Saturday, February 13, 2010

View From the Opponent's Bench: St. John's

Thanks a bunch to Pico Dulce from East Coast Bias for his answers to my questions.

1. What went so right against Louisville after a five game losing streak?

The thing about the losing streak is that the team has been the same in Big East play - they just cannot score. At all. They're out of sorts, they need more of a playmaker at the point, and the team doesn't look to the post. Even in the wins, the team didn't look great (except against DePaul... no, not even then.

The Louisville game was bizarre and I don't have a strong, rational explanation for it. Louisville was terrible. Their press was terrible, unenthusiastic. And for once, St. John's found a weakness they could take advantage of. It helped that the team had faced Louisville and played pretty decently against them before their offensive lull in the second half (happens every time). The Johnnies were aggressive at going to the basket and the Cardinals were lax in defending the basket. You can see that St. John's didn't shoot particularly well from beyond the arc; but guys who had been struggling drove the ball. And they got the ball to Justin Burrell, who has been on fire in the past 4 games (but still isn't starting).

Think about it this way: St. John's has posted a higher offensive efficiency twice - once against Long Island University and once against Bryant University (they got close against Cornell). They played great, but I'm not assuming I will see that game again.

2. D. J. Kennedy is your leading scorer, but has been up and down
against Big East competition. How can the Irish stop him?

Kennedy likes to shoot threes or drive from the baseline. He'll take some straight on jump shots, but doesn't often shoot the pull up mid-range jumper which he can hit. He's more of a jack of all trades than a scorer, though; he rebounds, brings the ball up, slashes, makes plays. The team leans on him to make plays but the Red Storm aren't constructed to have a "star"; the team's best offenisve performances have a number of double digit scorers. I would say the Irish have to get a player or three to stop Justin Burrell.

But the coaching staff stops him by leaving him on the bench for half the game.

3. Who could have a breakout performance on Sunday?

Aforementioned - Burrell. He's had good games against the Irish, I think, in the past. And without the "slow Harangody" assignment, I could see him pulling off a rare road win for Norm Roberts' team - he's been playing that well, drawing fouls, hitting the jump shot, and even rebounding again.

Given room, Dwight Hardy and Paris Horne can stroke it from outside.

4. How much more time does Norm Roberts get? It's about time that a
New York university turns into an upper-half Big East program.

... well... rumor has it this is likely his last year. What happens if they beat the Irish, maybe win 2-3 more games for 7 wins? I don't know. The fans have jumped far, far from his ship, but still love to see a win; but most die-hards also think the NY school should have a winner , or a near-winner.... something close to competing with the top of the league. There were Pitino to St. John's rumors flying around last week; the fans would love McCaffery (but I think I read the Irish job would be his dream job).... I think even the administration has gotten past their notion that the job is so very hard and the school is well-served by a hard worker who keeps his kids out of trouble and academically solid. The team needs to win, and with 9 seniors next year, the team needs to establish that they can win so they can continue to win.

5. How will the rest of the year go for the Red Storm? The next three
games seem pretty winnable, but St. John's has also played pretty well
against good competition at times.

It's hard to say. If they play like they played yesterday, they could beat Notre Dame, Seton Hall (two defensively indifferent squads), and USF/ Marquette are winnable. As is DePaul. But I don't believe in it. If the other teams are playing hard and keep the Johnnies out of the lane, they could lose most games, winning at DePaul and vs. Seton Hall. Even the DePaul contest isn't a gimme, St. John's has been just terrible on the road. The inability to score consistently in the halfcourt will hurt them against most teams, and Seton Hall is better scoring in transition.

After the Louisville game, I don't know. Coach Roberts, to his credit, keeps the guys motivated. But they usually get one "WTF!!" win at home. Last year it was Notre Dame + Georgetown; this year, Louisville... they could get another, but I predict no more than 3 more wins for this team.

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