Ram Tough

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GAME: It was another laugher Sunday afternoon at the Garden as Saint John’s defeated Fordham 74-53 in what is for some reason still referred to as the Holiday Festival. For those of you youngsters out there the Holiday Festival used to be a prestigious and exciting Christmas time college basketball tournament that featured the likes of Bob Cousy, Jimmy Walker, Mel Davis and Cazzie Russell. Now it involves neither a holiday or a festival and features the likes of Fordham, perhaps the worst program in college basketball history. On the bright side Saint John’s won and overcame a bit of adversity in doing so, outscoring Fordham by 20 points after Chris Obekpa fouled out late in the first half. On the not so bright side it was Fordham, so who cares . Saint John’s came out a little flat – it was almost as if they expected Fordham to roll over in the face of a ranked opponent and so spent the first 10 minutes lackadaisically chucking up threes and generally goofing around. Credit where due a Lavin time out at around the 12 minute mark sparked an 11-0 run, after which the outcome was not much in doubt. With Obekpa out of the game Saint John’s went small and pressed full court, which flummoxed Fordham into a timidity that resulted in 22 turnovers and twice as many missed shots as they made. Saint John’s OTOH shot 50 percent from the floor and a respectable 33 percent from three and 70 percent from the line. And once again Saint John’s free throw defense was exemplary: they held Fordham to 60 percent from the line … At 8 and 1 Saint John’s is beginning to develop a bit of an attitude, which I find a bit troubling. In the first place it’s December and in the second this is a group that has not accomplished anything, ever. It would be a shame if come March this team ended up looking back and saying oh well, at least we beat Syracuse, which is why I’m hoping Saint Mary’s puts a hell of a scare in them next Friday.

PLAYERS: You might find it hard to believe but there are posters on various Saint John’s fan forums who consider themselves to be knowledgeable basketball fans who think that Jamal Branch is better at basketball than Rysheed Jordan. I know, hilarious right? But it’s true. And when you point out to them that besides his obvious awfulness Branch has managed 2 points and 1 rebound in his last 40 minutes of play they say, oh yeah, like statistics tell the whole story and append eye rolling emoticons because if you’re an imbecile graphics trump statistics, logic and rhetoric. So I will leave it to those portentous gasbags to explain why Jordan’s 24 point 4 rebound performance wasn’t that really good. I was pretty impressed, but then I’m a rube …Harrison had 22 and passed the great George Johnson on the SJU all-time scoring list. Black hole Zendon Hamilton up next … Dom Pointer had a couple of dunks and 5 rebounds but was otherwise nothing to write home about … Phil Greene reverted to his usual 3 for 12 clank-fest, which suggests that his recent hot streak was an outlier … Which brings us to Chris Obekpa, who was ejected after nearly throwing a Fordham player to the floor and then jawing at the referee afterwards. I think Obekpa was upset because after assaulting his opponent he threw his hands up in the air in the universal I-dint-do-nothing signal but was T’ed up anyway. 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 … Speaking of awful things, Jamal Branch had another two point performance. He also managed the play of the game in the first minute when he went up to snatch a rebound with authority, missed it, and had the ball bounce off his head out of bounds. I LOL’ed, and then rewound the game and LOL’ed again …The rest of the scrubs and walk-ons got shuffled in and out in the wake of Obekpa’s departure and collectively showed little or nothing.

NOTES: I owe an apology to Tarik Turner. It is clear after today’s game that he is not the worst colormoron in college basketball. That honor obviously belongs to Ron Thompson, son of the John Thompson, and proof of the old adage that the apple sometimes falls so far from the tree that you don’t even know what kind of fruit fell from which kind of tree. Thompson – who was 9 and 22 in his one year as a D1 coach, so you know he knows basketball – babbled like a nincompoop from the opening tip; when he wasn’t repeating himself ad nauseum over and over again saying the same things more than once and then saying them again he was spouting irrelevancies and inanities, to the extent that I became physically angry and would have turned the sound off if I were not hoping to be rewarded with some imbecilities to share with my regular readers. And I was. For example, with Fordham down 22 and 10 minutes remaining Thompson opined that “the clock was starting to become Fordham’s enemy” and then with Fordham still down 22 with three minutes left noted that the game was “a little out of reach.” Yes Ronnie, and Mila Kunis is a little out of my league … Except for basketball, Fordham is the school Saint John’s wishes it was: a selective Catholic university with a rich intellectual tradition and a wealth of influential alumni and faculty; the latter include Geraldine Ferraro, former CIA director Bill Casey, G Gordon Liddy, Denzel Washington, Alan Alda, the novelist Dom DeLillo, Vince Lombardi, Marshall McLuhan, Vin Scully and Bob Keeshan, better known as Captain Kangaroo. Whereas probably the most well-known Saint John’s alumnus is former governor Mario Cuomo, who was so impressed by his education that he sent both his sons – current Governor Andrew and journalist Chris – to Fordham …. Unfortunately for Fordham they do have a basketball program and unfortunately for the basketball program it’s coached by Tom Pecora, a mediocrity whose name pops up every time there’s a coaching opening at Saint John’s and whose hiring is one of the few bullets that Saint John’s has managed to dodge over the years. But as awful as Pecora is – and he’s 37 and 89 at Fordham – he’s not close to the worst coach Fordham has had. Before Pecora was Jared Grasso, 1-22. Before Grasso Derek Whittenburg – whose most important basketball accomplishment was an airball in the 1983 NCAA championship game – was 69 and 112. Before Whittenburg Bob Hill was 36 and 78. Before Hill Nick Macarchuk was 161 and 192. That’s 304-493 until you get to Tom Penders, the last Fordham coach to have a winning record, barely, at 125 and 114. And in fact the only coach to have a successful career at Fordham since John Bach retired with 482 wins in 1968 was Digger Phelps, who won 26 games in his only year there in 1971 and then got the hell out. Bonus fact: backup point guard on Phelps team was Peter PJ Carlesimo … Captain Kangaroo’s sidekick was Mr. Greenjeans, portrayed by Hugh “Lumpy” Brannum, a jazz vocalist who at one point performed in a band led by Bob Crosby, brother of Bing Crosby, a graduate of Gonzaga whose career was celebrated in an earlier recap. A long standing rumor falsely postulated that Brannum was the father of musical genius Frank Zappa, based upon Zappa’s authorship of Mr. Green Genes and Son of Mister Green Genes. The former of is included here for your enjoyment and edification.

 

Fairly Predictable

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GAME: There’s not much to say about this one. Saint John’s has never lost to Fairleigh Dickinson and they certainly weren’t going to last night, not a team full of seniors a week after being ranked for the first time in three years. Although they didn’t come out and put the kind of hurt on FDU that they could have if they were really motivated, they were good enough. They are, as Steve Lavin put it in the post season presser “incrementally taking baby or infant steps up the mountain or hillside so that as the season progresses or moves on we will be playing our best basketball in the future or times to come.” That might not be verbatim, but that’s what it says in my notes anyway … Saint John’s shot about as well from the floor as I can remember. Evidently Phil Greene’s confidence is contagious. Personally I find Phil Greene’s confidence (and shot) suspect, having watched him clank shot after shot after shot off the rim for three years and unless he’s really turned the corner would hope that he’d save some of this confidence for January or February or dare I think it out loud, March. Because it’s December, and only fools get excited about college basketball in December … Regular readers are aware that I slam Lavin pretty regularly as a self-serving self-aggrandizing chowderhead. But that doesn’t mean I’m not fair-minded. When I see someone do something well, I’m happy to give them credit, no matter how repulsive they are as human beings. One thing Lavin has been doing an amazing job at this year is coaching his team’s free throw defense. Fairleigh Dickinson was yesterday 10 for 21 from the foul line, which continues a streak during which Saint John’s has held opponents well below normal: on the season SJU opponents are shooting 60 percent (89 for 146); Division One opponents are shooting 57 percent (73 for 126); and high major programs 55 percent (34 of 61). To put that in perspective, I shot 25 foul shots last night after I finished plowing the driveway and hit 16 and despite the cold I was still pretty faced.

PLAYERS: Harrison had 26 points and passed David Russell on the all times scoring list. I tried googling to figure out who’s next on the list but I couldn’t find it, because SJU’s on line media sucks. I think it’s probably Zendon but don’t quote me …Phil Greene had four assists, doubling his season total … Obekpa had a double double and nearly a triple double …Jamal Branch played perhaps the least productive 28 minutes that have been played in a college basketball game this year: 2 points, no assists, 1 rebound, two turnovers. Meanwhile Rysheed Jordan – who’s no longer the starting point guard – played 24 minutes: 8 points, 5 assists, 2 rebounds, 2 turnovers. I try not to get too Area 51 about this stuff, but question: is it possible that Lavin is purposefully attempting to diminish Jordan’s chances of playing professional basketball next year? And the answer of course is yes, it’s possible: We know that Lavin is a vapid narcissist who has in the past put his own interest above those of his players. He refuses to let Jordan speak to the media: the clear implication is that Jordan is either inarticulate or immature or both. He’s started three players over Jordan this year, including a walk on, the implication being that Jordan is not very good at basketball. And now Jordan, once a prize recruit, is losing minutes to Jamal Branch, who brings absolutely nothing to the table. Something is rotten in Denmark. … Dom Pointer committed his first technical – well, it was the first one that was called – and fouled out … Christian Jones played two minutes. His stat line: 0,0,0,0,0,0 … Balamou played 9 minutes and had a career high two rebounds … Lavin left in his starters – three of whom played more than 35 minutes – until the final minute, so the three walk-ons – including two former starters themselves – played only 5 minutes between them. In a 22 point victory. In which Saint John’s was giving 18.5.

NOTES: Before the game I watched Lavin’s appearance on the hilariously named “We Need To Talk,” which despite its resemblance to an SCTV summer replacement show hosted by Edith Prickley is an actual all-women’s talk show on the CBS Sports Network. Except for some creepy flirtation between Lavin and one of the hosts that made my skin crawl it was not nearly as awful as I hoped. Because it was a televised event and he was representing the university that pays him two million dollars a year, Lavin wore his formal black sweat suit, through which his nipples were clearly and unfortunately visible …. Fairleigh Dickinson is named for Fairleigh Dickinson, co-founder of the Becton Dickinson, a Fortune 500 medical supply company. Dickinson designed and patented the disposable syringe, and as such is responsible not only for much of the world’s heroin problem but AIDS as well: as the saying goes, behind every fortune is a great crime. Notorious graduates include former Yankee Ron Bloomberg, baseball’s first designated hitter; pretentious gasbag Peggy Noonan; and former Virginia Tech coach Seth Greenburg, who played point guard at FD for Al Lobalbo, long-time assistant to Lou Carnesecca.

Excuses, Excuses

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According to Steve Lavin’s Twitter feed, “certain games on your schedule have more significance and are more meaningful because of history between programs.” Leaving aside Lavin’s penchant for saying everything twice and repeating himself, what Lavin was really saying about Saturday’s game is that Syracuse is to Saint John’s as Saint John’s is to Niagara: a game circled on the calendar where a win means that for at least one day the program can point to something it’s accomplished, as opposed to the shit sandwich the rest of the season comprises. That’s if you win anyway. If you lose you spout some incomprehensible twaddle about “focusing on the path to incremental progress … to enhance the percentages or probabilities of playing our best basketball,” which jambalaya of idiocies is an actual Steve Lavin quote that I didn’t even make up. Which is to say that I know that lots of Saint John’s fans loathe Syracuse and are this morning giddy at having displaced them as New York City’s team, if only for a day. Personally I don’t feel that way. Probably I used to hate Syracuse – back when I felt things other than glee at other people’s failure and disappointment anyway – but not anymore. And as far as revenge games I’m more looking forward to spanking Tulane later this month for having bounced Louie out of the first round of the NCAA tournament for the last time in 1992. Talk about your dish best eaten cold. Anyway, clearly Lavin’s sentiment is shared by Syracuse, whose performance in Saint John’s 69-57 win at the Carrier Dome suggests that they viewed this game as merely an interregnum between the meaningful ones on its schedule. Because not only were they awful, but they were blasé about it. Saint John’s is a cupcake they expected to devour, much as they had for 15 years, but when their dessert fought back they just sort of loosed their belts, rolled over and went to sleep. Which is not to take anything away from Saint John’s, because the cupcake had several opportunities to crumble and did not. As I said last time, this team reminds me of the 2011 group: they’re at a point at which they don’t really need a coach, which is just as well, because they don’t have one … By the numbers both teams were mediocre. The difference was in free throw and three point shooting, where SJU dominated: Syracuse shot 3 for 22 from 3 and missed 10 free throws. Everything else was about even. Perhaps the most interesting number is minutes: 4 starters on Syracuse played more than 37 and three of those 40, and 5 players on Saint John’s played more than 30 …. Other than not starting his best five players, using up his timeouts in 32 minutes and wearing a suit over sweat clothes like a mentally ill homeless person sleeping on a heating grate, Lavin didn’t do anything particularly stupid. And in fact by using up all his time outs at the 12 minute mark of the second half Lavin might have actually helped his team, as they no longer had to listen to him babble during time outs or decipher the hieroglyphics he scribbles on his whiteboard. Look at it this way: in the first 32 minutes, with the benefit of Steve Lavin’s input, Saint John’s played Syracuse even. Without any input from Steve Lavin over the next eight Saint John’s outscored Syracuse 18 to 6.

PLAYERS: Phil Greene was on his way to a disastrous  2 for 12 7 point Elijah Ingram performance before hitting three 3s and scoring 11 point of his 18 points in three minutes. No one gets killed more than Greene on these boards and for good reason, but better king for a day than schmuck for a lifetime … Harrison kept them in it early and finished with 24, including a banked three he took from the Syracuse emblem at midcourt. Dove out of bounds to rescue an errant Syracuse pass which led to Greene’s first three in the game ending run … Obekpants ® had only one FG but 16 rebounds, many of those in traffic and with authority. He last night debuted his version of the Dikembe Mutumbo finger wag, which evidently he has added to his repertoire of annoying and childish on court affectations. Lavin this week compared Obekpa to Bill Russell based upon similarities in the length of their shorts, which is like comparing Lena Dunham to Kate Beckinsale because they both sit down to pee. That’s if Kate Beckinsale does anything so mundane as micturate obviously … Jordan came off the bench once again. Was this a teaching moment? Did Lavin have a premonition? Did he read the chicken bones in his cacciatore? I don’t even care anymore. Jordan played well enough except for a 5 minute stretch in the second half when he turned the ball over 11 times in a row and committed SJU’s first called flagrant foul of the year … Speaking of flagrant fouls, Pointer once again nearly double doubled .. starting point guard Jamal Branch reverted to his normal non-Niagara self: 2 points and 1 rebound in 15 minutes … former starter Myles Stewart played only briefly at the end of the first half and Jasilionus II committed a foul in four minutes.

NOTES: The game was joined in progress, which is always annoying. Also annoying was colorman Shane Battier, who Mrs. Fun described as “that guy with the things on his head” and “the one who was always flopping.” Right on both counts. I was unaware that Battier had retired and joined the pantheon of suck that comprises DeWk’s legion of basketball commentators: Quinn Snyder, Mike Gminski, Bucky Waters, Bob Wetzel, Jim Spanarkle, Alaa Abdulwhatever, Jay “Look Out for that Tree!” Williams, and the loathsome and oleaginous Jay Bilas. Ironically, the only school that has done more damage to sports journalism is Syracuse, whose graduates include appalling mediocrities like Sean McDonough, Len Berman and Dick Stockton; transvestite serial biter Marv Albert; and tortured dwarf Bob Costas … the SJU SU game was part of the weeklong Jimmy V Coaches with Cancer celebration, cancer being a disease which both Boeheim and Lavin have survived. Boeheim was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2001. The cancer was treated surgically during the season, causing Boeheim to miss three games – that’s right, three – of the 25 Syracuse won that year in reaching the second round of the NCAA tournament. Two years later, having recruited Carmelo Anthony in the interim Syracuse won the national championship. Speaking of tumorectomies, 2003 was also the year Steve Lavin was removed as head coach at UCLA … Before last night the last time SJU won a game at the Carrier Dome was January 27, 1999. To bring some perspective to that, the US House of Representatives on that day refused to dismiss articles of impeachment against then president Clinton for lying about whether or not he had masturbated on the fat girl. In the interim, the twin towers were attacked, the space shuttle Columbia exploded, Hurricane Katrina drowned New Orleans and Sandy Brooklyn, Columbine High School students were massacred, the US invaded Afghanistan and Iraq, the Millennium bug nearly destroyed civilization as we know it, and the US elected its first black president, who among his other accomplishments slowed the rise of the ocean and healed the planet … Among others things January 27 was the date Primo Levi was liberated from Auschwitz by the Russians. Born on January 27: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart; the pedophile Lewis Carroll; Chipmunks creator David Seville; and the delightful Donna Reed. Those who died on January 27th include Thomas Crapper, inventor of the flush toilet; Andre the Giant, with whom I had the honor of getting faced at a Howard Johnson off the Thruway circa 1985; JD Salinger; and the repulsive Howard Zinn, a Stalinist and likely communist agent whose People’s History of the United States – described by one reviewer as “a deranged fairy tale” – comprises part of the core curriculum in most New York high schools … I am forced here to admit that I wrote this last bit yesterday afternoon, based on the assumption that Saint John’s would lose. Their unlikely victory leaves me without the unhappy ending I had envisioned. Had history repeated itself that would not be an issue, but it didn’t, so it is.

Niagara Falls

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To no one’s surprise Saint John’s beat Niagara at Alumni Hall Tuesday night 70-57. Unless Norm Roberts is coaching – or Louie – that’s what usually happens: SJU has beaten NU 71 out of 99 times going back to the Woodrow Wilson administration. Coming off a close loss to a highly ranked opponent and with a showdown with an instate rival looming a different coach might have used the in-between cupcake game to work out some wrinkles in the zone offense or full court press. Not Steve Lavin though: he’s too smrat ® for that. What Steve Lavin did instead was break out a new rotation, benching his most talented player and starting a walk-on. Except as a reminder of what a numbskull Lavin is it didn’t matter much – Niagara is small and young and couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn in the first half, during which SJ built a 10 point lead. As is their wont SJ then coasted on defense and chucked up a bunch of threes on offense and let Niagara back in it, to the extent that they pulled within one halfway through the second. Of course the outcome was never in doubt and when Lavin put his starters back in – well, not his starters, but his best 5 players – they put Niagara away, although not by enough to reward the suckers who laid 19. (Meanwhile out on the west coast Seton Hall’s freshmen were putting a 30 point beat down on Mount Saint Mary, much as their hungry coach Kevin Willard has put a beat down on Lavin on the recruiting trail. Saint John’s opens the BE season versus SH at the end of the month and speaking of beatdowns I don’t see much good coming out of that) …. SJU shot 50 percent from the field and 40 percent from three, although much of the credit for that goes to newly minted starter slash walk-on Miles Stewart. They failed to outrebound Niagara – Steve Lavin says rebounds are overrated so that’s not a problem – but the reversion to 60 percent free throw percentage might be, unless Lavin determines that FT shooting is not important either, in which case never mind … Other than his incongruous rotation (obviously a big other than) Lavin didn’t do anything particularly boneheaded, but that’s probably only because he didn’t do much of anything. In fact, if he hadn’t made an ostentatious display of subbing out offense for defense up by 12 points with 2 minutes left – and no doubt the rubes were all impressed – you might not have known he was there at all. We can only hope. On the bright side, having grown tired of being relentlessly mocked for dressing in layers like an insane homeless person, Lavin wore a shirt with a collar. Credit Morty Seinfeld.

PLAYERS: Harrison scored the 1700th point of his illustrious career with three minutes left to go in the first half and finished with 16 points and 9 rebounds. He should pass the great Glen Williams on Saturday in Saint John’s loss to New York’s team … Regular readers will recall that I wondered earlier in the year what Lavin was planning to do to mess with his current bugbear Rysheed Jordan. Now we know: he’s going to bring him off the bench behind a walk-on, an event foreshadowed a game or two ago when Jordan came off the bench in the second half behind Felix Balamou. If I had an angel on my shoulder it might be whispering that this is a motivational tool designed to improve Jordan’s game and life prospects; but all I have is a devil, and he says Lavin is just messing with the kid’s head, probably for spite following their personal issues last year and possibly even to convince him to stay in school next year, when the cupboard will be bare. Lavin’s toadies will scoff, just like they did this week after Jim Boeheim made comments they claimed were designed to convince Chris McCullogh that he was not ready to play professional basketball … Jamal Branch finally got the start his fans have been clamoring for and played well enough. No one’s killed him more than me, and I’m happy to admit this morning that he demonstrated last night that he could easily be an honorable mention third team player in the MAAC if he were able to sustain last night’s level of play over a full year and refrain from throwing lob passes into the bleachers and committing fouls 75 feet from the basket as he did again last night … Pointer was the other starter to come off the bench, which is what he should have been doing for three years … Miles Stewart – who Lavin compared in pregame interviews to NBA Hall of Famer Reggie Theus – played creditably enough, hitting half his threes, but brought little to the table other than that. When not babbling about Jordan the devil suggested that Lavin is lavishing attention on Stewart because Stewart constitutes the fruits of entire wasted recruiting year and Lavin wants everyone to think he recruited like that on purpose… Chris Obekpa seems to have lost a bit of the fire he showed when pushing around Division 2 teams earlier in the season. Seven points, 5 rebound and three blocks isn’t going to get him into the NBA, although between his hairdo and his shorts – astute viewers will have noted that the pair he wore yesterday were hemmed rather than rolled up – maybe he has his sights set on the WNBA. When he wasn’t grinning inappropriately he elbowed one guy in the face, punched another guy in the groin, and missed a dunk …. Coming off the best game of his career Phil Greene was suddenly replaced in Lavin’s affection by a walk on. I felt sorry for him until late in the second half when he attempted to take his man off the dribble by doing a spin move in the lane and fell over when his legs got tangled up, then I just started laughing … Jessica Albagovic got the biggest cheer of the night when he hit his first three of the year. He is on SJ fan boards this morning drawing comparisons to our last great shooters, Sergio Lyuk, Fred Lyson, and Heath Orvis … Speaking of knowledgeable fans, Christian Jones provided a welcome replacement for selfish cancer Jakarr Sampson for 3 minutes and the rest of the time sat on the bench.

NOTES: I haven’t checked Fox Sports One this morning: has Tarik Turner shut up yet? … Old time fans will recall that in 84-85 final four season Niagara was the only team that SJU lost to other than Georgetown. That game did not really count though as starting point guard Mike Moses did not play and the then #4 then Redmen were forced to start unreliable freshman PG Mark Jackson, whose 3 TOs in the last 2 minutes sealed the loss. “You’ve got to give Niagara all the credit,” Lou Carnesecca was quoted as saying in the NY Times. “ They played a marvelous game.” …. I did a bit of googling in search of something to say about Niagara University to pad this out a bit but there’s really nothing. Other than NBA great Calvin Murphy and Joe McCarthy – not the patriotic American senator who exposed the communist infiltration of the Roosevelt administration, the other one – there doesn’t seem to be an illustrious graduate in the bunch. Niagara Falls of course looms large in the American psyche as a cultural artifact, what with people consummating their marriages there and lunatics going over the falls in barrels and who can forget Joseph Cotton strangling the shit out of Marilyn Monroe and her pink sweater in the tunnels beneath the falls in eponymous 1953 film noire. The Falls also figure prominently in a vaudeville sketch performed by inter alia Lucille Ball, Abbot and Costello, and the Three Stooges in which its invocation (Niagara Falls … slowly I turned … step by step … inch by inch) turns a storyteller into a homicidal maniac. This does not sound particularly funny in theory, but is hilarious in practice. The sketch also formed the basis of the tune Native Love, the nadir of the career of Harris Milstead, aka Divine, which was otherwise marked by illustrious triumphs like Lust in the Dust and Pink Flamingos. If Milstead had been from Buffalo that would have tied this all up nicely but he was from Baltimore.

 

Road to Utopia

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I don’t doubt that the moral victory brigade is out this morning in force on various Saint John’s fan forums and perhaps not without reason: despite being undermanned, undersized and playing without their only big man for much of the second half, SJU overcame a 6 minute scoring drought and a 15 point deficit and were at the end only a couple of boneheaded plays away from stealing a victory against the 10th ranked team in the country. On the other hand, they didn’t and they lost, and so Saint John’s is now oh for one in games that might matter on selection Sunday, and by the end of next week will likely be oh and two after they lose to New York’s team at the Carrier Dome and with not a lot of chances to make it up afterwards. After five games this group reminds me of the 2011 team, hard-nosed players whose resilience trumps Lavin’s incompetence and whose experience plays to his only strength: cheerleading. With Chris Obekpa on the floor they can keep it respectable with every second-rate program in the country. Without him they probably can’t keep it respectable with anyone …. By the numbers SJU was once again abysmal: they shot 30 percent from the floor, 30 percent from three, 60 percent from the free throw line, and turned it over 14 times. Lest that were not enough, three of the wonder five fouled out: the only starter not in foul trouble was Phil Greene, who doesn’t even pretend to guard his man anymore. If Gonzaga had not been equally awful – they missed 10 threes and 10 FTs – it would not have been as close as it was. For their part Gonzaga looked surprised by SJU quickness and athleticism early and never seemed to get on track, assuming they have one. I don’t watch enough college BB anymore to have an informed opinion, but I wasn’t impressed. Pangos showed flashes of being a mediocre white guard and other than Sabonis their big men were slightly less agile than golems. If this is the tenth best team in the country maybe Saint John’s can make the tournament … Recognizing the significance of the game, Lavin wore his lucky red sweat suit under what is apparently the only suit he owns. The longsuffering Mrs. Fun opined that he looked like a mental patient and said that she’d change subway cars if someone entered hers done up like that. Maybe it’s because I know what a buffoon he is but Lavin does not seem to me dangerous and instead looks to be wearing something that Morty Seinfeld might to judge a shuffleboard tournament at Del Boca Vista. The good news is that between his suits and Obekpa’s pants I might not have to hear about Lavin’s prostate again unless the unthinkable happens and we lose three in a row … Once again the officiating was awful. The main culprit was Pat Driscoll, who through dint of this week’s hard work has cracked the FunList of the top 3 worst referees in college basketball, replacing drunkard emeritus Tim Higgins. Among his other gaffes Driscoll T’ed up a GU player for pulling his hand out of Dom Pointer’s grasp and in a crucial situation late awarded the ball to Gonzaga despite it having bounced off the GU players leg 5 feet from Driscoll’s face; I can only conclude that he momentarily thought he was watching a soccer game and awarded the ball to the player closest to it. The call was reversed after video review, which frankly I didn’t even know they had in college basketball, wtf. Anyway, this level of incompetence bodes well for his seeming goal of scaling the mountain of suck that is Jim Burr. Driscoll is incidentally a longtime municipal employee in Syracuse, where he currently earns $ 110,000 per year as director of “Say Yes to Education,” which sounds like a shit salad of three appalling things: sociology, pedagogy and civil service.

PLAYERS: Phil Greene came out shooting and continued shooting and for a refreshing change half of them went in, including his first three of the year. Congratulations Phil … Dom Pointer was once again a human wrecking ball and ended with another near double double. Got away with his second flagrant foul of the year when he attempted to cripple Kevin Pangos with SJU down three late. Eventually his recklessness will come back to bite SJU in the ass. We can only hope it’s not at a critical point in the post season NIT semi finals … Harrison had an off night but managed 15 points and 5 rebounds … Jordan had 18 points but 9 turnovers to go with only one assist. Through his last two games he’s 13 for 23 from the FT line, which is not very good … Last year Chris Obekpa regularly got punked by bigger stronger front lines. Against Gonzaga he cleverly fouled out before that could happen. He committed three fouls in six minutes between the end of the first half and the beginning of the second and fouled out three minutes after Lavin put him back in, finishing with one point and 4 rebounds in 20 minutes …. Those who have been clamoring for Jamal Branch to play more got what they wished for: zero points in 21 minutes … walk on Miles Stewart logged more minutes, points and rebounds than Christian Jones, erstwhile replacement for Jakarr Sampson.  I’ve been trying to figure out who Jones reminds me of and it turns out it’s Eric King, which is a shame for Christian Jones.

NOTES: Gonzaga is the program SJU pretends to be: a small Catholic college that competes in Division One basketball on a national level. This was the fifth meeting between the two schools. In 2000 Saint John’s, a 2 seed and ranked ninth in the country, suffered a 82-76 first round NCAA tournament loss . In 2001 Saint John’s lost 68-58 in the Alaska Shootout. In 2011 Saint John’s, ranked #18 in the country, lost in the NCAA tournament to unranked Gonzaga 86-71. On the positive side of the ledger Saint John’s defeated Gonzaga 97-69, in 1960, which is only 60 years ago, so suck it Zags … Gonzaga alumni include Bing Crosby, who despite his wholesome image was an abusive mobbed up alcoholic degenerate gambler. When not beating the shit out of various Mrs. Crosbys he cheated on them with a bevy of Hollywood beauties, including Ingrid Bergman, Grace Kelly, Ingrid Stevens and the delectable Yvonne Craig, whose Batgirl costume was responsible for a severe bout of dehydration I suffered in my childhood. An excellent father, Crosby sired 5 children, only 40 percent of whom blew their brains out. There’s a rumor floating around the internets that Bing had himself fixed towards the end of his life, allegedly to keep his voice up to snuff but that the castration was actually his way of preventing sexual urges he had for men, which as a good Jesuit he found, er, distasteful. He needn’t have been so worried: Gonzaga is named for Aloysius Gonzaga, the patron saint of plague and AIDS victims … Crosby made with Bob Hope a series of seven Road picture – Road to Bali, Road to Singapore, and so on – in which the two played bumbling conmen whose wacky schemes got them into hot water from which they extricated themselves through zany hijinks. (An eighth was planned but Crosby died while the Road to the Fountain of Youth was in preproduction. Lulz.) Somewhere in my files is a film treatment for Road to Golgotha, in which the two scheme to defraud a Jerusalem Pharisee; when the plan backfires they end up being crucified on either side of the baby Jesus on Good Friday, Crosby smoking his trademark pipe and Hope wisecracking to the camera. Dorothy Lamour played the prostitute Mary Magdalene. In the Crosby Hope versions only Crosby got the girl. In mine, everyone did.

Gopher Broke

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Saint John’s fans usually don’t have a lot to be thankful for but this year is different: we can be thankful for Elliot Eliason, the Minnesota forward whose atrocious performance – he threw an outlet pass to Dom Pointer, who subsequently posterized him, and one; committed a stupid foul and got T’d up for it; and fouled Harrison on a three late – provided the margin of victory that will afford SJU the opportunity to be humiliated by Gonzaga Friday night in the NIT championship game. I had this game down as a loss – to be fair I had not seen Minnesota and so did not know how awful they are – with a win in the consolation game and so coming out of this weekend we are about right where I figured: on the road to the NIT. The players spent much of the week talking about how they had to treat this as an NCAA tournament game – not that they’d recognize one – so it was nice to see that they didn’t come out as flat as usual. And in fact it was Minnesota that started slowly, throwing the ball out of bounds and bouncing the ball off their feet and missing everything insight, at least until freshman Nate Mason replaced starting point guard Andre Hollins, after which things quickly turned to shit for Saint John’s on the way to a 10 point half time deficit. Now, fluids have run down Rick Pitino’s leg that know more about basketball than Steve Lavin, so one would think that a fertilized zygote like Rick Junior would be at a huge theoretical advantage, but that was not the case in the second half Wednesday: in a Lavinesque move MiniPitini sat Mason for most of the second half, allowing Saint John’s to hang around until a humiliating and protracted scoring drought – MU scored only 10 points in the last 12 minutes – ended it. Some of the credit for that drought probably goes to the Saint John’s defense, but not as much as certain delusional Saint John’s fans think … The stats were per usual: Saint John’s was mediocre from the field (40 %) and once again awful from 3 – they’re now shooting 22 percent for the year. They missed 15 free throws, managed 9 assists on only 23 made baskets, and turned the ball over 18 times. Fortunately Minnesota out-sucked them, shooting 35 percent from the floor turning the ball over 21 times. What was somewhat surprising was that SJ outrebounded MU 51 – 39. I say surprising because MU is huge across the front line, but their biggest player Mo Walker (an Adonis clone at 6’10 250) is the softest Midwest big man since Bob’s Big Boy: he made Kyle Cuffe look like Maurice Lucas … For his part Lavin did not do anything terribly stupid (other than once again wearing a sport coat over a sweat suit – it’s a shame that John Wooden, who probably put on a tie to go take a shit, failed to impart his fashion sense to his alleged protégé) and for the most part confined himself to jumping up and down on the sidelines pumping his fist. Sure, he burned some pointless time outs late – once after a Harrison field goal capped an 11-0 SJU run and once with 30 seconds to go up 8, immediately after which Chris Obekpa committed a foul to stop the clock and give MU one last gasp – but for Lavin reining in his stupid is as important a strategic device as backdoor screens were to Pete Carill so all in all this was a successful outing … I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the referees, who were atrocious. They called the first 35 minutes like a rugby scrum and the last 5 minutes like a badminton match, 40 personal fouls in all; the primary beneficiary was once again SJU, who were awarded 37 free throws to Minnesota’s 16. Despite SJU appalling foul shooting – they missed as many FTs as Minnesota took – the free throw differential once again accounted for the margin of victory. That’s the fourth time this season out of four for those of you scoring at home

PLAYERS: Harrison – who Lavin threw under the bus during his halftime interview – had 19 point and 9 rebounds and is averaging a double double for the year. Colormoron Dan Dakich noted that if Harrison “played with Chris Obekpa’s passion he could play in the NBA.” Dakich also claimed that “if everyone had Obekpa’s desire this team could compete for a national championship.” Dakich also spent an inordinate amount of time focused on the Obekpants ®, not that there’s anything wrong with that. Dakich’s mancrush finished with near a double double but was nowhere near the force that he’d been against Division 2 opponents: most of his points came from the FT line and he managed only three blocks … Rysheed Jordan is 18 points and 7 rebounds closer to playing professional basketball … Dumb Pointer – I can’t believe it took me three years to think of that – had 11 rebounds, 5 steals, and 8 points … Phil Greene had his usual 9 points on his usual sub 500 from the floor game. He did though credit where due hit a couple of big shots in the second half. Had a remarkable zero assists in 35 minutes and remains oh for 2014 from three … Jamal Branch played 12 pointless minutes. In the first half he threw a behind the back pass into traffic that was so stupid that even an imbecile like Dan Dakich was able to recognize it as “idiotic” and in the second did a spin move into the lane on a one on five fast break only to bounce off two Minnesota players who were standing motionless under the basket. He’s awful … Another fine game by Chris “Addition by Subtraction” Jones, who had two points and 1 rebound in 9 minutes. On the bright side he still remains the only Johnnie to attempt to take a charge this year. Jakarr who? … Of the rest only Balalou played and only 3 minutes. Note that five players played 88 percent of the available minutes. On the one hand it’s refreshing that Lavin has figured out who his best five players are – last year it took him until March to work that out – but on the other the new Wonder Five are but a sprained ankle away from disaster. Evidently Lavin realizes that after 4 years of failure and ineptitude he risks being exposed as a fraud should he fail to make the tournament this year and so is going to ride his best horses and if they drop beneath him on his way to glory so be it

NOTES: Sideline reporter John Goodman noted that MU guard Daquein McNeil was suspended after an incident in which he’d “allegedly had it with his 28 year old girlfriend.” I don’t think that’s what he meant to say – I listened to it three times to make sure – but that’s what he said, a Freudian slip which leads me to suggest to Mrs. Goodman that she makes sure John’s dinner is on the table tonight when he gets home, and hot if she knows what’s good for her … Minnesota is coached by little Ricky Pitino, who as far as I have been able to determine through cursory internet research was not spawned as the result of his repulsive father’s congress with a stranger in a crowded restaurant in front of members of his coaching staff but through normal marital relations with Mrs. Pitino. Former Gopher coaches include Bill Fitch, Bill Musselman, Clem Haskins and Tubby Smith. Musselman’s tenure was marked by a near fatal on court brawl in which NYC’s own Ron Behagen nearly beat an Ohio State player to death and Haskins by an academic scandal that vacated a run to the Final Four. Former gophers include HOFers Lou Hudson and Kevin McHale, Dave Winfield, Jim Brewer, Mychal Thompson, Flip Saunders, Voshon Lenard, former Knicks Trent Tucker and Ray Williams, and the great Archie Clark, inventor of the cross-over dribble …. As for Minnesota itself, it’s pretty messed up, much of this probably due to its close proximity to Canada, the worst country in the world. The state motto is (predictably) French and their politicians comprise a motley conga line of professional wrestlers, failed comedians, career criminals and communist sympathizers. Minnesota is the site of the largest execution in US history – 38 likely innocent Sioux were hung in the aftermath of the Dakota War of 1862 – and its most important cultural artifact is either a shopping center – the Mall of America – or a cartoon – Rocky and Bullwinkle, which spawned Cracked Fairy Tales, Dudley Do-Right, Peabody’s Improbable History and the World of Commander McBragg … Rocky and Bullwinkle was narrated by William Conrad, of Cannon and Jake and the Fat Man fame. Oddly, Conrad was great friends with polymath Anthony Burgess, who died 10 years ago this week at his home in Saint John’s Wood, London. For the illiterates in the audience, and let’s face it that would be most of you, Burgess is probably best known for having written A Clockwork Orange, which is not his worst book, but is close to it … Today is of course Thanksgiving, the day on which Americans commemorate the transfer of smallpox infected blankets to the Native American race traitor Sasquatch, a member of the Wambaugh tribe who helped the Pilgrims survive their first winter in Plymouth in exchange for 40 pieces of silver and a mule. Although we think of Thanksgiving as a uniquely American holiday involving turkey and crappy Detroit Lions football it is in fact a harvest festival celebrated in various countries around the world, including Canada, although in the great white north it is instead of Thanksgiving Day called “Thanksgiving, Eh?” and commemorates the fact that being Canadian they really having nothing to be grateful for.

The Triumph of the Will

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Saint John’s squeaked by the LIU Blackbirds Wednesday night at Carnesecca Arena 66-53. If they’d beaten them the way a good team beats their preseason opponents – DooK is averaging over 100 points per games while nearly doubling their opponents score – I wouldn’t have had to sit here for 10 minutes thinking up the worst opening line in the history of sports commentary, and that includes everything written by tortured dwarf Mike Lupica. I could have dashed off some nonsense about the 9 and 20 blackbirds baked in a pie and we could have all gotten on with our days. But this is not a good basketball team. Sure there were some positives. The ball movement is encouraging, when they move the ball, which isn’t often: there are in a game fewer offensive sets with crisp passing than there are breaks where a SJ guard takes the ball to the hoop one on four. But it’s there all the same, sometimes. Also encouraging is the free throw shooting, which was once again exemplary. And at times the defense can be stifling, but I’m going to wait until Dom Pointer blocks seven shots by Rakim Christmas before I get too excited, rather than shutting down Sven Gunderson of the Reykjavik High School Lutefisk, Iceland’s player of the year. The bad news is that when the defense is not stifling – which it’s not when Obekpa’s not in the game – it’s pretty atrocious, a fact the Lavin press is designed to obscure. Ask yourself: how much of Chris Obekpa’s considerable defensive prowess is the result of the team’s poor exterior defense? If defenders weren’t continually blowing their assignments there wouldn’t be so many shots at the rim for Obekpa to block, would there. Pointer gets a pass because he lets his man go by intentionally because he wants to block the shot from behind and get on Sportscenter, but the rest of them are either gambling for steals or failing to rotate or blowing their assignments. Except Phil Greene obviously, he couldn’t guard himself …. The stat line was per usual. Saint John’s shot under 50 percent from the field, 10 percent from 3 – the second time this year when the 4-guard offense has shot under 15 percent from 3, gee, I wonder if anyone’s going to zone us – were outrebounded (46-40), and out assisted (13-7). If it were not for LIU’s poor shooting – which likely was more the result of first game jitters from nine underclassmen than any sort of shutting down by SJ’s nine upperclassmen – things might have been different. And of course SJU was once again the beneficiary of generous officiating: in all three games they’ve made 10 more FTs than their opponents and in two of those those 10 points were the margin of victory. One might wonder – if one were in the habit of calling oneself one – if that discrepancy will continue once they play real opponents. One suspects not … Something of a strange rotation by Lavin – resplendent in a Jim Rockford sportcoat over a sweatsuit top – although that’s not really news. Lavin has 4 serviceable guards, but seems intent on mixing two other guards into the rotation, at the expense of Christian Jones and Jasilionus II, both of which big men would seemingly be of value as the season progresses. It seems that Lavin, having examined his ill-constructed roster and determined that he will have no choice but to play small has decided that an even better idea would be to play smaller. The cynic in me whispers that Lavin is doing this so that the fact that he’s been reduced to fielding a team of midgets looks like a conscious decision, rather than the result of his incompetence as a recruiter and manager of personnel.

PLAYERS: Pointer had the same sort of impressive game he usually has against inferior competition, before disappearing against Division 1 teams. The next time he has a game like this against a good team will be the first time … Rysheed Jordan allegedly missed a defensive assignment on a three a couple of minutes into the game and sat for the next 10 minutes. Despite several subsequent LIU three pointers no one else sat. Then Jordan was benched to start the second half in favor of fun-fave Felix Balamou. Perhaps this was just some more there’s more important things than winning light a fire under his ass grandstanding from our resident Svengali, but the conspiracy theorist in me wonders what sort of shenanigans are up the great and powerful sleeve in regards to Lavin’s most talented player. Speaking of Jordan, he managed 15 points, 13 of those in the second half … Obekpa had 10 rebounds and 8 blocks but was 1 for 7 from the floor. (Is it my imagination or are shooters shying away from his body for fear of contacting his member, which is in danger of slipping out the bottom of his taped up shorts?) He yesterday at least reverted to the weird fall away sideways jump shot he regularly displayed last year … For anyone else 14 points and 7 rebounds sounds like a good night but it is less than half of what Harrison put up against Franklin Pierce … Phil Greene is not quite oh for November, but he’s in Avery Patterson territory. He will have to get his shooting percentage out of the teens for this team to have any chance for a successful run in the NIT … Our only true PG Jamal Branch had no assists in 25 minutes … “Good thing selfish cancer Jakarr Sampson is starting for the 76ers, that really opened up 2 minutes a game for Chris Addition By Subtraction Jones” Fun said. “Fun really nailed that analysis” Fun added … Miles Stewart scored his first collegiate bucket … Balamou looks to be shaking the rust off

NOTES: Regular readers (hi Mom!) (just kidding, she’s dead) (thank god) will notice changes to BEB. Essentially I got tired of maintaining the wonky dB to the standards expected by its host and so have taken it off line in favor of this format: it’s called a blog, which I’m led to believe is the next big thing. And which, let’s face it, makes a great deal of sense, as nobody posted here anymore and I don’t care much about the opinions of those who did anyway. The only loss is the archives, which contain a wealth of witticisms, mostly by me; I copied a lot of them off beforehand because that’s gold jerry, gold. The demise of the old BEB is a little ironic, because I had recently been considering making the entire archive publicly available – by public archive I mean the hidden forums where the moderators discussed misbehavior on the board, much of it mine. You’d not believe the caterwauling that went on. I didn’t have much use for moderators then and still don’t and if you don’t believe that 70 years ago small-minded petty clerks like Tom in Simsbury would be shoving you into cattle cars for a one way trip to Birkenau, well, you’re probably a democrat and wouldn’t recognize a fascist if the entire Wehrmacht goose-stepped up your ass to film a Leni Riefenstahl bioepic in your colon … Regular readers are also aware that I skipped the FP game and I appreciate your emails asking about the website’s well-being. I didn’t have anything of import to say about Franklin Pierce anyway, so you didn’t miss much. There was a bit of a drunken ramble about Franklin Pierce dying of cirrhosis and another paragraph about the year I spent clerking in Concord where I lived on the third floor of a haunted pink Victorian inhabited only by myself and a woman named Helen who’d just been released from 40 years confinement in a mental hospital and who had the unfortunate habit of running out into the hall late at night and banging on my door yelling “I bet he’s jerking off in there,” which was all the more confounding because usually I was. Those are down the rabbit hole but I would remiss if I did not mention that the Pierce game saw the reemergence from the primordial slime of Jim Burr, the worst referee in the history of college basketball, whose every court appearance cheapens amateur athletics … Franklin Pierce are the Ravens and LIU the blackbirds, which motif leaves me an excuse to recycle this, which I wrote many years ago as part of a misbegotten attempt to stage a musical version of the works of Edgar Allen Pork. I think you’ll agree it still hold up.

 

Once upon a midnight snacking
While I dawdled,
meat-stuffs lacking
Over a many times reheated
platter of forgotten yolks
While I buttered,
bushed from boinking
Suddenly there came an oinking
Yes, a none too gentle oinking
“Oinking,” said I, “’tis a hoax”
“‘Tis some visitor” I muttered
“Oinking — surely ’tis a hoax
People and their little jokes”

So I sat, engrossed in guessing
Till at last I made the blessing
And employed some salad dressing
Hoping to improve the yolks

Presently my soul grew stronger
Hesitating then no longer
“Sir,” I said, “or Madam truly
Truly I approve of jokes
But the truth is I was eating
And so forceful was your bleating
And I’m peace and quiet needing
Lest on my eggs I’ll surely choke”

By and by I spied the lurker
Steady now — here comes the corker
Inside stepped a stately porker
S’truth — I nearly had a stroke
Not the least obeisance made he
Not a minute stopped or stayed he
But with mien of lord or lady
Plopped down on my plate of yolks
Picture that — his porcine pooper
planted on my plate of yolks
Perched — I nearly had a stroke
Quote the Bacon, “Th-th-that’s all folks”