X-cellence

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Saint John’s demolished Xavier Monday night at Madison Square Garden, completing a season sweep of the Musketeers and assuring SJU of a bid to the NCAA tournament. Although the box score says that we only won by one point, 58-57, that’s deceiving, because the outcome was never in doubt. There was no way a mid-major team like Xavier was going to come into our house with so much on the line and get out of there with a victory. Especially a team from a backwater like Ohio … The score illustrates a point that I’ve been saying all year and one that all knowledgeable sports fans know: statistics don’t tell the whole story and are in fact for all intents and purposes meaningless. What’s really important is the eye test. For example a newbie might look at our shooting line – 40 percent from the floor, 30 percent from three, and 40 percent from the free throw line – and say that we did not shoot well. But longtime fans know that we are shooting dramatically much better than we did when Norm Roberts was coaching and that our fundamentals such as ball screens and tertiary footwork have improved too. I mean sure, maybe last night the ball didn’t go in the basket as much as we’d like, but points are just more statistics and sometimes you have to look at the bigger picture. And the bigger picture is that Saint John’s outplayed Xavier in every facet of the game, except maybe rebounding, where Xavier had a slight 47-27 advantage. That we were able to pull out the victory proves the point made by Lavs earlier in the season when he said that rebounding doesn’t matter … As for Lavs, he outcoached Chris Mack and once again demonstrated that we are lucky to have him as part of our Saint John’s family. His rotations, use of timeouts, Xs and Os and halftime adjustments were once again exemplary. With the victory we’re now ahead of five teams in the standing and behind only four – and three of those four we’re behind are ranked. Even a coach as skilled as Lavs cannot be expected to be ahead of teams that are ranked higher than his team is. I mean, he’s not a magician. With three games remaining we’re only 5 games behind front running Villanova (BOO!) – anything can happen. Who could have imagined that after only five years at the helm Lavs has us once again in the Big Dance. That he’s done all that while beating cancer and overcoming the devastating loss of a parent – which is the sort of tragedy few people in history have ever had to go through – is nothing short of astounding. … One thing Lavs doesn’t get enough credit for is how he handles the press. Last night he demonstrated his media savvy in the postgame interview when he deflected criticism about his team’s poor start (and you have to think that it’s no coincidence that that criticism came from a UConn graduate – jealous much Donny Marshall?) – by comparing the beginning of the game to a make out session where a nervous virgin starts to kiss a girl but instead of suavely thrusting his tongue into her hungry willing wet mouth he instead bangs his teeth against her teeth but then recovers and is able to pleasure her with his tumescent throbbing manhood, which is just the sort of graphic sexual analogy employed by other beloved NY sports figures such as Casey Stengel and Yogi Berra and even our own HOF coach Lou Carnesecca, who used to talk about his “feather duster,” which you don’t have to be Elmore James to figure that out. A coach with less ability might have discussed the intricacies of the game but Lavs is more than a mere coach: he is a philosopher and a visionary. It makes me proud to have the same first name as Coach Lavin and the even the same initials. Hopefully the university comes to its senses and extends him before some other program scoops him up …. I know that some Gloomy Gus SJU fans like to complain about the referees, and believe me I completely respect their opinions. I mean sure, usually when we lose games it’s because of the referees, but that’s sports, right? Tonight though I thought the refs did a great job of letting the kids play for the first 16 minutes, during which 16 minutes they did not call a single foul, and then after that did a great job of reining the players in by calling 30 fouls over the next 24 minutes. Typically Saint John’s got the short end of the stick, 17 FTs to 15. I’m just glad that this time differential did not come back to bite us in the ass … We now have a week off to get healthy for the home stretch and after that the BE tournament and hopefully another Cinderella run in the Big Dance. We are Saint John’s!

PLAYERS: In a timely article in Monday’s NY Post, Phil Greene was finally given the recognition he deserves as one of the best players in the Big East. In the article (written by Zach Braziller, who is a top notch journalist IMHO) Greene described himself as a “hero,” which IMHO is an understatement, because hero means “a man distinguished by courage and admired for his bravery and nobility” and Phil is so much more than that. IMHO it’s about time Phil was recognized alongside other NY champions such as Jackie Robinson, Bobby Thompson and Willis Reed. Greene also talked about how frustrating it was for him that his heroism does not receive the accolades it deserves, but noted that real fans of basketball appreciate everything he does, especially the little things. Most people have never accomplished anything near what Phil has in his illustrious career, so we can only imagine how tough it must be not having the sort of quiet heroism he displays night after night rewarded by cheers and adulation. It must be heartbreaking. Greene’s fortitude was on full display last night, when he bravely continued to shoot the ball despite his inability to get it to go into the basket. Greene courageously shot 2 for 7 and ended up with 5 heroic points, for which I am awarding him a long overdue game ball … I’ve been racking my brain trying to think of a back-up PG who’s had a better career than Jamal Branch and the closest I can come is Mark Jackson when he backed up Mike Moses, but even that comparison doesn’t do Branch justice, because Jackson was a freshman, whereas Branch is a talented senior who would likely be all league if he played on another team in another league. He comes ready to play every night and you would be hard pressed to name another guard who throws a no look pass with the sort of accuracy as does Branch. Although he finished with no points or rebounds last night he contributed in many other ways, including through intangibles … Chris Obekpa once again played a good game and seems to have fully recovered from the injury he suffered when his elbow was head butted in the Butler game several weeks ago. It is IMHO a joy to watch Obekpa play: his infectious grin is representative of everything that should be celebrated about amateur athletics … A lot of sourpusses were down on Lavs last recruiting class but when all is said and done I think it will go down as one of the best in school history. The most impressive of the bunch has been Amar Alibegovic. He’s an imposing physical specimen, a good rebounder, and one of the best screen-setters I’ve ever seen in 35 years of watching SJU basketball. He‘s also a dead eye shooter, even if his percentages – .38 from the floor, .27 from three and .14 from the free throw line – don’t reflect it. Another example of stats being deceiving. Although Alibegovic did not score last night, look out, that’s just the beginning for him. Once he gets used to living in a foreign country and adjusts to playing in the best college basketball conference in the country look for those numbers to sky rocket … After a big win against Concordia in 2012 Lavs noted that Christian Jones was a “special” player; coach went on to praise Jones “poise and ability to see the game” and noted that Jones “can post up as well as any freshman I’ve ever had.” Considering the caliber of player that Lavs has coached in his illustrious career that is high praise, and well deserved IMHO. It is only a shame that this year’s team is so deep and talented that Jones cannot earn floor time to showcase his prodigious skills for NBA scouts. He is however by all accounts a great teammate and is often the first player off the bench to clap his hands and cheer his teammates on. Although he did not get a chance to play last night he has shown great strides over his career and I look forward to watching him play for years to come … … On any other team seven footer Joey De La Rosa would be getting major minutes, but because Saint John’s is so deep in the front line he’s been forced to come off the bench. When he does though, he changes the game because of his physicality, basketball IQ, and ability to set solid picks. It’s a shame he doesn’t have another year of eligibility because next year a front line of him, his brother Adonis, Alibegovic and Obekpa would make us an immediate contender for the national championship and maybe even the favorite. Although he did not play last night he has a bright future and I would not be surprised to see some NBA team take a flier on him in the second round of the draft. Because you can’t teach size … One player who’s made a substantial contribution to the success of this year’s team is Felix Balamou. Last year, when a less dedicated player might have red shirted after suffering a serious head injury, Felix instead applied himself in practice and by virtue of his unparalleled work ethic played his way into the starting line-up before suffering a relapse and not playing anymore. The same thing happened this year, although not the head injury, just the hard work and starting and not starting. He is such a great leaper that sometimes he jumps center and sometimes even wins the tap! You’d be hard pressed to find a SJU player who could match his leaping ability. David Russell or Michael Porter, maybe. When coach described him as one of the greatest leapers he has ever coached, well, let’s just say that was not an exaggeration. Balamou did not play last night, hopefully his concussion is not acting up, as we will need him down the stretch … Speaking of practice, no recap would be complete without mentioning the unsung work the walk ons and practice players do. Although they do not receive the sort of praise that the regular players do they are in many ways more important than the players who play. Because of our storied history we’re able to recruit walk ons such as David Lipscomb and Myles Stewart, who would probably be starters and scholarship players had they gone anywhere else. But they knew, as do we, that it’s better to sit on the bench in New York City than it is to see floor time in backwaters such as Kentucky or Kansas. Because if you can make it in New York, you can make it anywhere.

NOTES: The game was broadcast on Fox, which did an excellent job IMHO. Not only was the picture crystal clear and the audio letter perfect, but the director did an exemplary job of showing the action – it can be quite difficult to manage several cameras at one and to cut from one to the other at just the right time, but I thought he did so. The game was called by Joe Davis and Donnie Marshall both of whom were good. As the play by play guy Davis did a good job of describing to the people who were watching what they were watching. Marshall was the color man and did a good job providing analysis and background information. His experience as an excellent college player was a real plus here, as he was able to supply nuanced and subtle info that the lay viewer might have otherwise missed. Such as for example when he said “that block doesn’t even matter, it really doesn’t, obviously it does,” that really added to my understanding of the game … It’s winter here in upstate New York. Winter is great IMHO, although I would not be able to pick a favorite season: spring has flowers and the Kentucky Derby; summer has hot dogs and the beach; fall has pretty leaves and the World Series and Lions football. They’re all so wonderful, it’d be too hard to pick just one. In winter – besides snow and ice, which are so picturesque – there are all sorts of fun things to do, such as skiing and snowboarding and especially figure skating, a sport for which I have a particular passion. Today being sunny and a balmy 6 degrees Fahrenheit I decided to bundle up and go for a long walk. Imagine my surprise when while snowshoeing across the back forty I saw the cutest little bunny frolicking across the snow with his family. They were so precious and I so moved that I hurried back to the house and wrote for you all a poem while I drank my warm cocoa and warmed my mukluks by the fire. I hope you don’t mind that I share it with you here.

The fluffy wuffy bunnies hip hop down Happy Street.
They skip and laugh and bow their ears to everyone they meet.
They’re never sad, they know no pain ‘neath cotton candy skies.
And no one ever stops to think, and no one ever dies.
The pretty witty kitties see them prance in Gleeful Glen.
They frolic ‘mongst the flowers, and sing and laugh and then,
they greet the fluffy bunnies; together they do play.
Then home to happy families, to laugh and sing and pray.
The king decreed the weather, and never did it rain.
He banished all diseases; he exiled death and pain.
They all left with the ogres, on Good Ship Lollipop,
It sailed across the ocean, and never did it stop.
The fluffy wuffy bunnies sing happy tappy tunes
They skip and laugh and decorate with baubles and balloons.
and no one is a mopey dope and nothing’s ever bad,
and no one ever stops to think and everyone is glad.

Hallelujah

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When Saint John’s lost to Seton Hall last New Year’s Eve Kevin Willard was looking like a genius and Seton Hall like a team that could contend for a conference championship. Now, a short six weeks later, the tables have turned. (Notice I don’t say the situation’s reversed, because for Steve Lavin to look like a genius he’d have to be participating in a spelling bee at the Special Olympics.) But turned the tables have. Seton Hall is in free fall and Willard’s locker room is in the sort of disarray they haven’t seen in Jersey since Bobby Gonzalez was coaching. Meanwhile Saint John’s has won 5 of their last 7 – including Saturday afternoon’s 85-72 win at Carnesecca Arena, I guess I should mention that – and barring a late season collapse seems to have played their way into the NCAA tournament. Oddly, despite all the winning they’ve been doing in the last 2 weeks – and believe me you could have knocked me over with a feather – they’re only 3 spots ahead of where they were 5 wins ago, having passed only Marquette, who stinks, and DePaul and Seton Hall, both of which have self-destructed. Still, assuming a worst case split over the last four games they’ll finish with 20 wins, and a reasonable SOS, RPI, ERA, whatever, I don’t pay attention to that stuff. But it’ll be nice to hear their name called all the same. For the record Lunardi currently has them as a 12 seed and in the east, which is weird: I don’t remember them being in the east bracket ever, or at least not since Lou was losing first round games at Nassau Coliseum. No doubt someone will correct me if I’m wrong … The game itself was nip and tuck until about 6 minutes left, when Saint John’s put SH away. You would have expected that, a team of seniors playing their last game on their home court against a team of boneheaded freshman. To the extent that they took care of business, that’s good. To the extent that this was SJU playing down to their opponent, that’s bad. And to the extent that it was – as Dom Pointer said – them playing well only when their backs are against the wall – that’s really bad. Because their backs have been against the wall since around 2012 … Saint John’s shot a tick under 50 percent for the game but 40 plus percent from three, SH having decided not to bother covering them out there. That was pretty much the difference, that and an ill timed Sterling Gibbs punch. And meanwhile SH shot poorly and turned the ball over 13 times. Isiah Whitehead was particularly atrocious: 8 for 25 from the floor and 2 for 12 from three. No doubt that gladdened the hearts of sour grapes SJU fans, but you can see that he’s a player. He just wasn’t much of one today … I was going to say that this was another game where Lavin stayed out of his own way, but it wasn’t really. It was more like the boneheaded things he did – odd time outs, suspect substitutions, you know, the usual – worked out in his favor, or at least didn’t hurt. At this point I don’t even find them worth mention. He’s just a mullethead and you have to put up with it. The last couple of minutes bear mentioning though. First he takes Harrison out, subs in Ndiaye: makes sense, it’s senior day, this gives the crowd a chance to show its appreciation. Except then he puts Harrison back in. Then he calls a time out and puts four seniors on the court. I mean, he can’t even do something simple like honoring his seniors without bolloxing it up with his well thought out strategery … You have to figure a win Monday versus Xavier and (barring a catastrophe, which no SJU fan should rule out) they’ve punched their ticket to, wait for it, the big dance. So this is a big game. Backs to the wall. Hammer to rock. Hashtag unfinished business.

PLAYERS: Donny Marshall described Pointer as a jack of all trades, master of none. The simple explanation is that Donny doesn’t know what that expression means, because that’s a pejorative, whereas Marshall spent the game raving about Pointer’s play, which well he should have: 22 points, 10 rebounds , 3 assists, 3 blocks. He even hit a three, his second of the year. Both of which, oddly, as time was expiring … Jordan had 18 points, 6 rebounds and 6 assists. Has the look of a player who’s going to be playing professional basketball in six months … Phil Greene had 20 points and a nearly career high 4 assists. This was the seventh time in 26 games that he’s a shot higher than 50 percent from the floor … Harrison is better but still hurting. Not good … Obekpa had 9 rebounds in only 27 minutes … Albigockivich jumped center again, because who knows why, played 9 minutes, didn’t score, and wasn’t seen again. I don’t even think he played in the second half … Joey De La Rosa started the second half in his stead, which is the second time that’s happened. More strateregy no doubt … Jamal Branch is not good at basketball, but he plays it all the same. I admire his perseverance, if nothing else … Balamou played a couple of minutes and did little. I am about to jump off that bandwagon. The rest of them got scrub minutes

NOTES: Rectifying a long overdue oversight, Saint John’s inducted into its Hall of Fame one of the great athletes Saint John’s history. This player, Christian name Chris, was a native New Yorker and a wily left-hander who led Saint John’s to some of the greatest victories in its illustrious history; he was a first round draft pick coming out of college and went on to a long professional career. I’m talking of course about the great Christopher “CJ” Nitkowski, who at long last has taken his rightful place in the pantheon of Saint John’s sports legends. After his storied career at SJU CJ pitched 10 years in the majors, amassing an 18-32 record to go along with a 5.37 ERA for the Reds, Tigers, Astros, and Mets among others. Congratulations CJ …. I don’t attend a lot of games but I’m sorry I missed this one, as I’d have loved to get a Malik Sealy bobble head. Anyone who’s interested in selling theirs hit me up on My Space … The game was called by former Uconn star Donny Marshall, who talked and talked and talked, and said little, and a lot of which was quite stupid, which is inevitable when you jibber jabber for 2 hours. About the stupidest was when he said that he’d like to bring the SJ starting five to his basketball camp because they were “running a clinic” in the half-court offense. Which, no they weren’t. Much of the rest of it was meaningless drivel, my favorite being this gem: “Saint John’s, the ability to just play basketball, that’s all they’re doing.” Do basketball fans watching a basketball game really need to be told that the basketball players playing the basketball game the basketball fans are watching are playing the game of basketball? Evidently they do, if you’re listening to a game narrated by a proud graduate of the University of Connecticut … Finally, some numbers. Those who find them intimidating are excused. Here though the quiz comes first. Following are the season stats for 5 SJU guards of recent memory. Pick which one you’d like on your team, and one you wouldn’t. Answers at the bottom.

29 m / 10.4 pts / 3.7 reb / 1.1 ass / .36 GF / .71 FT / .33

31 m / 11.9 pts / 5.9 reb / 2.0 ass / .41 GF / .79 FT / .33

31 m / 10.5 pts / 2.5 reb / 2.6 ass / .38 FG / .74 FT / .36

28 m / 8.0 pts  / 5.3 reb / 2.7 ass / .43 FG / .60 FT / .39

34 m / 12.8 pts / 3.0 reb / 1.6 ass / .43 FG / .75 FT / .37

Number four looks pretty good to me. As usual, YMMV … A couple of games ago Saint John’s fans were whining as is their wont about referees. I had been paying attention early in the season to the FT situation and thought to revisit it. The numbers follow, not including the last two. Give it a plus or minus ten, as I did the math in my head and I might not have been sober when I did it.

 TOTAL FTs

SJU: 379 – 538 (.70)

Opp: 337 – 446 (.75)

(SJU + 92)

 AVERAGE POINTS PER GAME FT

SJU 21 ppg

Opp 17 ppg

 IN LOSSES

SJU 114-152 (.75) / SJU 14.2 ppg

Opp 138-187 (.73) / Opp 17.2 ppg

 IN WINS

SJU 265-386 (.68) / SJU 15.6 ppg

Opp 198-259 (.76) / Opp 11.6 ppg

 OPP + FTs

(games in which opponents shot more FTs)

SH + 15 (L)

DooK +9 (L)

Fairleigh Dickinson +7

Creighton +6 (L)

Creighton +4

Gonzaga +2 (L)

Butler +1 (L)

Nova +2 (L)

Marq: +2

(all the rest were net positive)

MOST FT IN A GAME

Seton Hall 31 (L)

DePaul 29 (L)

Duke 27 (L)

 FEWEST

LBSU 6

LIU 9

Niagara 11

What does all this prove? Basically nothing, other than that I have too much time on my hands. It make sense that a team that attacks the basket and doesn’t take a lot of threes gets to the FT line their share of the time. On the other hand you’d expect a team that expends as much energy defending the rim as does SJU to get more than their share of fouls, which doesn’t seem to be the case. It does however debunk to some extent the argument that SJU gets the short end of the refereeing stick. At least this year. Historically they’ve been the victim of some truly horrendous calls, no argument there, Billy Singleton to the white courtesy telephone … Those players were in order: Avery Patterson (as a JR), Anthony Mason (SO), Elijah Ingram (FR), Andre Stanley (JR), Phil Greene (SR). That there’s not a lot separating my bete noire PG4 from a walk on makes something of a point. I’ll leave it to the reader to figure out what that point is.

 

Flat Tuesday

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I get a lot of hate mail – shocking right? – but nothing I’ve written in recent memory generated more than the recap from last year’s away loss at Georgetown, aka the premonition game where Coach Kreskin started the walk-on. What was weird about that one was that the hate was generated not by something I wrote, but by something I didn’t, namely much of recap at all. I was so disgusted by Lavin’s antics and by the team’s performance that I wrote a couple of short shitty paragraphs and called it a morning. To the extent that it was meant as meta-commentary it fell flat and the vitriol came over the transom. Call it a lesson learned. Tuesday night’s 79-57 loss to Georgetown was eerily reminiscent of that game, down to the starting five, albeit this time the walk-on was more of a waddle-on. You might recall that Lavin credited last year’s game with turning the team’s fortune around – one thing he’s not shy about is taking credit when things go well – although he never quite explained why the lesson he allegedly taught the team on January 4th didn’t sink in until January 18th and why it took playing Dartmouth for them to learn it. If there’s anything to be learned from last night’s game I didn’t learn it and I suspect no one else did either. In the end this is one of those games where you shrug your shoulders and move on. They played poorly; nobody expected – or at least I didn’t – that they were going to go win one at Georgetown; and besides they were due a stinker, consistency not being their watchword. Assuming they shake it off it’s no big deal, except that the opportunities for a signature win are few and far between and this was one. Now there’s only Villanova. Because contrary to the belief of delusional SJ fans no one’s going to be impressed by home victories over Long Beach and Saint Mary’s on selection Sunday … Both teams came out flat and the first five minutes were as awful as we’ve seen all year. Georgetown eventually settled down and started to not stink. Saint John’s continued. Partly obviously that had to do with injuries – both Harrison and Obekpa are visibly hampered – which in turn means that Lavin has to manage his personnel, which anyone who’s seen Lavin coach knows that rotations aren’t his string suit, to the extent that he has a strong suit at all. He started shuffling players in and out randomly early and didn’t stop until he sent the walk-ons in with a minute left. I understand he needed to steal some minutes to rest the wounded, but in the first place most of the bench players bring nothing to the table – an early line change brought in Balamou, Branch, and Albawackovich in tandem, which good grief – and in the second the constant shuffling eliminates rhythm and cohesion. To the extent that this sort of experimenting is useful it should have taken place in November. To the extent that it represented strategy intended to win a basketball game it was laughable. I almost got the impression that Lavin conceded this one – that he was just going through the motions, discretion being the better part of valor. To the extent that this was that, it makes some sort of vague sense … So yeah where was I. The first 5 minutes GT was awful, then they weren’t. They closed the half out on an 18-4 run to take an 11 point halftime lead. They extended to 20 or so midway through the second and that was that. It was a pretty good beating and for a change SJU took it like men. That is, nobody punched anyone or elbowed anyone in the head or anything, so there’s that. As for GT they looked like the usual JT3 team, lots of talent and a gaudy record that will lead them to a high seed in the tournament from which they’ll likely get bounced the first weekend, as usual. As for SJU, it is a good thing Seton Hall is hurting as well.

PLAYERS: Pointer had 16 points and 8 rebounds and was about the only player who showed up. A lot of what he does he is able to do because he’s so much more athletic than the other players on the floor – as opposed to, you know, having skill at basketball – so GT is a bad match up for him … Just like in every other game in his cannot end soon enough career, Phil Greene demonstrated that he’s a volume scorer who’s lacking in both density and area. Eighteen points on 14 shots and once again brought nothing else to the table. Greene has now vaulted over Kyle Cuffe on the funlist of players whose graduation will most help the basketball program and is now nipping at Reggie Jessie’s heels … Harrison was oh for from the floor. Can’t remember when the last time that happened was and can’t be arsed to look. When he hurt his other calf it took him three or four games to get right. Hopefully it doesn’t take that long this time, because without him three or four games from now his teammates will have played themselves into the NIT … Obekpa spent a lot of time wincing on the court, but he’s such a drama queen that it’s impossible to know whether he’s really injured or whether that was to provide cover for the punking he got from Josh Smith. I am inclined to the uncharitable explanation … Jordan played only 26 minutes, which was weird considering how well he’s been playing. If he was being disciplined for a technical he took in the first half, that’s lame. If he was just sitting because Lavin thought running his bench out there gave him a better chance of winning, that’s even lamer … Speaking of lame, Jamal Branch played … Neither Joey DeLaRosa nor Albivickovich were able to stop GT inside and neither contributed much else. Balamou contributed nothing in 7 minutes. The rest of the scrubs and walk-ons got in, even David Lipscomb. They only one who didn’t was Henderson and it has to be that he’s a redshirt, because even Christian Jones got in and you can’t be buried farther down the bench than him.

NOTES: Not too many. Rafferty called the game, which is always entertaining. He did say though after one offensive possession that ended in a turnover that “Saint John’s wasn’t sure what they were running there,” which anyone who’s watched SJU for any appreciable length of time knows you could say about nearly every possession since 2012. Sidekick Gus Johnson noted that Georgetown players got a lot of trim at nearby Howard University, this evidently a tradition going back to John Thompson senior, who was the OG who first pimped them out. No wonder he out-recruited Louie, who had to rely on subway tokens and mustachioed Catholic girls … Yesterday was Shrovetide – Fat Tuesday to you heathens, aka Mardi Gras or Pancake Day if you’re Eurotrash – and today Ash Wednesday, the Imposition of the Ashes, which marks the beginning of Lent, the Christian period of atonement. Regular readers will no doubt here be expecting a digression about the origins of these rites – they are nearly all of them coopted pagan fertility rituals, as is most of the liturgical calendar – but I’m not really in the mood after last night’s debacle. Besides which I’d just end up needlessly insulting various people and their faith, which as a rule I don’t mind doing (unless they’re Muslims obviously, those people’ll will kill you) but it’d be bad form to do it today. Traditionally the Christian faithful mark the Lenten period by forgoing things they enjoy: by giving up luxuries, which is meant to emulate the deprivations suffered by the Baby Jesus during his 40 days sojourn in the desert. All of which is meant to cleanse the spirit leading up to the horrors of Good Friday afternoon and then the glory of Easter morning. This Ash Wednesday I’ll join the tradition by forgoing the having of sport at the expense of others, burlesque being the luxury of which I am fondest.

X Parte

heart

RECAP: Usually when it comes to Saint John’s I’m hard to surprise – mostly because always I expect the worst and usually they deliver. But today I am: Saint John’s beat Xavier 78-70 in Cincinnati Saturday afternoon. Consider: Saint John’s was on the road where they play poorly and out of state where they’re atrocious; Chris Obekpa was hurting; Rysheed Jordan got in early foul trouble; D’Angelo Harrison went down late in the first half after looking to have seriously injured his calf; and Steve Lavin was coaching. None of that is a recipe for success and most of it a recipe for disaster. And yet they managed to pull it off and in doing so absorbed a few punches along the way: Xavier went out to an early 10 point lead and SJU responded, outscoring them by 20 over the next 16 minutes; Xavier started the second half on a 9-2 run to tie the game and SJU went on an 8-0 run of their own; and Xavier overcame a 10 point deficit late to pull within three and SJU put them away. In each case Saint John’s made plays when it counted. Thank goodness for seniors … Once again SJU shot well: 50 percent from the floor, 35 from three and 80 from the line. Some of that is fool’s gold, as they continue to take bad shots – especially Pointer and Greene – that continue to go in despite the laws of physics and thermodynamics. Because of which I assume they’ll come back to earth eventually, so enjoy it while it lasts. As for Xavier, they’re two teams. The one with Matt Stainbrook is not awful. The one without him stinks. Despite the importance of the game – and no matter how SJU finishes the season this loss is going to look awful on Xavier’s tournament resume – they came out with zero energy and got worse as the game wore on. Even the crowd was lame; they might as well have played at Carnesecca. Xavier shot poorly and turned the ball over and basically stunk. If I were charitable – and we know I’m not – I might blame the early start, or maybe they’re still upset about that whole Porkopolis thing. Whatever. Suck it Musketeers … Lavin once again appeared to be wearing make-up, although today it looked like it might be some sort of spray-on tan. Perhaps he’s auditioning to take Monasch’s place? Who knows. Anyway, he did a good job of stealing minutes here and there with the bench and called some dubious time outs and clapped his hands a bunch. That is, business as usual about which the less said the better … SJU has now won 4 of their last 5 and is suddenly .500 in conference, albeit still in seventh place. Assuming a split with Georgetown, a loss to Villanova and one bad and inexplicable loss to some seeming pasty, 9 and 9 seems likely. That would put them in about 5th place and firmly on the bubble going into the BE tournament. If they keep playing the way they have they probably deserve a bid – what? – and will be a team no one’s going to want to play in the first round. Glass slipper anyone?

PLAYERS: Dom Pointer was once again a wrecking ball: 24 points on 9 of 10 from the floor and 6 for 6 from the line, 5 rebounds, 4 steals and 2 blocks. It’s only a shame the lightbulb didn’t go on sooner … Harrison had 18 points, 13 of those in the first half. He scored only one field goal after injuring his calf – fortunately it was the other one – late in the first half. My notes regarding which say: “and there goes the season.” He limped off at halftime and was limping in the second half warm ups, but despite being graded as questionable played the entire 20 minutes. On a team where players miss games because of sore throats, sprained ankles and paper cuts that sort of heart is refreshing to see … Jordan was mostly missing in action, but he had a huge three late after Xavier had pulled to within three. Threw an absurd lob to Pointer on a breakaway late but like everything else today it worked out pretty well … Jordan was spelled in the first half by Jamal Branch, who had 11 points on 5 for 7 shooting, this after scoring 2 points over his last four games. Despite which, he did not play barely at all in the second … Obekpa had zero points but the game changed in the first half when he entered at the 16 minute mark: Xavier, which had been scoring at will on the inside for the first 4 minutes, suddenly became tentative around the basket. Provided an amusing moment in the second half when after Pointer made some dopey play he pointed at his head. At first I thought Obekpa was reminding Pointer where the best place to throw an elbow was but then it occurred to me that he was telling Pointer to think … After Phil Greene fouled Xavier’s JP Macura in the first half Macura gave Greene the sort of run of the mill pat on the ass that passes for sportsmanship on the basketball court. Greene spun around and got in Macura’s face: “Don’t touch my ass” he said. By his reaction you would have thought Macura tried to slip a fist in there. Doth the lady protest too much? Greene had 15 points on 14 shots – many of those ill-advised and out of control, especially late, when he sometimes gets it into his head that he’s the team’s star, as opposed its weak link – including 3 of 8 from three, to go along with no rebounds, no blocks, no steals, and 1 assist … I’ve figured out what Amir Amirovich reminds me of: a Russian Olympic wrestler, except less grabby …. Balamou started the game but did not play much in the second. Which is just as well. Hopefully he takes some assertiveness training over the summer, because I’ve known more aggressive geishas… I don’t find much occasion for mirth when reading the various SJU fan forums, because let’s face it most of you people wouldn’t recognize a joke if Bill Burr recorded a comedy special in your small intestine. But I nearly did a spit take this morning when some astute Saint John’s fan recommended that Joey De La Rosa start, because “he matches up favorably well with Matt Stainbrook.” Update for that poster: Joey DeLa Rosa doesn’t match up favorably with a stanchion. He makes Tom Bayne look like Mikhail Baryshnikov. JDLR played a minute at the beginning of the second half, during which time he committed two fouls and turned the ball over after which he went to the bench, never to return.

NOTES: I cannot comment too much on the broadcast, except to say that Bob Wenzel started talking at 12:15 and did not shut up until I muted the television at around 1:30. The most insightful thing he said during that time was “Yikes.” I have in the past catalogued Wenzel’s myriad shortcomings at length and will not do so again except to remind you that the only thing he knows less about than broadcasting is basketball: as a coach he had only 6 winning seasons out of 15 and won 20 games only once; he was 73 and 95 over his 6 years at Rutgers and a dismal 20-34 in the Big East. Shut up Bob … Yesterday was Friday the thirteenth and today Valentine’s Day, a perfect confluence for those of you unlucky in love. The origins of superstitions relating to the number 13 are obscure – some postulate that it’s because there were 13 apostles at the last supper, Judas Iscariot being the odd man; others that is due to the mass execution of a slew of Knights Templar by King Phillip on that day in the 12th century; and others still others because it’s one more than 12, which is a regarded as the perfect number: 12 months in a year, 12 hours in a day, 12 apostles, 12 tribes of Israel, 12 signs of the Zodiac, 12 in a dozen and so on. Friday is of course unlucky because it was on that day of the week that the Baby Jesus was crucified. Together they are the perfect storm. There’s no evidence that Friday the 13th is anymore worse than any other day and none of this seems very scientific anyway: in Spain Friday the 17th is considered unlucky and in Greece Tuesdays and let’s face it most days don’t work out well for most people most of the time anyway. The best practice seems to be my own: expect the worst at all times, that way at least you’ll never be disappointed … Valentine’s day is named for Valentinus, a Christian decapitated by the second Emperor Claudius in the third century on February 14th. This explains why head is the traditional Valentine’s Day gift. How a 2000 year old decapitation came to be associated with modern day romance is anyone’s guess, but associated it is: traditionally February Fourteenth features the exchange of gifts between lovers, traditionally flowers, which makes a perverse sort of sense, as flowers, themselves severed vegetative sexual organs, are delivered to females by males castrated by capitalist convention. My own Valentine’s tradition is to give the old lady a break by making my own sandwiches. Through the years Valentine’s Day has come to be associated with the Roman God Cupid – Eros in Greek mythology – the son of goddess of love Venus (the Greek Aphrodite) and god of war Mars (the Greek Ares). Quite logically those two genetic strains combine in Cupid’s special power: he owns a bow by which he inflicts lust upon the recipient of his arrows. You don’t have to be Fellini to figure out the symbolism there. In the original version Cupid was a grown ass god married to a mortal broad called Psyche. After a bit of tomfoolery that need not concern us here Psyche finds herself wandering the country side where she’s discovered by the half horse Pan, who betrays Psyche to her evil mother in law Venus, who never approved of the marriage in the first place. To have her revenge Venus first locked Psyche away in a dungeon and then sent her off on a series of quests, the last of which found her in Hell, where in an odd twist she found redemption instead of everlasting torment; afterwards she is returned to earth, made immortal, and reunited with Cupid. Despite all this grown up adventure Cupid somehow through the ages came to be portrayed as a fat baby in a diaper, who in the middle ages was often portrayed by artists astride a dolphin. Scholars suggest that the dolphin has to do with his mother’s origins – she is said to have spontaneously generated out of the sea – but you can’t fool me: it’s just a giant penis, which also makes a perverse sort of sense, as Cupid is sort of a dick. Apropos of which, this, by Stephen Crane

In the desert I saw a creature,
naked, bestial,
Who, squatting upon the ground,
Held his heart in his hands,
And ate of it.
I said, “Is it good, friend?”
“It is bitter – bitter,” he answered;
“But I like it
Because it is bitter,
And because it is my heart.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DePaul is Dead

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RECAP: Every once in a while I forget the random and regular tricks the universe plays, which is why I tuned in to CBS Sports last night at the appointed hour of 9PM, pH regulated, necessaries at hand, and mentally prepared to suffer through the agonies inflicted on the psyche by real time sports broadcasting. Had I been thinking I’d have realized there was an early game and that even under best case circumstances it’d run late, so I might as well continue drinking. So instead of seeing the beginning of a game I barely care about – SJU Depaul – I got to see the end of a game I didn’t give a shit about in the slightest, between two teams no one gives a shit about at all. And what an exciting affair it wasn’t. First, in the waning seconds of regulation some imbecile on the first shit team buried a three to tie the game and then some other shitbrain on the other shit team clanked one at the buzzer to send the game to overtime. In the overtime the two teams no one gives a shit about fouled each other every five seconds for the next five minutes except during those periods when their coaches were calling time outs, which they did with fair regularity. Then with like a minute left and the score tied some dope daintily twisted his ankle and laid on the ground rubbing it for several minutes while being ministered to by various physicians and attendants and then finally hobbled off to sit out the rest of the game on the bench, which sort of mental and physical toughness will serve him well in whatever career he attempts after his shitty college basketball career ends. (If I recall correctly waa I hurt my ankle figured prominently in Henry the Fifth’s rousing speech at Agincourt field and look how that turned out.) So then finally play resumes: the score is tied 62 all and team no one gives a shit about 1 (turns out it’s LaSalle) has the ball and they call a TO to set up the final game winning play, the design of which was evidently for shit team 1’s point guard to stand dribbling at half court until 8 seconds remained in the game and then to dribble directly into a double team at the sidelines 40 feet from the basket and call a TO with three seconds left after barely avoiding turning the ball over. (It’s comforting to know that there are elsewhere coaches as bad as Lavin and teams as poorly prepared as SJU: this bodes well as we come down the stretch into tournament time.) So then shitty team 1 tried to run an in bound play which failed so they ended up lobbing the ball to some lead footed yokel who barely got a shot off after a series of head fakes that fool absolutely no one, and especially not the defender who crammed the shot back down his throat, leading to double overtime. The second overtime was a near replay of the first: foul timeout foul clank timeout foul foul clank clank time out ankle sprain foul time out foul time out foul and the whole while scrolling mockingly along the bottom of the screen is “PROGRAM ALERT Coming up next Saint John’s DePaul, Saint John’s DePaul” over and over and over. Quote the Raven nevermore. In the second overtime shitty team 1 managed their way to a 5 point lead, but then with 17 seconds up three not only gave up a lay up to shitty team 2 but fouled the shitty shooter and if the shitty shooter hadn’t clanked the game tying free throw the game would probably still be going on. Which is why this recap is joined in progress at the 2 minute mark of Saint John’s 86-78 victory over DePaul at Carnesecca Arena …. So I have practically nothing to say about the first half, except that by the numbers SJU should have been ahead by more than three: they shot 51 percent from the floor and 50 from three compared to DePaul’s 40/30; they had twice as many rebounds; 4 blocks to none, turnovers and fouls were about even. I’ve heard through the grapevine that a bad call and a Balamou technical stifled Saint John’s first half momentum after they’d built a 9 point lead, and that might have been what Lavin referred to when interviewed briefly by Jon Rothstein – he called Lavin “Lavs,” what a douchebag – on the way to the locker room, when he said “it’s been a disjointed game on a number of fronts, I can’t get into that publicly.” I’d hope that Lavin has not been reduced to blaming the team’s performance on the referees – I mean, I expect it from crybaby Saint John’s fans, but not from the coach – and especially after a game like last night, where Saint John’s was awarded nearly twice as many free throws as its opponent: Saint John’s made a third more free throws (24) than DePaul attempted (17) and that in an 8 point win. Seems to me that if anyone had cause to cry like a little bitch it’d be Oliver Purnell … In the second half Saint John’s extended its 3 point lead to 13 early and could have put DePaul away but for a few bad possessions and bone headed plays that let DePaul back in it to the extent that it was tied at the 8 minute mark. Home court advantage and the experience of Saint John’s seniors – all of whom played well down the stretch, even Phil Greene – sealed the deal. Which is the good news. The bad news is that despite the victory and having won two of their last three Saint John’s remains in 7th place – although now only a game behind Seton Hall and DePaul, both of which are in free fall. Unfortunately the easy part of the schedule is over: of the next seven games four are on the road and five are against the top 5 teams in conference. An optimist would say that this represents an opportunity for the team to prove its mettle, but I’m not an optimist. Even if they win their remaining three home game (SH, Xavier and Georgetown) and steal one on the road (Marquette) that just gets them to 20 wins and 9 and 9 in conference … I did not see enough of the game to notice Lavin cock anything up spectacularly, although he did call an eccentric timeout after a 4 point mini run broke the late tie and with a TV TO looming. But I do need to mention a horrifying new development and it’s not even the return of the homeless guy sleeping on a steam grate red sweat suit couture: during the post-game handshakes it was clearly evident that Lavin was wearing make-up, and not a little make up either, more like full on pancake Norma Desmond I’m ready for my close up Mister Demille make up. His face was Oompah Loopah orange in contrast to his pale flabby white neck, which clearly has not seen the sun since I don’t know when. I’m trying to think of a charitable explanation – like maybe he’d earlier been auditioning to replace Rosie on the View or maybe he came straight to the game from filming a Crazy Eddie commercial or something – but frankly I was pretty traumatized. I’m just hoping this isn’t the beginning of a Bruce Jenner situation, because that would really put me off my feed.

PLAYERS Harrison seems to be fully recovered from his injury. If he isn’t I’d like to see him when he is: 33 points and 10 rebounds. Got T’d up in the second half for what is for him a common place event: he made a play and screamed an expletive at God. This one looked to be motherfucker and I guess the ref thought it was directed at him as opposed to the heavens …. Towards the end of the game whatever moron was calling the game with the repulsive Doug Gottblieb said that “if you look at box score Pointer’s performance won’t impress you.” Which is weird, because when I looked at the box score I saw that Pointer had 15 points, 11 rebounds and 5 blocks. Which is impressive … Phil Greene had 18 points on 12 shots – which is for him remarkable efficiency – and contributed in other ways as well, including a couple of huge rebounds in traffic under the basket after DePaul had mounted its comeback. I’d ask where this guy has been for the past four years but I know the answer: he’s been standing 20 feet from the basket with his foot on the three point line clanking long twos … Doug Gottlieb said that newly minted starter Felix Balamou “plays like a power forward or a center,” which no he doesn’t. What he plays like is a girl. After not playing at all for almost two years Balamou has now logged 80 minutes in the past three games. Although he’s been serviceable enough as a replacement in the short term eventually playing 4 on 5 will catch up with them. Blew a wide open dunk as the game wound down … Balamou played because Obekpa did not. Is he injured? Is he being punished? Is he refusing to play like he did in the NIT last year? Who knows. So much bullshit has gone on with Lavin that not only is it impossible to tell what’s going on but it’s impossible to believe what you’ve been told anyway … meanwhile Jamal Branch, who was the starting point guard less than a month ago is now buried deeper than Captain Kidd’s treasure: he played 8 minutes, fewer even than the Bosnian, who avoided at least a flagrant one when he got away with throwing a DePaul player to the ground after a rebounding scrum under the basket.

NOTES: DePaul is in Chicago, the name of which city derives from a Native American word meaning “stinky onion,” the area so called for a ubiquitous plant that grew in the “dismal nine mile swamp” upon which the city was built. Despite its aquiferous beginnings nearly the entire city burned to the ground less than 100 years after its founding when a cow owned by a Mrs. Catherine O’Leary allegedly kicked over a lantern in a barn adjacent to the O’Leary homestead. Although there was in fact a Mrs. O’Leary and she did in fact own a cow, the story is probably apocryphal and Missus O’Leary’s villainization the result of the rampant no-Irish-need-apply Hibernophobia that afflicted those potato eaters such as my father’s forebears who fled to the US seeking relief from the famine that afflicted the old country in the 18th century, that famine the fault of the British, perhaps history’s greatest collection of criminals. It should come as no surprise to anyone that Mrs. O’Leary’s alibi was that she was passed out dead drunk in her bed when the fire broke out in her barn and that that alibi was routinely accepted. Although it is commonly supposed that it was Chicago’s winds that fanned the flames that engulfed the city that story is similarly apocryphal. Rather the city burned merely because of poor urban planning: its wooden houses were built too close together. And anyway although Chicago is known as the windy city it’s far from the windiest in the US – Amarillo Texas is – and is in fact it is no more windy than anywhere else: except when gaseous democratic ward heelers like Barack Obama are flapping their gums the average wind speeds in Chicago are only slightly higher than they are in New York’s Central Park. Anyway the story goes that the windy city appellation arose as the result of a rivalry between Chicago and Cincinnati Ohio over the rights to the nickname “Porkopolis,” which at first belonged to Cincinnati as the country’s foremost meatpacking locale, which hegemony was subsequently usurped by Chicago. Cincinnati writers used the term Windy City to insinuate that the Chicagoans expropriating the name Porkopolis were mere braggarts and that Cincinnati still ruled as far as abattoirs were concerned. Nowadays this is a moot point as San Francisco is universally recognized as the nation’s foremost purveyor of meatpacking … Chicago was also known as the second city, and properly at least while it was the second largest city in the USA; although now LA is, the name remains. Where Chicago takes second place to no one however is in its succor of the criminal element: in raw numbers it has long been at or near the top of US cities in murders; last July 4th weekend for example an astounding 84 people suffered gunshot wounds – more than in Falluja during the same time period – from which 20 of the city’s nearly 500 total murder victims died. This is apace with Chicago’s long and illustrious criminal history: Al Capone ran the outfit there; Chicago is where gangsters John Dillinger, Sam Giancano and Bugsy Moran were executed; it spawned the thrill killers Leopold and Loeb, homicidal maniacs like Baby Face Nelson and Machine Gun Kelly, the Unabomber Ted Kacynski and assassin’s assassin Jack Ruby; and neither is Chicago a lightweight when it came to producing mass murderers, having given us the killer clown John Wayne Gacy, who managed 33 kills with his famous rope trick; HH Holmes, a transplanted English medical doctor who killed at least 25 and as many as 200 victims, many of whom were guests and employees at a hotel he ran during the Chicago World’s Fair in the 1890s; and Richard “Born to Raise Hell” Speck, who raped and murdered 8 nurses in a single night in July 1966 … Speaking of heinous criminals, the game was called by Doug Gottlieb, a former USBL point guard who was expelled from Notre Dame after it was discovered that he had fraudulently charged various items on credit cards belonging to other fighting Irish students. They say that crime doesn’t pay but it’s worked out alright for Gottlieb, although not so much for those of us who have to suffer through his game commentary … This week saw the passing of two college basketball giants: Dean Smith and Jerry Tarkanian. The proximity of their deaths is where the similarities end. Like his contemporary at DooK Mike Schrewshrekni Smith was offered up by the college basketball establishment as a paragon of virtue, proof that it was possible to run a clean and successful basketball program, whereas Tarkanian was a black hatted criminal mastermind who openly cheated and thumbed his nose at the authorities. Whether it is a coincidence that Smith was a respectable white man and Tarkanian a swarthy Armenian is an open question. The probable truth is that both of them cheated; ironically it’s likely that the only coach who ever won consistently and ran a clean program was Bobby Knight, the most hated man in college basketball. Between Smith and Tarkanian they won 1600 games, appeared in 15 Final Fours, and won 3 national championships. Tarkanian might have been even more successful, except he had the misfortune to be the contemporary of Steve Lavin’s best man John Wooden – talk about your criminal masterminds – who thwarted Tarkanian on more than one occasion. Allow me to quote me:

Long Beach State’s basketball program first achieved national prominence under Jerry Tarkanian, whose teams went 122-20 in four years, never losing more than 5 games in a season. Each year LBS reached the regional semi-finals of the NCAA tournament and twice the finals, losing three of those games to UCLA, then in the midst of winning eight straight national championships. Despite UCLA’s dominance and the proximity of the two schools, Steve Lavin’s alleged mentor John Wooden refused to schedule LBS during the regular season. Which is kind of like the relationship Saint John’s has with Hofstra and Iona, except with NIT banners.

I’m far from a sentimentalist, but am not yet so cynical that I am unable to recognize that we are diminished when greatness passes from the scene. Even greatness at so trivial a thing as basketball. The likes of these two are few and far between and in the increasingly debased culture in which we live the chances that we see their like again reduces exponentially. In a rare departure from my normal glee at the misfortunes of others I wish them rest in peace.

A Penny Saved

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RECAP: Let’s start with a professional journalistic lede: Saint John’s beat the piss out of Creighton in a laugher at MSG Saturday afternoon 84-64. (Okay, semi-professional.) We start that way because these recaps – and by these I mean the ones after a rare Saint John’s blow out – are the most difficult to produce. Bad losses are easy because I can go straight to the mockery without saying something nice about anyone or anything, which let’s face it is right in my wheelhouse. Close games – win or lose – have their own dynamic: they are by their very nature inherently interesting and the drama provides grist for the writing mill. Blow out wins though are a different matter. On the one hand I can’t be immediately and unremittingly negative – which is my instinct – but on the other I want to avoid being too positive about anything and especially about Saint John’s, whose failures over the years have in many ways shaped my bitterness and made me the curmudgeon I am today. But I have to say something nice, so here goes. Saint John’s came out ready to play for a change. They got Creighton down early and kept them there. They scored 50 points in the first half – the first 50 point half this year and the first I can remember in a while – and took a 20 point lead into the locker room. They did not as I feared they might let up in the second half. Instead they maintained their intensity and coasted to victory. To the extent that I’m capable of happiness that doesn’t involve other people’s misery I’m happy for the players, because they probably needed a win like this. It’s just unfortunate that in the long run this game is probably meaningless, because all they accomplished was avoiding a sweep by the worst team in the conference … For their part Creighton was atrocious. They didn’t score a field goal until the 14 minute mark and even after that they sucked: they shot a storm-esque 35 percent from the floor, 20 percent from 3 and 50 percent from the free throw line. As opposed to SJU, which had one of those anomalous games where nearly everything they threw up went in: 56 percent from the floor, 57 percent from 3 and 85 percent from the free throw line. Unfortunately what this game highlights is just how bad the loss to Creighton two weeks ago was. Stealing a road game there would have been huge and might have made all the difference in what is now for all intents a lost season; instead the loss was devastating, which made this one something of an afterthought … One of the boons of a performance like this is that it takes Steve Lavin out of the equation completely, because there’s nothing for him to cock up: there’s no opportunity for his ridiculous substitution patterns to affect the outcome of the game; his absurd use of time outs is not a factor; and his inability to spell either X or O does not detract from his team’s performance. He even dressed appropriately. So there’s really nothing to complain about. I mean sure, there’s no doubt that he’ll say something moronic in the post-game press conference and no doubt he’ll tweet some bullshit inanities later on that would make a teenage girl blush, but I don’t have time to wait around for that. I have a deadline to meet and besides the early start means I’ve been drinking since noon. So this game Lavin gets a pass. Congratulations Steve … Once again the refs let them play, which I’ve noticed this before about Pat Driscoll’s crew. Had they been reffing the Butler game they’d probably have called a charge on Tyler Wideman for running into Chris Obekpa’s elbow. Whereas this game they called nothing. Although this plays into Saint John’s hands in the short term it does not bode well for post season play – whether in the NIT or CBI – where history indicates the games will be called more closely, and Saint John’s depth will certainly be a factor … Up next DePaul at home, which in November everyone would have said was a gimme. To the extent that Saint John’s has a chance of sneaking into the NCAA tournament play in game this is now a must win, especially considering the spate of games that come after. Because despite winning two of their last three Saint John’s has lost 7 of their last 11 and remains in 7th place at 4 and 6 in conference and this after playing the soft part of their schedule: they have remaining Georgetown twice, Xavier twice, Villanova, and Marquette on the road out of state, where they do not play well. To say that I am not optimistic would be an understatement. And redundant.

PLAYERS: While Chris Obekpa seems committed to playing himself out of the NBA draft, a newly energized Rysheed Jordan seems suddenly interested in playing himself into it. He had a career high 25 points – he was 9 of 12 from the floor and 6 for 8 from three – to go along with 6 rebounds and 4 assists … Harrison seemed like his old self: 21 points, 10 rebounds and 4 assists … Pointer continued his fine play: 10 points, 7 rebounds and 8 blocks, only one of which was an obvious and uncalled goal tending. Last game I omitted from my recap a sentence from my notes that referenced Pointer’s new Buckwheat hairdo, on the theory that it might be construed as racist. I mention it now because it would be racist not to. Re his play it would be interesting to know what his field goal percentage would be if he every once in a while set his feet and went up straight for a shot, as opposed to launching himself backwards at a 30 degree angle. Late in the second half he replicated his now legendary flop versus Butler by once again throwing himself to the ground and rolling around on the floor: it looked like he was auditioning for the role of a corpse on CSI-MSG. And oh yeah I almost forgot, he had his pants pulled down late in the game and was revealed to be wearing what appeared to be a pair of Spanx. Not that there’s anything wrong with that … Shout out to MVPoster WeAreSJU for predicting that Felix Balamou would start at center. Although he only had 5 points on 2 of 10 shooting he displayed welcome energy, which bodes well for next year, when he will be thrust into yeoman’s minutes by default, Lavin’s. Among his fine plays was a nifty pass that led to a basket by Amir Amirovonitov, which is a circumlocution that Saint John’s fans had better get used to now, because they’ll be hearing a lot of it next year. For his part Jessica had 7 points on 3 of 4 shooting, one of those a three that led to a rousing cheer by members of the red and white club, always on the lookout for the next great white hope … Phil Greene had 13 points and it only took him 10 shots to get them. (By way of contrast Harrison had 21 points on 8 shots and Jordan 25 on 12.) Greene displayed his WNBA handle in the second half when he attempted to cross over some lumbering white guy, tripped over himself and dribbled the ball out of bounds off his own face . LOL at Phil Greene, he stinks … Chris Obekpa was not in the starting line-up, his punishment for attempting to murder a Butler player a week ago. Saint John’s blistering start allowed Lavin the luxury of keeping him out the entire first half, which had the added benefit of allowing Lavin to portray himself as a strict disciplinarian to whom there are more important things than winning. I guarantee though that had things gone south early Obekpa would have been the first player in off the bench. A camera caught Obekpa sitting on the bench yawning during the first half, which is a sure sign he was taking his punishment seriously. I was worried that his entry into the game might be greeted by a round of applause, but credit the audience for not reacting at all – it may be that now that NY has returned to an urban dystopia after three terms by the repulsive Mike Bloomberg after the relative tranquility of the Giuliani years that so many of the SJU faithful have been mugged that even they have sympathy for the victims of violent crime. Ever the warrior Obekpa took himself out of the game when he daintily twisted his ankle on a rebound and did not return. His status remains day-to-felony .. Jamal Branch’s stat line in 14 minutes: 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 … Despite the lopsided score five walk-ons played only six minutes between them. It seems like it would have been a good game to get them some playing time, but Lavin left his starters in until the 19 minute mark in the second half. All I can figure is that he got confused and though this was like college football, where running the score up against last place teams impresses the voters.

NOTES: After the last Creighton game I was so disgusted that I skipped the notes section entirely except to note that Nebraska sucks ass and was among the worst states in the US, rivaled only by South Dakota and perhaps Massachusetts, which is a complete left wing shit hole. I received in response an angry email from a Creighton fan noting the important role Nebraska had played in US history and the long list of Nebraska-breds who have made contributions to the American culture: Crazy Horse, who engineered Custer’s defeat at Little Big Horn; Red Cloud, chief of the Oglala Sioux; William Jennings Bryant, three time presidential candidate and prosecuting attorney at the Scopes trial; Vice president Dick Cheney, who protected the US from attack post 9-11; President Gerald Ford, who pardoned Richard Nixon; Buffalo Bill Cody; actors Fred Astaire, Marlon Brando, James Coburn, Henry Fonda and Nick Nolte; Johnny Carson; Paul Revere of Paul Reverend the Raiders, author of the immortal Indian Reservation; the smug pseudo-intellectual buffoon Dick Cavett; the brilliant writer Raymond Chandler, about whom even I cannot find something bad to say, those of you who are not illiterate should read him; the religious charlatan L Ron Hubbard, an alcoholic who created a religion based upon the belief that humanity is descended for reptilian aliens; and athletes Grover Cleveland Alexander (another drunk), Wade Boggs (a chicken obsessed  adulterer), Bob Gibson (a misanthropic asthmatic) and Gale Sayers (gets a pass as the best friend of Brian). He even mentioned Penny from the Big Bang Theory, played by the bodacious Kelley Cuoco, who god bless her juicy ass had the good sense to be born in California. To that reader I say: fuck Nebraska and fuck you. Nebraska sucks and stop emailing me: if I wanted a pen pal I’d proposition prison inmates. Still, for your efforts:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hoosiers

tom-mugshot

GAME: Usually when I sit down to write these gambols I’m in a pretty good mood – even on those morning when I’m not yet or still drunk. I’m about to talk about Saint John’s basketball, which is a very old and important part of my life, and I get to write, which I enjoy – or at least enjoy having done afterwards – and I get to make fun of Steve Lavin, who’s just the sort of gaseous bloated self-important buffoon that I revel in taking the piss out of. But there’s little joy in in funville this morning, not after Saint John’s was humiliated by Butler 85-62 in Indiana on Tuesday night. I wish I could say I was surprised, but as someone who figured Lavin out early on I’m not: I saw this sort of meltdown coming a mile away and at the risk of injuring myself patting me on the back have being writing about it in one form or another for a couple of months now. I knew it would happen, but I didn’t think it would happen now, not in early February, not when the small or baby steps the team has been taking up the mountain or incline would just be beginning to take effect or operation so that the players would be able to do something special or memorable in their senior or last year. For Lavin this could not have come at a worse time – and I’m not talking about while he’s looking to renegotiate his contract, which, good luck with that – but because this period between the Super Bowl and spring training is just the time when lazy sportswriters casting about for column fodder have nothing better to do than take pot shots at an otherwise irrelevant basketball program. Irrelevant because the season was effectively over after the Creighton loss. Oh sure, there are still Lavin lickspittles and toadies on various Saint John’s fan boards parsing their way to an NCAA six-seed: if they win the next eight and then make the finals of the BE tournament and Zzzzzz sorry I dozed off there for a moment: the way they go about it reminds me of those apocryphal stories of Hitler down in his bunker with Eva Braun pushing nonexistent panzer divisions across a map of Europe in 1945. There is no there there. And no doubt various dopes who predicted an Elite Eight appearance in November are probably this morning still counseling patience; I’d give odds that somewhere this morning someone has compared Lavin to Norm Roberts as proof that things aren’t so bad. Well I have news for those dummies: things are so bad. Last night the wheels came off. This was as appalling a performance as I can recall going back to the Notre Dame game a couple of years ago, a performance of which both the players and staff should feel ashamed. Say what you will about Roberts and his players, but they at least took their beatings like men, not like little punk bitches. The question is now: will Saint John’s be able to hold it together enough to avoid a cosmic meltdown. And the answer is: who knows. You’d like to think so. You’d like to think that alleged educator Steve “there’s more important things than winning” Lavin gives half a shit enough and knows half enough about human nature to right the sunken ship but he gives the impression that he’s more concerned about his dinner reservations than he is about almost anything else. So we’ll see … To the extent that the game deserves mention, I suppose I’ll mention it. Saint John’s came out flat, as they usually do on the road: they missed 10 of their first 12 shots and if it hadn’t been for sloppy play by Butler it would have been over a lot sooner than it was. Instead, Saint John’s hung around and managed to keep it respectable until halftime. The second half was another story and perhaps lost in the shuffle surrounding Obekpa’s ejection (about which more later) is that this was another in a long line of second half Saint John’s meltdowns – other than Providence SJU has been manhandled by teams after halftime going back half a dozen games. Butler guard Kevin Dunham noted that it was Butler’s intention to “come out in the second half and kind of punch them in the mouth,“ which is exactly what happened, which played into Steve Lavin’s second half strategy, which was to get punched in to mouth and throw in the towel. Saint John’s was down 15 when Pointer was given a technical for arguing that he had not fouled a three point shooter – in Pointer’s defense he was likely surprised because he’s complained about every foul that’s ever been called against him and has never been T’ed up once before – which resulted in 5 free throws and a 20 point lead Butler lead. In retrospect the technical might have been the best thing that could have happened. Not only did Butler stop playing with any intensity figuring the game was over, but the referees, who previously hadn’t been calling anything – the Obekpa assault happened right in front of one of them and he was going to let them play on until he saw blood spurting out of the gaping wound on the back of the BU player’s head – started calling everything, which resulted in clock stoppages and the sort of ugly herky jerky play at which Saint John’s excels. Saint John’s got it within eight before they ran out of gas and Butler closed it out with a whatever to nothing run, I can’t be arsed to check. It’s worth noting though that at game’s end Butler had their starters in and meanwhile Saint John’s ran out a line-up of Branch, Myles Stewart, Felix Balamou, Dom Pointer and was running isolations for Doughy De La Rosa down in the box. That it was only a 20 point loss in retrospect seems an act of charity … Lavin seem resigned after the game, saying only that he was disappointed and that it was time to move on and prepare for Creighton. You could tell he was starting to feel the heat though, as during the game his helmet of carefully coifed hair was slightly mussed. If by preparing for Creighton Lavin meant that he’s going to prepare his team to not further humiliate themselves and the university they represent, that would be a good start.

PLAYERS: D’Angelo Harrison scored his 2000th career point. He deserves better than this. This is the third or fourth game in a row now that he’s been curiously passive on offense. It can only be that he’s hurt worse than he’s letting on … Pointer had 19 points and kept them in it early with a variety of circus shots that went in despite the laws of physics. He attempted to replicate the absurd three pointer he made at the end of the of the first half versus Providence by taking a similarly ridiculous shot, except this one was an air ball. Pointer took a dook-esque dive under the basket with not a player within 5 feet of him in an attempt to draw a foul and for which he is being roundly mocked this morning on the internet, which mocking is roundly deserved. I mean, get a load of this

… I was surprised to see that Jordan took 21 shots – it didn’t seem to me like it was that many or that he was forcing it any more than usual, except late. Anyway, most of them didn’t go in. He finished with 17 points to go along with 4 rebounds and 4 assists … Funfave Felix Balamou got a bunch of run in the second half and scored several garbage points around the rim. Ever the optimist Lavin pointed to Balamou’s play as proof that things were moving in the right direction … Phil Greene air-balled two lay ups on his way to a 6 point performance. LOL at Phil Greene, he stinks … Things were so bad that even Chris Jones got in the game after both Joey DLR and Amir Amirovickovich got burned on multiple possessions by some lumbering doofus who was slightly less lead footed than are they. Jones immediately got a put back, his first basket since the Long Beach game in December, which no doubt cheered the hearts of Saint John’s fans who were as late as last November touting Jones as a replacement for NBA forward Jakarr Sampson, who they deemed a cancer and for whom they blame last year’s dismal performance. Who will they blame for last night I wonder … Which brings us to Chris Obekpa, whose ridiculous antics – his inappropriate grinning, his stupid shorts, his Princess Leia hairdo, his flexing and woofing , his chippy play – I’ve been chronicling in this space for some time now. At the risk of giving myself yet another reach around so soon after the one I gave myself in the first paragraph, which can lead to chafing and aggravate the prostate, it was just last game where I noted that Obekpa’s increasingly bizarre behavior made him difficult to not dislike and suggested than someone give him a swift kick in the ass. Evidently no one did. Last night eight minutes in Obekpa stalked a defenseless Butler player down the court and viciously elbowed him in the back of the head, sending him to the locker room with a possible concussion. Obekpa was rightfully ejected – he should have been arrested, and possibly deported, but I guess that wasn’t an option. One wonders whether Coach Eye-roll will finally take measures to rein in Obekpa’s behavior, which has been out of control for some time now. Let me quote myself, from the Fordham recap:

This is not the first time Obekpa has demonstrated immature and untoward behavior on the court and I am hopeful that Coach Lavin recognizes that Obekpa has anger issues and suspends him for his own good for the rest of the season so that he can seek counseling without the distraction of basketball because some things are more important than winning. Ha, just kidding of course, Lavin is coaching for a contract extension, he wouldn’t suspend Obekpa if they found a couple of nun’s heads rolling around in the back seat of a car he stole from a crippled Gulf War veteran …

If I wasn’t used to being right all the time I might even be embarrassed.

NOTES: I stopped even taking notes during the game last night it was so bad and was going to skip this section altogether but am for some reason this morning reminded of the prolific serial killer Carl Panzram, pictured above. At this point I no longer question these digressions so let’s where this leads, if anywhere. Panzram was born in Minnesota in 1890 and sent to a work farm at an early age as an incorrigible youth, where in an attempt at rehabilitation he was beaten and sodomized for several years. These attempts failed and he burned the reformatory to the ground. He was committed to a second reformatory where further attempts at rehabilitation were similarly unavailing. None of this worked  out too well for Panzram, but it was even worse for the 1000 men Panzram admitted to raping after he was released and even worser for the 25 he admitted to murdering. After drifting about for several years Panzram joined the army, which didn’t much affect his criminal lifestyle and he was eventually sent to Leavenworth by virtue of an order of future President William Howard Taft, then Secretary of War. Panzram promptly escaped from prison and made his way to NY, where he burgled Taft’s house; he used the proceeds from the robbery to buy a yacht, onto which he lured unsuspecting sailors, who he robbed, raped and murdered. He dumped the bodies near Execution Point in Long Island Sound, so named for the practice by British revolutionary war authorities of chaining suspected traitors to the rocks at low tide and leaving them to drown at high. Soon growing bored with cavorting thusly Panzram travelled to Africa, where he continued his killing spree. He was arrested after his return to the states while in the midst of plotting to kill the entire population of NYC by poisoning the water supply. Panzram was convicted of various crimes and sentenced to prison, where he promptly beat an inmate to death for “bothering” him, and was thereafter sentenced to be hanged. For all these things, Panzram said in his journals “I am not in the least bit sorry. I wish the entire human race had one neck and I had my hands around it.” (Panzram’s writings, published in the book Killer: A Journal of Murder, are remarkable for their lucidity and the beauty of his prose. And that’s not even sarcasm. It is remarkable writing and not just for the juxtaposition of what he’s saying with how he’s saying it.) Incorrigible to the end Panzram, spat in the face of his executioner and it is his last words of which I was thinking of when I started this paragraph: “Hurry up you Hoosier bastard, I could have killed a dozen men while you’ve been screwing around,” Hoosier being the official demonym for residents of the state of Indiana, where last night’s massacre took place. That is I suppose a thin reed upon which to hang 500 words, but it’s more than last night’s game deserves.

The F Word: Friars

AnimalFarm1

GAME: Well that’s a relief and to long time Saint John’s fans entirely predictable. Having dug themselves an in-conference hole that’s just about eliminated them from post-season consideration and having blown a lead late in front of a historic national television audience to give ratface his 1000th win and following that up with a laydown versus previously winless Creighton and in the midst of yet another public humiliation (infra), Saint John’s put together two good halves and survived a late charge to defeat first place Providence 75-66 Saturday afternoon at Madison Square Garden. Lest anyone get too excited the win leaves them still in 8th place and still a game behind 7th place Xavier, who they get on the road in about 10 days. Other than Providence, whose number they seemingly have, Saint John’s has not won a game outside of NY State since March 2014, and in fact have only won 2 out of state games since beating Rutgers in New Jersey in January 2013. So I’d hold my applause for the time being if I were you. Of course if I were you I’d have killed myself long ago, so there’s that … The two teams played relatively evenly for the first 10 minutes or so until Saint John’s spurted away towards the end of the second half, which spurt coincided with the entry into the lineup of Rysheed Jordan, who didn’t start because of yet another violation of team rules, about which more later. A wild Pointer three at the buzzer – off balance, falling back, legs splayed, you know, the usual – gave them a 12 point lead at the half. The game remained that way for most of the second half until a 12-4 Providence run brought them within 2 with about 8 minutes remaining. And then a most remarkable thing happened: rather than folding like a cheap house of cards – you know, the usual – Saint John’s went on a 14-5 run of their own to put the game away. Go figure. Although I don’t hold out much hope moving forward – best case scenario is probably 2-3 over their next 5 – it was nice to see them show some sack, especially after what’s transpired over the past month … Saint John’s shot a respectable 47 percent from the floor and 38 percent from three – this the second game in a row that their 3 point shooting wasn’t awful; they did however leave 8 points at the FT line where they were 16 for 24. None of that mattered though because Providence was atrocious: 40 percent from the floor, 18 percent from 3 and 68 percent from the foul line … Once again Lavin did nothing egregiously stupid, and in fact did a pretty good job stealing 25 minutes with his scrubs: Branch, Abladoddlebug and even Joey DelaRosa got in for a bit. Once again he called an eccentric time out, this one after a Harrison three had extended Saint John’s lead to 10 late – I said aloud “good time out Cooley” and only realized Lavin had called it after I saw him mouth “full” to the repulsive Jim Burr, the worst referee in the history of college basketball, whose very presence on the court cheapens the spirit of amateur athletics. All I can figure is that Lavin calls them with the TV time out looming to give his shorthanded team a double blow. That makes some sort of vague sense, so it’s quite possible there’s another explanation … Speaking of Cooley, Jim Jackson noted that he’d lost nearly 200 pounds through a regimen of diet and exercise that includes 5 miles runs and hundreds of daily pushups and sit ups. Good for Ed, but someone should really tell him that it doesn’t matter how many pounds he weighs: if he doesn’t do something about those slabs of pastrami he has glued to the back of his head he’s never going to get laid. He must know what it looks like, right? I mean, even some chia hair back there would be an improvement. Can you imagine paying $ 300 for front row seats behind the Providence bench and having to stare at that all game? Good grief … So yeah. Eighth place, 3 and 5 in conference, and three losable road games looming. It should come as a surprise to no one that I’m less than sanguine about the next several weeks

PLAYERS: 20 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists and yeoman defense on LaDontae Henton (2 for 14) from Dom Pointer, whose starting to make a case for team MVP. Gus Johnson noted that Pointer’s nickname was now “Swiss Army Knife,” which, enough already with the nicknames. Can we pick one and stick to it please? How about Swiss Costco Batman, that seems to cover all the bases … Jordan had 14 points (an efficient 5 for 6 from the floor), 4 assist and 4 rebounds and only 1 turnover off the bench – he was relegated there after a bit of a twitter kerfuffle (infra) found him once again in violation of team rule. Airballed a free throw at game’s end, for the lulz … Harrison had 15 and remains passive on the offensive end. To the extent that hope exists this will need to change… Phil Greene seems to have realized that he’s not a very good three point shooter (6 for 20 over his last 5 games) and so has taken my advice and started driving the ball to the basket. Congratulations Phil. Please read my previous posts for a fuller explanation about why you suck and improve the remaining facets of your game accordingly …. Obekpa had 8 points, 10 rebound and 6 blocks. He is becoming, however, increasingly hard to root for, even for someone as charitable in spirit as am I. After a block in the second half he stood under the opposing basket flexing and woofing while his team went out on the break. A couple of plays later he bobbled a rebound that led to the fast break that brought PU within 2. The replay showed Obekpa turning his head to jaw at the ref while jogging up court. Someone should tell Obekpa that with his team in in 8th place he should play with a little more intensity and save all the celebrating for when they win their first NIT game since 2012 … Evidently Jamal Branch used up his allotted quota of makes for the month versus Creighton. He was his usual scoreless self. He was played to draw by Albivivotch, similarly scoreless, and both of them were outscored by golem Joey DLR, who had two points in a minute on a wonderful wrap-around pass from Jordan

NOTES: In a famous dissent in the case of Olmstead vs US (that’s 277 US 438 for those of you scoring at home) Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis said that The makers of the Constitution conferred the most comprehensive of rights and the right most valued by all civilized men—the right to be let alone. And truer words were never spoken. What that means in theory is that citizens have the right to opt out: that freedom entails the right to discriminate according to the conscience of the individual actor; that liberty encompasses the right to refuse to engage in commerce or intercourse with anyone, for any reason, at any time, without explanation or recrimination. In practice this can lead to untoward outcomes and so is nowadays anathema and especially to the political left, who believe that equality means that all people are the same, rather than that despite their personal deficiencies all people should be treated equally – this is not a subtle distinction, and yet it seems to fly right over their heads. One of the ways the left seeks to enforce this absurdity is through the control of language: liberals seek to impose speech codes not because they find language inappropriate or reprehensible, but because they disapprove of the ideas that words represent. In fact, this is nothing more than a modern version of burning heretics at the stake; it is what George Orwell called thoughtcrime: the criminalization of beliefs that countervail the conventional wisdom, which to progressives is their own ideas. A reader interrupts to ask: what the fuck are you on about. Well reader, it seems that horror of horrors, Rysheed Jordan recently called someone a fag on Twitter. Notice I say fag, not F*G or the F word. The F word is forever fuck, and I’ll give you fuck when you pry it from my cold dead hands. Besides which, calling fag the F word is frankly pretty gay. Jordan, an African-American, has the misfortune of living in an age in which his race has fallen to third in the hierarchy of aggrievement, behind Muslims, now first, and the LGBT community, now a clear second. What this means is that is that it is perfectly acceptable for a Muslim cabdriver in Minneapolis to refuse to transport a Chinese blind man and his seeing eye dog because Islam regards dogs as unclean, whereas a black Christian baker who refuses to produce a wedding cake for two upper-class white homosexuals is in violation of civil rights law. That’s pretty f***ed up if you ask me and frankly terribly confusing. Anyway, Jordan’s use of commonplace inner city street slang on a social media account voluntarily accessed by parties interested in the untutored opinions of a 19 year old has been deemed homophobic – a word meaning fear or hatred of those who engage in same sex carnal relations – which is a patent absurdity, as would claiming that homophobia comprises screaming “you suck” at Jim Burr, who actually, you know, sucks, or calling someone who cut you off in traffic a cocksucker; or as would be claiming that calling someone a motherfucker is an accusation of incest. No one – at least I hope no one – has been harder on numbskull Steve Lavin than I have been. If you know of anyone, shoot me an email, I’d like to congratulate them for their efforts. But in this case I applaud his actions: he benched Jordan at the beginning of this morning’s game for a violation of team rules – having a twitter account at all – no mention of context, and then got on with his life. In the past Lavin has used his team’s disciplinary problems as an excuse for his own failures as a coach, and to the extent that he realizes that he’s cried wolf too many times I admire his personal growth – because any harsher punishment of Jordan would be seen for what it is … A final word. In Louie’s autobiography In Season he talks about John Wooden’s practice of not allowing certain players – he mentions the Muslim Lew Alcindor – to talk to the media. Lou says that Wooden was doing his players a disservice, that part of his job as an educator was to prepare his delicate charges for life after basketball and that that included allowing players the opportunity to make mistakes in public and to learn to “say the right thing.” Good for Louie. It’s not surprising to me that of all the lessons Lavin claims to have learned from his alleged mentor Wooden one of the things he took away was the wrong one. Because it reinforces my own prejudice, to which I have an inalienable right granted to me by goD and the constitution: the belief that Lavin is a chowderhead.

 

 

Omalulz

Michelle

GAME: I asked following the loss on Sunday whether Saint John’s was playing up to dewk or dook was playing down to Saint John’s. That question was answered Wednesday night in Omaha Nebraska with Saint John’s 77-74 loss to winless last place Creighton. Because the team that played dook to draw, and Gonzaga to a draw, and beat Syracuse at the Carrier Dome, that team was snowed in on Long Island. The team that flew to Omaha two days early was the one that squeaked by Saint Mary’s and lost to Butler at home. In the pregame the dynamic Ben Howland – and if I’m oompa loompa Chris Monasch I’ve already made preliminary inquiries in that direction – said that the Saint John’s players knew that this was a must win and predicted that they’d come out with a sense of urgency. Whereas that happened not so much. Because this team – other than Pointer and Harrison, both whom of are foxhole material – displayed all the resistance of a 5 dollar whore in a Bangkok brothel. They are the perfect reflection of their airhead coach, who’s quite willing to state publicly that he doesn’t much care whether he wins games or loses them. They may even be a reflection of the times in which we live, where hashtags and placards like #saveourgirls and #jesuischarlie are considered acts of courage that display the righteousness of their authors without exposing them to the sort of real world consequences that might accrue should they be moved to actually get off the couch. If that’s the case it may be that we already won these games back in October, when the players who rolled over last night were festooning their tweets with #unfinishedbusiness and #hammertorock hashtags … Speaking of couches, I was sitting on mine at about 11:30 last night, having watched yet another college basketball season swirl down the toilet and scribbling notes on a legal pad by the light from the television refracting through the dregs of a glass of Crispin Cain Low Gap Clear Wheat Whiskey when I thought to myself: what the hell are you doing? How many ways can you describe a lump of shit? It’s brown and smells and feels like day old mashed potatoes. The rest of it is just ego and purple prose, signifying nothing. But then I remembered that we’re just meaningless carbon based life forms hurtling through an infinite and godless universe on a rock and I had to do something while sitting around waiting to die so why not drink and mock Lavin. Existential crisis passed … To the extent that the game itself deserves mention, it was awful. I had not seen Creighton yet this year but if last night was any indication they stink. Fortunately Saint John’s obliged them by being worse. Oddly though, Saint John’s outperformed Creighton in nearly every statistical category: the two teams shot the same percentage from the floor (41); Saint John’s shot 55 percent from three, to CU’s 40; SJU outrebounds Creighton 40 to 34; more assists, 19 to 17; more steals, 6 to 2; more blocks, 6 to 5. The only significant difference was at the free throw line, where Creighton shot 85 percent (18 of 21) to SJU’s 60 percent (10 of 17). Regular readers will recall mention of Saint John’s exemplary free throw defense earlier in the season, how it was responsible for several wins and how it was fool’s gold that would come back to bite them in the ass at some point. Teeth meet sphincter … Coaching wise Lavin was not any more awful than usual. Specifically there were some peculiar time-outs, at least one of which stopped a SJU rally dead in its tracks. I can’t really blame him for not preparing his team for the ridiculous triangle and two that Greg McDermott used to flummox Saint John’s for the first ten minutes, except to the extent that he doesn’t prepare his team for anything. And I’m not even going to mention his stupid get up. If his dress is a cry for attention I’m not giving him any more …So Saint John’s remains in 8th place, having dropped 6 of their last 8 – and this is against the palookas on their schedule. On the one hand it’s still early: there are 12 conference games left and anything can happen. Ten and two puts them at the top of the conference and at 20 wins, three of those against top 20 teams. But on the other hand when anything happens to Saint John’s usually it’s bad and anyone who thinks this team is going to rip off 10 or 12 wins in a row is out of their gourd. Thank goodness February is upon us or I might be worried.

PLAYERS: D’Angelo Russell Harrison had a quiet first half but singlehandedly kept them in it at the end, including several off balance and acrobatic threes, one of which clanked off the back rim at the buzzer. Obviously four for 18 is not ideal, but nothing about this BB team is … Here’s something I’ve never said before and will likely never say again: Jamal Branch displayed skill at playing basketball. It was his play at the beginning of the second half- he started for Jordan, who allegedly “sprained” his “knee” – that fueled SJ’s comeback from a 10-point deficit. Colormoron Bob Wenzel twice described Branch as a “cerebral” player – unless he doesn’t know that the world “cerebral” means or meant that Branch plays like someone suffering from a brain injury I’m at a loss as to what he was talking about. To prove my point Branch committed 5 personals and fouled out in 28 minutes, nearly all of those by grabbing at a player that had run past him 40 feet from the basket … Pointer double doubled and added 6 assists. Made the play of the game when he saved an errant rebound by throwing the ball off a Creighton player’s face … Obekpa has 7 points and 8 rebounds and displayed nice form on his jump shot. You have to figure that the more he plays the more his draft stock drops. Last night he got pushed around by a bunch of hayseed lummoxes. Imagine what’ll be like in the D League. Managed to get a three second call 47 seconds into the game, which seems almost like a mathematical impossibility … Jessica Albivecovich played nearly 20 minutes off the bench and once again was not completely inept. Made a huge 2 pointer jump shot on a long rebound with three seconds left in regulation, which would have been amazing has Creighton not been up three … With Saint John’s down 4 and only 25 seconds remaining in the game, Phil Greene spent 13 seconds dribbling around outside the three point line looking for a shot to take. Lol at Phil Greene. He’s stinks

NOTES: Don’t have any. Nebraska is a big flat pile of nothing. Other than South Dakota it might be the stupidest state in the union. I don’t know what a cornhusker is and can’t be arsed to look it up. Other than Benoit Benjamin I think they probably haven’t had a college player I’ve heard of: what the hell is a Kyle Korver and who cares. Bob Gibson went to Creighton: he was HOF pitcher and played for the Harlem Globetrotters; that would be fodder for a paragraph if I were in the mood to write a paragraph. I’m not. I like birds but blue jays suck. I already did a bit about what a dope Bob Wenzel is and how he drinks too much. More would be thin gruel from which I’ll spare you. During the pregame there was a Saturday morning cartoon version of Lavin talking about how much he likes going to the movies and eating popcorn. Tempting. Can you imagine sitting for three hours behind that bulbous head listening to him cackle at Adam Sandler? Because you know he loves Adam Sandler. Anyone doubt he owns Happy Gilmore on Blue Ray? I don’t. But fuck all that, I’m not in the mood … Okay, one note: on Saint John’s fan boards this morning even Lavin’s lickspittles and toadies are deserting the sunken ship, i.e., posters saying oh well I was a Lavin supporter up to now but after this loss it’s clear that this isn’t working and even I can’t support him. The translation of that is: Until I got hit between the eyes by that Omaha 2 x 4 I didn’t realize what a buffoon Lavin is, but now even someone as stupid as I am has seen the light. The answer should be: if it took you this long to see something so plainly obvious, why should anyone care what you think now. Shut up and eat your shit sandwiches and choke them down with the dregs of your Kool-aid. I could not care less.

Duck Fuke

Reddicknose

 

I amn’t one for moral victories, especially for a team that has now dropped five  of their last seven since being ranked 15th in the country. But if you had to have one Saint John’s 77-68 loss to DooK on Sunday afternoon was as good a time as any. For DoOK this was a classic trap game – a road game after a weekend frolic in Manhattan on a national stage at the world’s most famous arena, going for the coach’s historic 1000th victory with three games against top 10 teams looming on the horizon; whereas Saint John’s was playing with house money: an OOC game they were not expected to win against the # 5 team in the nation and with their best player hobbled. That they did not fold like a cheap house of cards is shocking, because I thought this would be a blood bath. Instead it turned out to be an entertaining affair and an eminently winnable game. (Never again will I doubt the smart money, which had the line at about eight. I would have given 18.) DooK went out to an early 11 point lead and seemed to be on the verge of making it a laugher when after a judicious Steve Lavin time out – that in itself rarer than a can of dandelion – Saint John’s not only regained its composure but outplayed, outmanned and out toughed its way to the lead, behind the play of Rysheed Jordan, who played perhaps the best half of his career, and Dom Pointer, who threw up his usual array of wild and off balance prayers, most of which were for a change answered. The two combined for 29 of Saint John’s first 41 points, most of them in transition. And in fact despite their woeful start Saint John’s took a 4-point lead into the locker room when Harrison’s NBA three after the buzzer was allowed despite clearly leaving his hands too late, regarding which expect a rule change regarding reviewability of same in the off-season. Saint John’s extended its lead to 10 before the wheels fell off, which falling off coincided with the entry into the game of Mason Miles Marshall Plumlee, the sort of uncoordinated white doofus who Mike Shrewshrenski has over the years molded into a halfway competent basketball players. This is now the fifth or sixth time in a row that Saint John’s has blown a sizeable second half lead, which once again I am forced to credit to the opposing staff’s second half adjustments, although I’d be at a loss to tell you what they were. DeWk ended the game on a 26-7 run and when the Saint John’s players walked off the court with 15 seconds left to the roar of “Let’s Go Duke” they were at least left with the satisfaction of having left it all on the court. The question for Saint John’s fans is: did SJU play up to their competition or did DoOk play down to theirs … By the numbers it was as usual: Saint John’s shot a mediocre 40 percent from the floor, 25 percent from three, and 60 percent from the free throw line; they were out rebounded by 10 and managed only 11 assists in 60 possessions. Dewk did not fare much better – 45 / 36 / 66 – but they made theirs when it counted, included a string of three point plays in the last 5 minutes which sealed the deal. Up next a road game against last place Creighton, which like more or less every game on the schedule is now a must win … Earlier in the week Lavin claimed that Ksyzsynsky was his “mentor and advisor” and today in the pregame that he was his “coaching idol.” To honor him – and perhaps not to distract from the festivities by dressing like Bozo – Lavin wore a shirt with a collar. I was chagrined to learn that as a tad Lavin had sent Krsyxzshinki fan mail of the sort that teenage girls send to Justin Bieber and even more so to learn that Lavin had kept the reply and was willing to share it with Fox Sports. If a narcissist like Lavin were capable of embarrassment he might have been, but that’s okay, I’m embarrassed enough for both of us. Regarding his coaching there is not much to say except that he kept out of his own way, playing only five guys most of the way and judiciously using his time outs in an attempt to staunch the second half bleeding. The conundrum with Lavin is that even if he calls his time outs at the proper juncture he doesn’t really have anything to say that’s worth listening to.

PLAYERS: I’m starting to get the whole Batman thing, because Pointer was once again a wrecking ball: 21 points, 9 rebounds, 4 assists, and 5 steals. It’s a shame he doesn’t have another year of eligibility because he’s playing like a first round pick. In 2016 … Rysheed Jordan continued the stellar play he has displayed since returning from Philadelphia. 18 point and 4 assists … Phil Greene had 13 points but it took him 12 shots to get there, including a less than stellar 1 for 5 from three. As usual he contributed little else: 1 rebound and no assists in about 40 minutes … Harrison had 12 but is clearly suffering the effects of whatever disability under which he’s laboring … Obekpa had 11 rebounds and played adequate defense against the future #1 NBA draft pick, but was clearly outmanned … Joey De La Rosa spelled CO in the first half and immediately after entering made his presence known by punching Amile Jefferson in the face and standing over his opponent like Ali over Sonny Liston. He left and did not return … Similarly Jamal Branch entered in the first half and after turning the ball over by tripping over his own feet leading to a dunk at the other end was barely seen again. It’s a shame he’s so awful, they could have used another body.

NOTES: Saint John’s fans with functional cerebral cortices long ago realized that Steve Lavin knows so little about x’s and o’s that he would be in danger of breaking a bone playing a game of tic tac toe. And yet he has defenders who say that his obvious incompetence is of no matter – that coaching and strategy can only go so far and that it is the player who makes the coach, not vice versa. To those dopes I present exhibit A in opposition, Mike Screwshrnecky, pictured below instructing his current team at a recent practice.

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As much as it galls me to admit it Kryzwsyzski is one of the greatest coaches of all time, in any sport. Every year he takes a group of slow, white, unathletic, pasty-faced ballerinas – nothings like Cherokee Parks, Shavlik Randolph, Steve Wojowojhowski, Josh McRoberts, Brain Zoubek, Kyle Singler – and turns them into contenders for the national championship. If you think that hyperbole, consider: more Deuk graduates have had their NBA careers end in drunk driving accidents than have had successful NBA careers. And yet year after year Kryzchrznski has them in the top 10. How does he do it? First, he’s evolved a diabolical system and recruits players to fit it. His offense relies on college hoops great equalizer, the three point shot, while his extended defense is intended to deny his opponents the same boon. Second, he uses the sycophancy of the college basketball hierarchy and his lickspittles in the media to foster an atmosphere in which he is given every advantage. On the court DeWk guards are expert at warding off defenders with one hand while simultaneously palming the ball with the other, yet are never called for either offense; DeWk big men spend enough time in the lane to grow roots and are never called for three seconds; and even the most cursory CBB fan is aware of the propensity of dEwK players to feign contact and flop to the ground tweet offensive foul high five dOok basketball.

duckie-flops-o

Off the court recruiting violations that would have other coaches banished from the game – like finding cushy high paying jobs for the unqualified parents of recruits like Chris Duhon and Carlos Boozer or the delivery of giant bags of cash to Corey Magette by convicted crack dealer Myron Piggie – are swept under the rug to preserve the halo of integrity that surrounds the Blue Devils. This regime is enforced by Coach K-hrist himself, who in game is a beady eyed whirling dervish, hurling at the officials a torrent of the most foul and pernicious abuse that can be heard outside of a prison shower, for which he is never, ever, given a technical. And yet despite all these advantages he is also a careful strategist, controlling tempo and judiciously managing the clock and his personnel. He is, in fact, a genius, and for those who say coaching doesn’t matter I say: explain all those rings on Shrewshreki’s paws … This year’s DooK team is an anomaly in at least one respect, viz.: usually it’s pretty apparent which smug Ivy league wannabe is most deserving of a swift punch in the face or a vicious boot to the groin. In the glory years – and dOoK actually had them, as opposed to this fraud of a program – the most hated player in college basketball was the appalling Christian Laettner, shown here receiving his just reward from Phil Sellers

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Following Laettner there was universally reviled poet laureate Jonathon Clay “Gay Gay” Reddick, who penned these immortal lines, once the subject of an unctuous ESPN special

No bandage can cover my scars
It’s hard living a life behind invisible bars
Searching for the face of God
I’m only inspired by the poems of Nas

Facing the forecast of fears
that none of my peers
have ever been faced with
I wanna reach the top floor
but I’m stuck in the basement
With not enough juice
to burst through the chains
that have shackled my brain

As Oscar Wilde said of The Olde Curiosity Shop: “One must have a heart of stone to read of the death of little Nell without dissolving into tears of laughter.” A few years later no one would have batted an eye had you ground a fistful of glass into the face of the insufferable Jon Scheyer and had you broken several of Greg Paulus’s fingers with a garlic press spectators would likely have broken in a hearty round of spontaneous applause. This year though there’s really no one who inspires that sort of hate, although that just might be that I no longer watch much college BB besides SJU, and that barely qualifies. And don’t even get me started on their fans, the highlight of whose college life is drinking a six-pack of Zima and painting each other’s nipples blue while camping outside Cameron Indoor Stadium so as to get seats close enough to the DooK bench to be able to bask in the intoxicating aroma wafting from Tyus Jone’s sweaty balls. They are a hideous crew, the boys acned refugees from a Dungeons & Dragons convention and the girls cellulite ridden prematurely aged milk-fed hausfraus in waiting ….

craz

If all that wasn’t enough Duke was founded by Washington Duke, a slave owner who after serving the Confederacy in what dewK grads still refer to as the War Between the States made his fortune creating a monopoly in tobacco, thereby consigning millions of innocents to horrible and agonizing deaths from cancer. Not surprisingly Duke alumni comprise a conga line of the worst and most pompous and self-righteous douche bags in public life, the worst of whom include: Charlie Rose, Dan Abrams, Judy Woodruff, Henry Hyde, Ron Paul, Eleanor Smeal, Emmett Grogan, William Kennedy Smith, Tucker Max, Seth Davis, John Feinstein, Melissa Harris-Perry, John Seigenthaler and Richard Nixon … And just to show that it’s not just me, because let’s face it I hate everyone,  this, which never gets tired: