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.