Madison Square Garden Co. 

And here’s what a good coach says: ‘So and so’s not playing.  Injuries are part of the game.  Out of sight, out of mind.  We’re gonna play without him and we’ll be ready.’  A good coach doesn’t clutch at excuses.  A good coach wouldn’t be afraid to go up to the 5 seed and face Orlando.  He wouldn’t be making excuses about how hard it is to lose Billups, or how unrealistic it is to think the Knicks are more on a level with Atlanta than Charlotte.  The Knicks took it to the Magic for a chunk of their last meeting in Orlando, in what was another second half debacle.  A very quick Jameer Nelson killed them off the dribble and with the shot.  How about at least pretending you have a shred of confidence in Toney Douglass as another option against Nelson? 

Another local beat guy, Alan Hahn of Newsday, has been maligning the Knicks execution, an obvious shot at D’antoni.  Hahn’s a guy you should pay particular attention to.  Why?  Because the Garden owns Newsday, and MSG Network has been giving Hahn lots of air time of late, featuring him on Knicks broadcasts in a prominent role.   

BTW, be sure to tune in tonight when the Knicks face the Mavs wearing their “Nueva York” jerseys for some NBA Spanish night nonsense.  The Knicks have the worst winning percentage of any club over the last 9 seasons.  But something about these Nueva York jerseys might bother us even more than that.

Are we critical much?  Crack do this!

Crack (http://crackbillionair.wordpress.com, www.crackbillionair.com)

Home team calls?  How about call.  We wouldn’t necessarily agree with Fran Fraschilla’s assertion that 4 or 5 non calls down the stretch aided St. John’s and hurt Rutgers University a little while ago on the floor of Madison Square Garden in the 2nd round of the Big East Tournament.  Fraschilla has a bit of Lavin/St. John’s envy.  That’s understandable.  After all, the guy was Lavin once upon a time, the hot new St. John’s coach who restored the program to glory and recruited with gusto, until he allegedly pulled his pants down in front of the team in the locker room, during a speech about how the team needed to show more balls.  We kid you not.

Fraschilla is a local guy from Marine Park, and he did a fine job, until the Reverend Harrington found out about the inappropriate tirade and dismissed him.  Fraschilla is a classless version of Lavin, obviously, and while he was awarding calls to Rutgers down the stretch left and right, while feeling sorry for himself.  Was Frashcilla correct that the refs put their whistles away and stopped officiating the game?  Yes he was.  But the only clearly one sided non call was the one on Brownlee who clearly went out of bounds with 1.7 seconds left.  In a perfect world, the refs spot that straight away, re-set the clock to 1.7 and let Rutgers inbound the ball and attempt to run a play.

Guess what?  The world’s not perfect.  People are crying about the great injustice of this, when it happens almost monthly in the NFL, and at best, the unlucky loser gets an acknowledgement from the league that a call was blown a few days after the incident.  Well, Rutgers got something a little better than that then.  NCAA Head of Officials John Adams called the end of game sequence “unacceptable” a mere hour after the game was finished.  So there you go, Scarlet Knights’ fans.  Enjoy the fruits of that bounty.

Obviously, St. John’s was lucky to win this game.  The Johnnies blew a 10 point lead down the stretch, fell behind a point with about a minute to go, got huge free throw makes from Dwight Hardy and Sean Evans, along with a costly Hardy turnover which gave Rutgers a chance to take the lead in the final seconds.  St. John’s got a stop and a rebound, got a make and a miss at the line from Brownlee, and then Rutgers threw the ball in from under their rim to around half court, where Fraschilla wanted a ridiculous over the back call on Hardy.  Right.  Like Rutgers had established position on 50′ pass that was essentially a jump ball.  Fraschilla called for 4 or 5 over the back fouls on St. John’s in the final 17 seconds alone.  No way.  And Hardy, on his final shot from the field had drawn clear contact, but got no whistle.  The officials wanted to let the kids play it out, which we clearly get.  That worked for and against St. John’s until the final 2 seconds, when it clearly worked for St. John’s. 

We’ll take it.  Did Lavin do the greatest job on earth down the stretch?  No.  He did a poor job.  Though he ran a play that got Hardy to the free throw line out of a timeout for the final lead, Lavin took a very curious posture when he sent Rutgers to the line to shoot rather than giving them an opportunity to tie the game.  He had a 3 point lead, and with a defensive club, a persona predicated on defense, you let your defense close out the game.  What if Rutgers makes the 1st, gets an offensive board, which they got at will all 2nd half, and then cans a 3?  They get out with the win.  Also, it’s the job of Lavin and staff to prep the team for the final seconds.  With 5.5 to go, they are in a timeout, and they have to be coached up on playing through the final buzzer.  What Brownlee did, going out of bounds with no court or clock awareness, and then flinging the ball up to the rafters, was disgusting.

You know we love Lavin, but like he says, responsibility rests with him.  If that was a Herb Brooks team, they’d be skating right now.  But there’s a silver lining.  The team will be on its best behavior for tomorrow’s Garden rematch with Syracuse, and they’ll need to be sharp.  Today’s slopfest should ensure that St. John’s has the right mindset tomorrow at 2 PM.     

Sorry if we aren’t going to cry for Rutgers.  We like their coach, Mike Rice.  He prepares his team.  We were lucky to beat them at Carneseca and lucky again today.  We rooted hard for Seton Hall yesterday because to us, that represented the much easier game.  Rice’s kids play defense, and the guy has a good attitude.  Minutes after the game in interviews, he wasn’t crying or badmouthing the officials.  He said he refused to cry over things he had no control over, like officiating.  Rice knows in the big picture, that Rutgers hasn’t done anything yet to warrant any special treatment, like the ridiculous notion that they should put 2 ticks on the clock and bring the teams back out to finish the game.

The Big East already acknowledged that there were 2 separate blown calls at the end of that game.  And that since play wasn’t initially stopped, the play was not “reviewable” or “correctable.”  Only if the officials had stopped Brownlee and St. John’s from running off the court could they have gone to the video review.  Ho hum.  No tears for Rutgers.  Bad calls happen all the time.  Officials who make enough bad calls could get pulled from the tournament officiating rotation.  That’s the most that will happen here, if that.

We respect Rutgers’ efforts and class today.  But it was doubtful they’d have gotten it done with 1.7 to play anyway.  We’re more concerned with avenging the Syracuse loss and shutting up that moron Scoop Jardine.  So we’ll give Lavin, Hardy, and Brownlee a pass for their parts in today’s chaos, as long as they do better tomorrow.

http://crackbillionair.wordpress.com/2011/01/17/after-bad-loss-to-syracuse-st-johns-clamps-down-avenges-loss-to-notre-dame/

http://crackbillionair.wordpress.com/2011/02/14/storm-warning-st-johns-smacks-uconn-msg-and-avenges-cincy-loss-lavin-still-hot-on-recruiting-trail/

Now let’s go Redmen!

Crack (http://crackbillionair.wordpress.com, www.crackbillionair.com)

 

On a few occasions this season (prior to games vs. Northwestern, Georgetown, ASU, and Duke) we’ve had a warm feeling–positive expectations–about a given game.  Damn us for announcing in the past that we had no idea why.  Frankly, there’s only one real player on the team, one super athletic but raw freshman, lost in the half court for more than a month, and a collection of short role players.  No size at all.  Very under talented.  You know how much we love Steve Lavin and how thoroughly we have professed our love for him since second one of his tenure.  In fact, we had been torching AD Chris Monasch for his sluggish, trumped up pursuit (if you could call it that) of Billy Donovan and Paul Hewitt, but once we caught the slightest whiff of the Lavin to SJU rumors, we promptly cut it out.  It may have taken us 23 games to fully comprehend that Lavin has cooked up the good feeling surrounding the program with tireless recruiting efforts–for both players and coaches–courting and re-establishing the connections to St. John’s royalty like Chris Mullin and Ron Artest, and making a team out of the talent and size poor bunch he inherited from the inept Norm Roberts.

As former Knick big and esteemed commentator Len Elmore pointed out during the broadcast, Lavin might not have gotten all the ingredients in for this Johnnies squad, but he did “bake the cake.”  L-ELM???  We’d see Lavin as more like the butcher, the baker, and the candlestick maker.  Despite watching UConn recently light up Marquette on the road in the 2nd half, we felt the Lavin positive vibe last night.  Until Lavin chatted with former ESPN colleague Elmore in the tunnel prior to the game, and told the camera that Elmore would probably have a much better time watching that game than Lavin would.

Luckily, such talk was more low key Lavin and false modesty.  From about the 9 minute mark of the first half on, St. John’s destroyed a very good Husky team.  So St. John’s only has 1 offensive player?  If that guy is getting to the rim and looking for his shot, that guy, Dwight Hardy (above), showed Thursday that he’s all you really need.  5-8 from 3 pt. range, and 33 pts total, including 12 in a row on a Hardy to UConn 12-0 run, mixing long range bombing with a nasty ability to get in the paint and convert several conventional 3 point plays.  St. John’s weathered a late first half Husky run, took a small lead into the half, and then went on a 19-3 run spirited by Hardy, who took to heart his marquee matchup with Bronx rival and Big East scoring ace Kemba Walker.

So St. John’s, capping an NCAA record 7th straight game against top 25 teams, railed Connecticut in front of a decent Garden crowd, and are now 7-1 at MSG and 4-3 against teams in the top 25.  Their recent win against Duke was Duke’s worst out of conference loss in 20 years, and though they followed it with a stumble at UCLA in Lavin’s return to Pauley Pavilion, Hardy poured in 32 and the Johnnies had a chance late on the road in a very tough non-conference tilt.  Lavin had to have wanted that one badly, and the team had to have known it.  They brought incredible to focus into the UConn game, and for the 3 game set, couldn’t have gone a better 2 and 1.  St. John’s had an insane 22 rating in the RPI going into last week, and today, they notched a very impressive road win over Big East foe Cincinnati on the road.

They got the win today despite blowing a 52-40 lead late, and they couldn’t buy a field goal in the closing minutes of the game.  They did it with excellent position play and hustle, poise at the line, and confidence.  Hardy had another 18 today and nailed another 4 3 point field goals, but it came down to defense for the Johnnies, who were exploited a bit on both ends on the glass by the Bearcats.  UConn was unable to pull that off the other night when St. John’s, despite the lack of size, killed the Huskies on the glass 43-33.

Defense and hustle were also on display against the Huskies, who St. John’s seemed to run cirlces around.  St. John’s scored the first 27 fast break points of the game, and in the end, notched a 27-2 win in fast break points.  So much so in fact, that many Husky fans have been questioning HOF coach Jim Calhoun’s preparedness with regard to the St. John’s game. 

We were very interested to see how this team would respond today on the road after such an impressive win.  Especially when we heard Lavin’s post game remarks about the St. John’s mindset right now.  When the Johnnies beat Duke, Lavin gave the team 2 hours to celebrate.  No such break was issued Thursday night.  “That was the biggest game of the year.” he would say.  “Now, the next one is.”

This team has grown, and they are a very tough out despite the shortcomings.  All credit to Lavin, b.t.w., for taking a look at these kids and seeing that Dwight Hardy, who Norm Roberts didn’t rate as a starter, as the premiere player on the team.  And again, for hiring the staff that he did.  We’ve said it before and we’ll say it more.  Getting Keady was a master stroke, and what kind of guy would get a guy like Keady to come here at 70 something and do this while living out of a hotel?  Do not under estimate Keady’s influence on this squad.  They play extremely smart ball, and in the Keady fashion, they squeeze every drop out of their talent.  And how about the hiring of Mo Hicks?  Hicks, an NYC amateur basketball power broker, is no doubt part of the reason why high school sophomore phenom Isaiah Lewis (above) of Christ the King, is looking hard at the Johnnies, and who could be the top player in the nation in the class of 2013.  But then again, Lavin didn’t have Hicks yet when he landed Mo Harkless, who many have touted as the best player in NY in the 2011 class.  It helps with these kids that Lavin is always saying the right things.  About opponents, about recruiting, about the mindset of the team, his message to the team, or to legends he wooed and added to this dream staff.  Lavin is always making things happen, whether it’s a big win, celebrity pull, or another recruiting gem, like Chicago standout Phil Greene (below), who committed to St. John’s earlier this month.  Greene is a 6’2/6’3 combo guard who is expected to compete for a starting spot in next year’s backcourt , and who should receive quality minutes at any rate.

As we’ve mentioned, seeing Chris Mullin around the team, whether at Carneseca, MSG, or on the road (St. Mary’s) is also a big boost.  Or established NBA players like Dejuan Blair or Knick great Allan Houston.  And did you hear what Ron Artest said?

“They whupped on UConn.  They whupped on their butts.  And Duke too.”

On Lavin, Artest would say:

“Doing great.  I’m really happy about that.”

You and me both, RA.  And wait ’til next year, when they have a collection of A grade talent, which includes a scoring machine in Nurideen Lindsey at the lead, a top big in Norvel Pelle, and Harkless leading a cast of 8 other prized recruits.  The schedule isn’t falling off any time soon, but we’re looking for our boys to record a few other popping wins–regular season and tournament.

http://crackbillionair.wordpress.com/2011/01/17/after-bad-loss-to-syracuse-st-johns-clamps-down-avenges-loss-to-notre-dame/

http://crackbillionair.wordpress.com/2011/01/04/st-johns-stuns-13-georgetown-61-58-madison-square-garden/

http://crackbillionair.wordpress.com/2010/11/15/lavin-lands-norvel-pelle-norm-roberts-takes-gig-sny/

http://crackbillionair.wordpress.com/2010/04/20/lavin-in-cali-hot-for-top-recruit/

http://crackbillionair.wordpress.com/2010/12/15/memo-to-fordham-curb-your-enthusiasm/

Crack (http://crackbillionair.wordpress.com, www.crackbillionair.com)

St. John’s “big man” Justin Burrell.

So St. John’s, after 5 stirring victories in a row, went to South Bend last Saturday.  A vteran Notre Dame team crushed them, content to move the ball quickly and to exploit mismatches, the Irish kept scoring, and never allowed St. John’s to establish their defensive stronghold, and then to get out in transition.  Then this week, in front of a 14,440 Garden faithful–an excellent crowd considering New York City’s inclement weather–things only got tougher for Lavin’s crew.  St. John’s, now having dropped 5 straight to Syracuse, got out well in the game.  Up 17-8 early, St. John’s produced hardly a noteworthy moment from that time forward.  The Orange went on an 11-0 run to tie, and then the Johnnies inability to score in the half court was again glaring.  At 25-18 down, St. John’s canned two straight threes to pull to 25-24.  From there they were outscored 51-35, for a 76-59 loss which was not as close as the scoreboard indicated.  At 25-24, Syracuse ran off 4 straight buckets in what semed like a blink.  At that point it was 33-24, and essentially, the game was over.

The loss made two straight in the Big East for St. John’s, which for the moment, dropped them to 3-2 in conference play, and 10-5 overall.  It seemed no help was on the horizon, with a Garden rematch looming versus Notre Dame looming yesterday afternoon.  But knowing Lavin, we had a good feeling about yesterday’s game, if once again, we couldn’t tell you why.  Probably has a little something to do with the fact that St. John’s has a newly restored element in their midst this year called pride. 

The Johnnies upped their record to 11-5 (4-2 conf) by protecting the home court yesterday in New York.  They did it according to the Lavin/Keady blueprint: stops and run outs.  St. John’s held a 26-19 lead at the half which they parlayed into an impressive 72-54 win over the formerly 11th ranked Irish, who turned up 16th in this week’s latest poll.  The win was the 2nd in 2 weeks over ranked opponents for the Johnnies who are building quite a case for an NCAA bid, now about half way through their season.  St. John’s was led by D.J. Kennedy, who had 14 pts and 8 boards, Dwight Hardy, who had 12 pts on 4-6 shooting, with 4 rebounds and 4 assists to go with it, and Justin Brownlee, who added 11 points and 5 rebounds.  In what was a shocker to us, Malik Boothe, who we have absolutely trashed for his lack of ability, brought 14 pts to the table in 24 minutes. 

http://crackbillionair.wordpress.com/2011/01/04/st-johns-stuns-13-georgetown-61-58-madison-square-garden/

But we’d like to go back to Syracuse.  Not actually, but for the sake of trashing them in this space.  God, we hate them.  From the way ESPN’s crew fetes them–touting how they feel the Garden is their home away from home–to the way their players run their mouths.

“We just know where we stand with New York and where New York stands with us.  St. John’s is having a great year.  We’re not taking anything away from them…but we’re New York’s team right now.” — Scoop Jardine

http://www.nydailynews.com/sports/college/2011/01/12/2011-01-12_syracuse_invades_madison_square_garden_outclasses_st_johns_7659_in_big_east_new_.html

They talk because they are worried.  St. John’s is in play on all viable city kids, cutting into Syracuse’s recruiting base considerably.  And Lavin’s California pipeline and pull out in the Golden State can not be matched by Syracuse, who has now watched California pull what looks like two consecutive Mr. Basketball’s from Cali, Dwayne Polee, and next year’s gem, big man Norvel Pelle.  We hear Remi Barry is still beaming about his visit to campus as well.  Wearing ‘NY’s Team’ shirts in the Garden and chirping about it, as well as a tacky guerilla marketing campaign in which they rented out the tops of New York City yellow taxis and installed orange plackards was at once desperate and sad.

http://crackbillionair.wordpress.com/2010/11/15/lavin-lands-norvel-pelle-norm-roberts-takes-gig-sny/

http://crackbillionair.wordpress.com/2010/04/20/lavin-in-cali-hot-for-top-recruit/

Look, what kid in his right mind would want to play for Syracuse over St. John’s?  Who is going to pick the sticks over the city?  Syracuse is so far from everywhere that their sticks have sticks.  There are no basketball players in Syracuse to recruit, so they have to try to snag our kids.  In fact, there’s nothing in Syracuse.  It makes “cultural hubs” like Texas and Indiana seem like Milan.  Syracuse is 5-6 hours outside the city on a good day, but we wouldn’t call it God’s country.  My friend and I traveled their not too long ago to visit a friend, and since I went to college upstate, I had occasion to visit in my younger days as well.  No redeeming elements whatsover. 

In our recent visit, we left Manhattan at midnight, were on the West Side Highway immediately, and were on the Thruway and rolling with in a blink, at 75 MPH, for a good 2 hours.  We felt good about life.  And then we saw a sign that said, “Syracuse: 280 Miles.”  That was the worst sign I have ever read in my life.  It was worse than the drug disclaimers you read when going through customs in Bermuda.  I much prefer the drive to Florida.  It may be 20 something hours, but when you get there, at least you’re in Florida, not Syracuse.

They have a great team again and have put some fine players in the pros of late, like Johnny Flynn and Wes Johnson, who we’d take on the Knicks in a heart beat.  But they’re Syracuse.  I’d rather go to Fordham.  As for St. John’s, they face Louisville Wednesday night in Louisville in Lavin’s first trip there since resurrecting the program.

http://crackbillionair.wordpress.com/2010/12/15/memo-to-fordham-curb-your-enthusiasm/

Crack (http://crackbillionair.wordpress.com, www.crackbillionair.com)

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