Category Archives: villanova

The End

RECAP: I did something today that I rarely do: stayed sober. Just kidding, I’m faced. I didn’t watch St John’s lose to Villanova by a million or whatever it ended up being in the second round of the BET at MSG Thursday afternoon all the way through to the bitter end. In fact, I didn’t watch all the way through the first half. Because I saw what was coming and just wasn’t in the mood. I have it DVR’ed and maybe I’ll get to it some lazy afternoon but given the choice between watching that and watching the Georgetown game again, I’m watching the Georgetown game again. Because that was fun. Not having watched it I can’t really comment but let me ask my readers one question: is it really possible that Villanova committed seven fucking fouls the entire game? That they played an entire half without committing a single foul, without a single stray hand grazing a shooter’s or a body meeting a body coming through the rye? Because that’s loaves and fishes territory right there; that’s the baby Jesus casting demons into swine. I realize that Jay Wright is a classy fashion icon who runs his championship basketball program the right way and without a whisper of scandal and everybody loves him – I don’t love him, I think he’s a fucking cunt – but has He really transmogrified into a living god right before our eyes like fucking Caligula? Seven personal fouls? Dick Vitale would call more fouls than that if he refereed a dook game and he only has one eye and besides which he’d be hard pressed to blow the whistle, what with Shrewshrensky’s cock and balls buried in his throat. I watched 15 minutes this afternoon and saw Bashir Ahmed get fouled seven times on one drive to the basket. Seven fouls in the entire game? Give me a fucking break … And fuck Georgetown too while we’re at it, but at least Wednesday night we finally got the satisfaction of seeing Chris Mullin bounce a John Thompson team out of a tournament, even if it was 30 years too late and in a play in game in the BET and the wrong John Thompson was coaching. There’s your silver lining right there: St John’s won its first BET game since 2011, when they beat Rutgers in a game they should have lost, in a game that was so poorly officiated that Jim Burr and that stupid drunk Tim Higgins – the two worst referees in the history of college basketball – whose routine incompetence was the stuff of legend – were suspended for being complete and utter shitbrains without the vaguest understanding of the rules of basketball. So there’s that: we’re off the BET schneid. Onward and upward … I know what you’re thinking, you’re thinking fun, what’s with all the angst, you’re usually so even tempered and fair minded, the season didn’t end as well as it might have but things could have been much worse, so why do you seem so angry. And the answer is I don’t know. Frankly I’m ecstatic that I don’t have to write any more of these stupid things, because I’m sick of it; and the end of the basketball season means that spring is in the air, which might not mean a lot to you pussies who live on Long Island but for manly men like me who live upstate and chop their own wood that’s a big fucking deal; and now that this stupid basketball season is over not only am I one season closer to the sweet relief that death will bring but I’m one year closer to St John’s possibly not sucking as much as they’ve sucked my entire adult life. So I don’t know. As the kid’s say, it is what it is.

 
PLAYERS: Seeing that this is the last recap of the year – and perhaps forever – rather than rehashing the box score I thought I’d hand out some season grades. These are on a true curve: someone gets an A and someone gets and F and most of them cluster around the mean.

Ponds A / Lovett A minus: really a toss up as to whether Ponds or Lovett gets the full A because there’s no significant difference between them statistically. The tipping point for me is Ponds’ age, because he’s a true freshman. And what a freshmen: as good as any I have ever seen at St John’s and that includes the current head coach, who might not have been quite as Mullinesque as he was had he had to play with these stiffs as opposed to David Russell, Billy Goodwin and Kevin Williams. But I wouldn’t argue with anyone who flipped them. They already comprise one of the more memorable back courts in Saint John’s history – joining Utley and Williams; Moses and Mullin; Harvey and Porter; Barkley and Bootsy; Hardy and Kennedy – and have a chance over the next year or two to be one of the more memorable back courts in college basketball. Because they can both handle and they can both shoot and they both have wonderful court instincts. If I were a praying man and thought that the baby Jesus cared about sports I’d pray for their health and well being. Rumors circulating on St John’s fan boards – where rumors circulate with more regularity and velocity than around the knitting circle at Del Boca Vista – have Lovett leaving after this year to play somewhere for money. That wouldn’t be the best thing that ever happened to the program but it’s not an insurmountable setback. And Lovett doesn’t look like someone who’s going to take a step forward, at least on the offensive end, where he’s pretty much fully formed, so to that extent he has no reason to return.

A lot of people have questioned the pair’s effort and especially their defensive effort or more precisely their lack thereof. One fan board genius went so far for example as to complain that despite his having led the Big East in steals – as a freshmen – Ponds was not as good a defender as Gary Payton. Note to that genius: almost no one was as good a defender as Gary Payton, who was perhaps the greatest two way guard in the history of organized basketball. Among the players who were not as good as former NBA defensive player of the year Gary Payton was a freshmen at the University of Oregon who coincidentally was also called Gary Payton. Ponds isn’t even as good a defender as Gene Lawrence, much less Shariff Fordham, who was about as lock down a defender as I can remember.

The fact is that few freshmen are good defenders, because those freshmen who receive high Division One scholarships are so far advanced beyond their high school counterparts that they don’t have to be be good or even adequate defenders to be successful; and even when they play against players who are as advanced as they are in all star games and the like noone cares if they play defense or not. The biggest thing that freshmen players have to learn is that they need to bring it every night – on both sides of the ball. That’s why continuity of personnel and a balanced roster are so important: because upperclassmen who presumably have already learned that lesson can reinforce that message by word and deed. That’s not to excuse their lapses – I have been recently accused of being a Mullin sycophant, although not by someone who knows what the word sycophant means – which are often and obvious. Rather it’s to offer an explanation as to why what you see happening on the court is happening. There’s an old saw of which musicians are fond: How do you get to Carnegie Hall? You practice, because musical greatness is 99 percent perspiration and one percent inspiration. Personally I don’t think that’s true, I think it’s about eighty twenty, but the point holds. The entire foundation of pedagogy is that students learn and improve through repetitive exposure to accumulated wisdom. Yes there are prodigies – like for example Mozart or Chris Mullin – who are launched from the womb with gifts from their creator, but the majority of the population that achieves excellence achieves it through hard work and experience. Beyond all the difficulties that leaving the nest includes, college freshmen have not had the opportunity for exposure to accumulated wisdom. We none of us had that opportunity when we were freshmen lo those many years ago. Which is why patience is in order, because if there was video of you doing homework in your dorm freshmen year, it wouldn’t be flattering.

Ahmed – B minus: certainly Ahmed has some shortcomings in his game but 13 and 6 is pretty solid production from a first year player or for that matter anyone. Assuming a normal progression if next year he has a couple more makes versus a couple fewer misses and has a few more assists and a few fewer turnovers, he’s a second or third team all BE player. There’s certainly precedent for second year improvement among JUCOs – James Scott, Dwight Hardy, and Justin Brownlee off the top of my head – although that’s not a guarantee of success. But the one thing you cannot fault BA for – and you can fault him for a bunch of things – is his effort: he often is the only player on the court who looks like it bothers him that his team is getting its brain kicked in when his team is getting its brain kicked in. And let me tell you one more thing that gnaws at me: the niggling [sic] suspicion that if he was a white kid from Palermo the Red and White crowd would already have started a Kickstarter campaign to build him a staute in front of Carnesecca Arena.

Owens – C plus: If he had even a little bit of an offensive game he’d be a solid B, but he doesn’t: his jump shot is haphazard, his handle is suspect and those other things he throws at the basket are risible. (My suggestion? Sky hook baby!) And considering that he doesn’t his other production (5 rebounds, 2 blocks) is underwhelming. He does bring it every night though, at least until he fouls out, which he does on the reg. And let us be frank: he needs food. Make this guy a sandwich. Give him a milk shake. If you see him on campus give him some of your french fries. If Olive Oyl was this skinny even Bluto wouldn’t want to fuck her and he spent his entire life on a ship surrounded by beguiling cabin boys.

Williams – C plus: If he were being graded versus expectations he’d have gotten an A plus, because no one expected anything from him and he played some big minutes to the extent that there are big minutes on a 13 win team. Good rebounder, solid defender, and a deft touch around the basket – he and Owens were the only players with shooting percentages > 50 percent. I don’t know anything about his eligibility but if he has any then I’d welcome him back despite the fact that he’s seemingly made of tissue paper.

Mussini – C: Probably deserved a C plus but I reduced his grade because I’m racists aginst Italians. In his last half dozen games or so he seem to have found his niche a bit – emphasis on a bit – as an offensive spark off the bench. No one will ever confuse him for Vinnie Barbarino Johnson but he is what he is. Still can’t guard anyone and is limited by his stature and his lack of athleticism but at least looks like he’s trying. Speaking of upperclassmen he will next year be a junior and to the extent that he has absorbed the atmosphere and the culture for that reason alone I hope he returns.

Yakwe – C: This might be generous considering how he played at the begnning of the year when he looked like a wasted scholarship but he seems to have recently turned a bit of a corner, even if its not evident in the box score. By which I mean that he has for the past month or so has been catching the ball and sometimes finishing, which is a welcome change from the beginning of the season when he spent most of his time fumbling the ball out of bounds. Not a bad defender, especially considering that he’s playing the five with a three’s body, but he needs to learn to rebound. One of the Jucos I didn’t mention earlier was Walter Berry; when you watch Walter Berry rebound in traffic you could superimpose a bubble over his head saying “This is mine.” I don’t mean to compare Yakwe to Berry – because that would be as stupid as comparing Shamorie Ponds to Gary Payton – but if with his athleticism Yakwe had Berry’s greed he’d be immeasurably better off. Yakwe is kind of behind the eight ball having not played basketball until relatively recently, but it’s hard to question those who question the effort of someone who can touch the basket with his nose who has won three jump balls in two years: either he doesn’t undertand the importanmce of jump balls or he doesn’t care about the outcome of the jump. Neither conclusion is flattering. Still, if he were a stock I’d be buying: he can only get better.

Ellison – C minus:  Malik Ellison is one of the dumbest players I’ve ever seen who’s had the privilege of donning a St John’s uniform and I’m old enough to have suffered through Kyle Cuffe and Donald Emmanuel. That’s the bad news. The good news is that I was thinking the other day about other dumb St John’s players (no I don’t think I’m wasting my life thanks for asking) and one of them sort of reminded me of Ellison: he was athletic and had good size and looked like he should have been better than he was and was clueless for three years: Dom Pointer. Yes, Pointer was more gifted physically than Ellison and was more highly regarded coming out of high school but the point is that they were both dumb as rocks and sometimes the light just goes on, no matter how dim the bulb. Like Missini he’s an upperclassmen and if my theory about upperclassmen holds his scholarship is better spent on him than on some dopey freshmen who’ll need two years to learn the lessons Ellison might have learned in three. The bottom line is that no one coming into this program is going to be better than Ellison is having been in it for two years, because this is not Kentucky and the worst thing that can happen is that we’ll have to sufffer through another couple of years of him stinking off the bench. Because the two transfers have to be better than him and if they aren’t St John’s is screwed anyway. As an aside one thing I notice is that Pervis is never in attendance, so to the extent that this is the son of a former number one wasted draft pick it’s not doing anyone any favors.

Alibegovic – D:  If I were grading his last two games he’d get a C minus but it’s a long semester and attendance counts. For those of you scoring at home, Chris Jones who might have had his minutes otherwise averaged 10 and seven at UNLV. That would probably not have made any difference in any of the games recently but there were a couple of preseason games where an inside presence might have mattered and instead of an inside presence we had Alibeogwitz. All of which being said he better come back next year because otherwise we’ll have wasted three years on this moron and all we’d have gotten from Lavin’s recruiting trips to the Riviera is an extra Lavin chin.

Freudenberg – F: Probably an incomplete would be fairer but if I were fairer you couldn’t be reading this. Also, if not his grandfather some other of his progenitors were probably Nazis and the Nazis were even worse than Donald Trump.

Mullin- C plus: no less an authoirty than Ed Cooley’s diseased head said that Mullin should be the BE coach of the year. I think that’s a bit of a stretch – Doug McDermott’s father should always be the BE coach of the year, because he’s the best coach in the league – but there’s no denying the strides St John’s has made in two years. Mullin has collected the most talented roster since Norm Roberts juniors – Kennedy, Horne, Burrell, Hardy, Brownlee, plus NCAA scoring leader Quincy Roberts and former #1 NYC player Malik Boothe – and has a couple of highly regarded transfers in the wings; he won eight games in one of the better basketball conferences in college basketball – which the haters might poo poo, but the haters were in December wondering whether St John’s was going to win three more games all year; he has transformed himself from a seemingly disinterested observer sitting on the scorer’s table to an active and engaged head coach firmly in control of his team and his program and who seems willing to kick John Thompson three’s ass if it come to it; and his in game decisions while not always what they might have been were for the most part understandable. Certainly there are things on the negative side: the final record is not what anyone might have wished due mainly to some early season disasters; there were times when the team came out flat or didn’t show up at all; and the defense is a real problem. But on the whole, in what is essentially year one of a five year rebuild – because only the delusional think last year counts – with a team comprising six first year players, things might have been much much worse.

But there is no question that next year is the big year. Last year was a step forward: St John’s rid itself of that fraud Steve Lavin, hired the greatest player in its history as head coach and brought in a stellar recruiting class. This year was a step forward: the team nearly doubled its win in total and outperformed expectations in conference. But next year is where the rubber meets the road: barring some catastrophic personnel defections St John’s is poised to improve on its record and to do so they must demonstrate that their coach is imparting to them wisdom in a way that they are able to absorb. Essentially they must be at a minimum a bubble team: they have to win 18 games plus or minus and they have to be midpack in the BE at around 10 wins plus or minus and they must be an NCAA caliber team, even if they end up in the NIT. The last several coaches have faltered at this point in their tenures: Norm failed to take the next step in his year four, as did Lavin; Jarhead’s wheels came off after Fran’s recruits graduated and if not for the fact that Marcus Hatten was a supernatural being he would have been exposed much earlier than he was. They won’t fire Mullin next year if he shits the bed – and I am such a fan that I wouldn’t be surprised that if he shits the bed he does so elegantly and that his ordure smells delightful – but next year is the year he has to show results. Because the honeymoon is over. There’s blood on the sheets: now is the time for my bride to make me a sandwich. And it better be fucking delicious.

NOTES: So that’s that. All in all it wasn’t a bad year but it wasn’t a good one either. To the extent that I didn’t think it would be, I’m vindicated. To the extent that I hoped it might be, I’m disappointed. To the extent that I expect to live until next fall, I’m hopeful. (I told my dentist at my last bi-annual cleaning that according to actuarial tables every time we meet I’m two percent closer to the grave than I was the last time we did. If he had not laughed I would have found a new dentist.) Anyway, basketball’s over, the Derby trail looms and after that the great sports desert, because fuck baseball. Perhaps we’ll see each other next year. Perhaps we won’t. Que sera sera.

Villain: Nova

If you’d asked me late Saturday night whether I was going to get up early Sunday morning and write something about Villanova’s 92-79 demolition of Saint John’s in Philadelphia I wouldn’t have answered because I was passed out, but had I been conscious I’d have said no, I’m taking a well deserved mental health day, it’s bad enough that I had to sit through that, I’m certainly not going to rise bright and early to rehash it. But here I am all the same. That I am is I suppose partly the fault of the same Puritan ethic that makes me such a workmanlike drinker and partly that I have a few things rattling around in my head that will continue to do so until they’re committed to paper … About the game there is not much to say. Villanova went up big early and stayed there. The end.

Considering that Villanova is a top five  team it was a pretty ugly game. The teams combined to shoot 19 of 51 from three; there were 39 turnovers, 23 of them Nova’s; the refs – who were once again atrocious, I don’t know what home for the blind they’re finding these dopes in but they’re starting to get on my nerves, each crew is worse than the last – called 48 fouls, which resulted in 42 free throw attempts, 27 for Villanova, of which they made 25, which was a quarter of their points, and which free throw discrepancy of 14 was eerily close to the difference in the final score. I’m not saying that Saint John’s lost because of the referees, that would be moronic: they lost because they played horribly. The point is that if they hadn’t played horribly they still would have lost, because of the officiating. Babbling idiot Steve Lappas said something about Nova’s free throw shooting over the course of the season – Nova has made more free throws than their opponents have attempted or something, I don’t recall exactly and my notes are pretty incoherent – but the gist of it was that the free throw discrepancy was the result of some basketball skill on Villanova’s part, which earth to Lappas, no it isn’t. It’s the result of Jay Wright getting the benefit of the doubt on every call, just like Mike Schrewshenshy gets the benefit of the doubt on every call. The fact is that if the refs wanted to they could call a foul on every drive to the basket, because there’s always contact. They just don’t always. For example, last night Bashir Ahmed took 17 shots, many of those in traffic in the lane: he shot zero free throws. Josh Hart took the same number of shots from roughly the same place on the floor and shot 10 free throws. Here, look, Ahmed’s on the left, Hart’s on the right:


Am I supposed to believe that the guy on the right got fouled half the time he took the ball to the basket and the guy on the left got fouled not one single time? Not one hand grazed his arm, not one body bumped into his ever so slightly? Because I don’t believe that. Do I believe that there’s an organized conspiracy among referees to blow Nova and Jay Wright, the same way they blow dook? Not really, although it wouldn’t surprise me if it turned out that there was because stranger things have happened. What’s more likely is that like dook Nova receives at every turn gushing attention from the media, and Jay Wright receives gushing attention from the media – I mean Jesus the next time I hear about what a great dresser he is I’m going to scream, he dresses like an undertaker with a credit line at Brooks Brothers – and that all that gushing filters its way into the heads of referees – which less face it these guys aren’t rocket scientists to begin with, Jim Burr was a referee and he was so dumb I can’t understand how he got out of bed in the morning without breaking a bone – and when the time comes to decide who did what to whom they decide that the Villanova player made the correct play because they play for Villanova. It’s confirmation bias. You even hear it among Saint John’s fans, how Villanova is the program Saint John’s should emulate and how “classy” Jay Wright is and how proud they are of Villanova’s success because Saint John’s gets to bask in its glow. I have a different take: fuck Villanova and fuck Jay Wright and fuck their success. I hope they never win another game and Jay Wright ends up drunk and living in a box mumbling Can’t-Stand-Ya Can’t-Stand-Ya… I was briefly excited during the pre game when it was announced that Saint John’s had made a change in their starting line up. It’s about time I thought, sit Malik Ellison down, move Ahmed to the three and Yawke to the four and start Owens, he’s going to foul out in 20 minutes anyway, why not the first 20. Instead, for at least the second time this year Mullin sat Marcus Lovett for some minor disciplinary infraction. The other one was one of the OOC losses, maybe LIU, I can’t be arsed to check. This to me does not seem to be an efficacious method of training the young mind of a student athlete. In the first place, it doesn’t work. If it worked he wouldn’t have been late a second time. In the second place it penalizes persons other than the perpetrator of the offense: his team mates suffer, the fans suffer, the school suffers, ultimately the sport suffers and worst of all I suffer and I suffer enough alfuckingready. If he’s late to a meeting make him run the stairs or waterboard him or attach electrodes to his genitals, I don’t care. Not playing your best player that doesn’t make you a fair and firm disciplinarian, that makes you a bad coach. That whiny pussy Grayson Allen tried to cripple half a dozen people and Schrewshrenski had to be shamed into sitting him down for 20 minutes and Schreshrenski is ever classier than Jay Wright. Hopefully in the future Mullin follows that example, maybe he’ll end up with an American Express commercial and SJU will finally start getting some calls … Saint John’s has a week off to prepare for next Saturday’s game against Seton Hall, or as I like to think of it, the Battle for Seventh Place. If they’re going to have any hopes of a CBI bid I make this one a must win.

 

PLAYERS: This will be short and sweet. Despite his benching Lovett led SJU with 23 points and added six assists, four steals and three rebounds. That’s why he should be playing, because he’s good at basketball … Ahmed had 15 points and seven rebounds, his ninth straight game in double figures … Ponds had 15 points but didn’t score until there were 15 minutes left in the game and it didn’t matter anymore … Building on his marvelous performance against Marquette, Yakwe had a rebound, a block and took a charge in the first minute. Unfortunately he played another 22 minutes after that, during which time his resurgence was less evident … Mussini made three threes but airballed one of his misses and was once again schooled by Donte Diwhatever, who I still can’t believe didn’t go to dook, because he seems like their sort of smug douche bag … Owens and Williams combined for seven points and six rebounds, which would be pretty good if they were one player and he was the third player off the bench … Speaking of the third player off the bench it should be Malik Ellison, who had five points in 22 minutes  … Alibegowith played what might be the most futile six minutes of college basketball I’ve seen since Abe Keita was getting paid under the table … Fruedenburg hit a three, his sixth of the year. The German wunderkind is now at 18 percent for the year.

 
NOTES: Last night’s coverage on CBS was so atrocious that it made me pine for Fox Sports and Steve Lavin and I’m not even kidding. Play by play guy Andrew Catalan was a plodding sports host on a local affiliate up here: the most noteworthy thing about him is his ridiculous red toupee. I don’t know who thought it was a good idea to have a former Villanova head coach call a Villanova game, but it wasn’t a good idea: it’s hard enough listening to that rat face Lappas when he’s neutral and last night he was slobbering over Jay Wright from the opening tip. The half time panel comprised Seth Davis, who’s appalling; John Rothstein, who has all the warmth and sincerity of an Albanian kidney broker; NBA flop Brendan Haywood sporting a pair of glasses that’s supposed to make him look thoughtful but don’t; and some broad whose name I didn’t catch and who wasn’t even good-looking. I almost said that good looking but that would have been an insult to broads who aren’t even that good looking … I had an interesting exchange this week with an irate reader about Federico Mussini which led to a hilarious gambol which I mean to share but not I think today, as this is running long and some readers complain when I run long, to which criticism of my verbosity I pay close heed because having a short attention span is a sign of high intelligence and high intelligence is the demo I’m aiming for, so I’m going to save that. Something for the rest of you to look forward to.

Villanova Fudge

I considered taking a mental health day after Villanova defeated Saint John’s 70-53 Saturday afternoon at Madison Square Garden. It was all in all not a bad effort – considering how poorly they played in DC the other day and that they were playing a veteran team nine months removed from a national championship they in fact played pretty well – good enough to beat teams like LIU and Delaware State that they should have beaten early in the season but not yet good enough to compete at the highest or at least higher levels. Which is part of the perception problem playing in what I’m continually assured is the best basketball conference in the country: there might be incremental progress taking place but you need a lot of increments before the progress translates into wins when two-thirds of your games are against teams that are ranked in the top twenty, as has been the case since Saint John’s started league play. But anyway back to me – that’s why we’re all here, right? – where was I: oh yeah I considered taking a day off: there’s not a lot to write about what happened yesterday and there’s another one tomorrow that they should win and to the extent that this season matters probably need to win and there’s what looks like a long bleak stretch on the horizon in February when a sabbatical might just be what the doctor ordered … So anyway watching the two teams what really struck me, and this again is to me very much a youth thing: Villanova really values the basketball and Saint John’s has not yet learned to. And in basketball the basketball is really the most important thing. They’ve not yet learned to understand (that’s right, learned to understand) that every possession is, in a sense, sacred: that the way you win is that every time you have the ball you do something good with it and that every time they have the ball you make them do something bad with it. Whereas Saint John’s doesn’t need much help in doing something bad with it, they’re close to expert at stepping on the end line, and dribbling between their legs out bounds, and charging, and clanking threes, that they do all on their own; and they’re not yet skilled and experienced enough on the other side of the ball to make the other guy make mistakes and in fact much of the time they look like they’re trying to help the other guy not make mistakes. Which is not good strategy. It’s kind of a variation on what Savielly Tartakover said about chess, that “The winner of the game is the player who makes the next-to-last mistake.” In basketball the winner is the team that makes the fewest worst plays and Saint John’s is still making the most.  And as I said, a lot of that is youth. Like when you’re a kid and your tooth falls out, not only does a new one grow in but some ethereal tart visits in the middle of the night and leaves a dollar under your pilllow. Whereas when you get older you only lose a tooth after some sadist first gives you a root canal and then eventually when enough of them fall out you keep the replacements in a glass on the bedstand and pay for the privilege. That’s why kids don’t brush and adults floss twice a day: because grown ups have learned through bitter experience that even mundane actions can have consequences and that many of them are dire and tragic. Villanova knows that. Saint John’s does not …. Once again saving me the trouble of rehashing things, a picture:

So to recap: Saint John’s came out with energy, got ahead early and briefly, lost focus, fell behind, and never caught up. I have nothing to add to that. To the extent that there’s an illuminating number from the box score it’s rebounds: Villanova was plus 18. Everything else was even: both teams shot 40ish from the floor and 30ish from three; there were about 40 evenly distributed turnovers. On the bright side SJU had 14 assists on 20 made baskets, the black lining on that silver cloud being that they only made 20 baskets … Mullin was T’ded up for I think only the second time in his brief career for jawing at an official after an egregious charging foul on Ponds in the second half that cost Saint John’s a basket. I can’t blame him and was surprised that no one called a technical on me, because I screamed very loudly a bunch of curse words I didn’t even know I knew and I work blue like Modigliani worked in clay. Meanwhile Jay Wright went berserk before halftime and had to be restrained and afterwards one of the officials, I think it was Brian O’Connell, rewarded him with a handjob in the tunnel during halftime. Speaking of the officials, they were once again dreadful: they kept Villanova in the game early – VU was in the bonus in both halves, the third time in three games that Saint John’s opponents have been in the bonus in both halves – and then inexplicably stopped calling fouls about halfway through the second half. Still 30 fouls is a lot less than the 50 I had to sit through the last couple of games, so there’s that … Assuming they beat DePaul – yes that’s a big assumption – they’re three and four after seven league games. I’d probably have signed up for that three weeks ago

PLAYERS: Lovett had 12 points and four assists. The box score says he had only three turnovers but it seemed like more, including one where he dribbled the ball out of bounds in the corner in the midst of what appeared to be a pretty poor Curly Neal impersonation … Ponds had 13 points but only one assist: evidently he was not awarded one for a precision pass he made to a Villanova player under their own basket on a save out of bounds, which he should have been credited with … As usual Malik Allison was sublime and ridiculous. He made some acrobatic moves on drives to the basket – evidently Alibagowitz has been tutoring him on his patented eurostep, because he did that a couple three times – including a dunk that might have been sportcenter worthy depending on how slow the day was. On the other hand he stepped in bounds while inbounding the ball, which is the fourth or fifth turnover he’s had this year because he doesn’t understand how big a basketball court is … Ahmed hit a couple of threes early and then missed the rest of them. I don’t put much stock in body language and facial expressions but he’s nearly the only player who looks like he actually cares about the outcome of the game … Yawke won the tip for the first time I can remember. The way he jumps you’d think he’d win them all. Had a couple of nice pick and rolls with Lovett, but five points and one rebound just is not going to cut it … Missini made a couple of threes, none of them meaningful. On the bright side he got to see Donte DiVincenzo play, who’s just the sort of Italian American player all the Italian American Saint John’s fans pretend Missini is. Hopefully some of it rubbed off on Missini while DiVincenzo was blowing past him on his way to the basket … Owens had seven rebounds but zero points. Note to Tariq: scoring is important … Darien Williams tried a headband, it didn’t help. Blew an amazing feed from Ponds off an Owens out of bounds save when he gathered himself under the basket for so long that a player Jay Wright was able to clone, recruit and sub in was able to block his shot … Alibagoshit played two minutes, which was three minutes too many

NOTES: Usually I’m a Len Elmore fan. Yesterday I was not: he seemed very much in thrall to the defending national champions, which is understandable I suppose but not at the expense of what might have been his alma mater if Lou wasn’t such a dope. Dave Sims I generally run hot and cold about but this year I’ve noticed that he’s developed a habit of screaming about stuff that doesn’t deserve screaming – he reminds me of NYRA race caller John Imbriale, who calls every mule race over the inner track at Aqueduct as if it’s the Kentucky Derby, as opposed to a mundane parade ending at the glue factory. Yesterday Sims screamed in the first half “He lost it out of bounds” and and “He throws it away” with the same enthusiasm that I scream “Oh sweet dear Jesus God” in a Bangkok brothel … There’s a particular species of Saint John’s fans that love them some Jay Wright. Jim Boeheim they hate with a passion and Jim Calhoun as well but for some reason Jay Wright – who beats the shit out of Saint John’s year after year after year – is described in glowing terms, or what they think are glowing terms anyway, like “classy,” which every time I hear one of those dopes say “classy” I check to make sure I still have both of my kidneys. I think it’s because Wright is the one that got away, that in their fever dreams Wright in the antedeluvian past became Saint John’s coach and Saint John’s experienced all the success that Villanova has. You also hear a lot about Wright’s alleged sartorial splendor, that is what a snazzy dresser he is. I just don’t get it. Saturday he wore an off the rack gray pinstripe with a striped lavender tie that made him look like the caterer at Paul Lynde’s wedding. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.) And what’s with that thing under his eye, I’d have that checked, it’s disgusting. Other than the back of Ed Cooley’s head – and that’s a high hurdle – it’s the most disquieting deformity in the Big East … I’ve been sitting here for ten minutes trying to work in some obscure reference so that I can slap a pair of funbags at the beginning of this to drive web traffic, then I realized if I just mentioned tits that would work well enough. So: tits.

No Means Nova

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RECAP: I retired to my library with a glass full of spirits and a La Flor Dominicana DL 700 after Saint John’s was trounced by Villanova 105-68 Saturday afternoon and when I emerged 40 minutes later to refill my tumbler the long-suffering Missus Fun asked how it was going. “They lost by forty,” I said, “it’s writing itself.” Which it was. So yes, Saint John’s got their asses kicked Saturday afternoon – a “vicious beating” for those of you scoring at home. On the one hand no harm done: Nova is ranked 4th in the country and to the extent that I watch college basketball probably legitimately so and their seniors were playing their last home game and Saint John’s was banged up and on the road where they don’t perform at their best or even well. On the other, it was quite a beating and especially considering that SJU took an early 16-5 lead: they were outscored by about 50 over the rest of the game, which has to say something. Still, whatever it says it probably doesn’t mean anything, assuming they shrug their shoulders and shake it off. The BE tournament looms and that’s on their home floor and even that doesn’t matter: even if they lose on Thursday they’re in the tournament and all that matters is the draw … Saint John’s was up 14-5 when then game was joined in progress. Unfortunately for the optimists in the audience it was downhill from there. Nova caught up and was up four at halftime and when Saint John’s came out a little flat to start the second half they spurted away and all of a sudden Nova was up 10 and then 20 and when Lavin called his last time out after a made basket with 8 minutes left – was it to rest his players? to set up his defense? Lulz – it was long over. Villanova ended up scoring 105 points, which is more points off the top of my head than I can remember anyone scoring – the most this year was 90, also Villanova and before that 98 also Villanova and before that Baylor scored 97 and anyway that’s more than anyone has scored this century, which was about as far back as I could be arsed to look and that includes the Norm years.

(Update: 100 point losses

Mar 7, 2015 (Lavin)
Villanova 105
SJU 68

Nov 27, 2004 (Roberts)
Niagara 102
SJU 81

Feb 29, 2004 (Clark)
Providence 103
SJU 78

Dec 23, 1992 (Mahoney)
Indiana 105
SJU 80)

PLAYERS: Jordan had 21 points and 8 assists, including a Sports Center top 10 posterization of some poor bastard in the first half. He seemed to be pressing a bit playing in front of a hometown crowd, which is understandable in an impressionable youth. I don’t want to get ahead of myself, but it may be that that was the last time Jordan plays a regular season game in a Saint John’s uniform. He does not seem to have a lot left to prove and if he returns it could only be to improve his draft position, because obviously he’s an NBA player … Harrison had 15 before fouling out – two of those fouls on three point attempts … I know I spend a lot of time ragging on Phil Greene, but it’s only because he’s not very good. Moreover, he’s not very smart and in fact sometimes it’s hard to know what he’s thinking or whether he is at all. Case in point. Midway through the first half SJU is up 5. Greene takes a contested three with 31 seconds left on the shot clock, it goes in, SJU up 8. Yay Phil. Two Nova free throws later SJU up 6. Greene takes a contested three with 25 seconds left on the shot clock. Clank. A Nova three cuts it to a three point lead. Greene takes a contested long two with 31 seconds left on the shot clock. Clank. Nova three, game tied. Net result: 14 seconds of offensive possession, three contested Phil Greene jumpers, 3 SJU points, Nova net plus 5, SJU goes from up 8 to a tie game. I just don’t get it. He should be happy being the fourth scoring option, but you get the impression he envisions himself something else entirely. Which he may be, next year, in China … This was the first game in a while where Pointer was essentially a nonfactor. Despite which he had a robust scoring line: 8 points, 4 assists and 5 rebounds. He even took a three, which to no one’s surprise didn’t go in: he’s 2 for 21 (.095) for the year and 22 for 106 (.22) for his career, and that despite shooting .33 percent as a sophomore … With Chris “Warrior” Obekpa sidelined with a sore ankle and Jamal “Tissue Paper” Branch out with a savaged groin, Lavin had to resort to his bench, and resort he did, shuffling Balamou, De La Rosa, Amirovickovich and even poor Christian Jones in and out willy nilly and seemingly at random. It was almost as if he was scared to leave any of them in long enough for anyone to see how horrible they are. The problem is that collectively the bench resembles a single atrocious basketball player: Jones can’t cover anyone, Balamou can’t score, Amirovich is slightly less nimble than a pillar and Joey De La Rosa can’t shoot free throws. It’s as if a demented Doctor Frankenstein decided to make the worst basketball player ever and Lavin decided to give him a scholarship … Lavin threw in the towel at about the 6 minute mark and put in the rest of the walk-ons. At one point the lineup was Balamou, Lipscomb, Amirovich, Myles Stewart and Doughy De La Rosa, which gave Saint John’s fans a sneak preview of the sort of basketball they’re going to be watching next year, when this is approximately the starting five.

NOTES: I’ve been watching Kevin O’Neill in the studio for six months now and finally got off my lazy ass and googled him. In a stunning turn of events it turns out he’s a failed head coach. In 16 years at five schools – Marquette, Arizona, Tennessee, USC, and Northwestern – O’Neill was a combined 216–241 (.473). He had 8 winning seasons, 4 NCAA appearances, and two 20-win seasons, none between 1993 and his retirement in 2013. On the bright side he’s a dead ringer for Larry David, who’s a funny fucker

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… Color man Jim Jackson noted re Saint John’s in the tournament that “it’s better to be a seven seed than a 9 or 10.” In the first place, of course it is, hence the numbers. In the second place, no it isn’t, since the 7 seed plays the 10 seed and both get the same draw … I wrote a bit of a gambol this week about Villanova grad Don Maclean, author of American Pie, but in light of a spate of email demanding that I refrain from posting insightful and interesting prose that informs and enlightens the reader and instead confine myself to basketball, a look back and then ahead: First, regular season grades:

Pointer – a case could be made that he’s the BE POTY, but probably he’s not. Clearly the team MVP though. GRADE: A

Harrison – I was going to ding him for his injuries but it turns out I’m a push over. GRADE: A

Jordan – certainly an above average sophomore, but gets downgraded for his attitude. GRADE: B minus (although he’s been an A minus since Butler)

Greene – does one thing not terribly well: GRADE: C plus

Obekpa – does one thing well and everything else terribly. His on court demeanor is appalling: GRADE: C plus

Joey DLR – contributed more than the nothing I expected: GRADE: C plus

Branch – this space intentionally left blank. GRADE C

Amirtoviviovth – reminds me of a less graceful Tomas Jasilionus. GRADE: C

Balamou – was given every chance to contribute and failed to. The plus is for the great job he did jumping center. GRADE: D plus

The field: contributed nothing: GRADE: F

Lavin – this was hard. On the one hand, he’s an awful game coach, he dresses like a homeless guy, and he’s a veritable fountain of twaddle. On the other, he won 20 games and made the tournament. But on the third hand if he couldn’t make the tournament with a senior class that comprised a top 5 recruiting class, when could he. There’s a dearth of evidence that he raised his team’s level of play and at least some that he retarded it. GRADE: C plus.

Second, what does the future hold.

On the plus side

* There’s a bunch of seniors, always good. And mostly they’re guards, even better.

* They have a tendency to play up to their opponent

*They play an usual tempo, which could confound their opponents

*They’re unconventionally sized, which can present potential match-up problems

* They allegedly play better when their backs are to the wall

* They defend the rim

On the minus

* They lack tournament experience and what they’ve had isn’t encouraging, viz Robert Morris

* They have a tendency to shoot free throws poorly

* They play poorly on the road

* They have a tendency to play down to their opponent

* They lack depth

* They lack size

* They don’t rebound

* Lavin is not going to win any games with his strategy

What does all that mean? I don’t know. I’m not in the business of making predictions. With the right seed they could make the round of sixteen. Eight is probably too much to ask. If today showed nothing else it’s that they’re clearly a rung or two below the best teams in the country. Meaning that with the wrong match up they’ll get bounced the first weekend. If so, they are Saint John’s.

Speaking of Don Maclean, here’s the worst best band you’ve never heard: Killdozer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Standing Novation

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GAME: I’m not a big fan of 9 o’clock starts. My usual practice is to record the games and watch them later so that I can fast forward through the commentary and commercials but there’s no practical way to do that when the festivities start past my bedtime. Not to mention the difficulties inherent in regulating my body chemistry so that I’m awake and upright at the ungodly hour of 11 pm. Last night I was at least for my troubles rewarded with 30 minutes of entertaining basketball, which is unfortunate only to the extent that basketball games are 40 minutes long. Which is why this morning I am a tad crankier than usual and Saint John’s is oh and three in conference, in last place in the new Big East, and plummeting out of the top 25 with the force and velocity of a spaceship reentering the earth’s atmosphere. It must be a bitter pill to swallow for delusional Saint John’s fans who were two weeks ago clamoring for showdowns with DoOk and Kentucky… The loss itself was no surprise. Nova is ranked in the top 10 and has beaten Saint John’s 8 times in a row and 14 of the last 15. They also have about nine serviceable basketball players of varying sizes and skill sets, which I’m led to believe is an important part of winning basketball teams. Steve Lavin has a different strategy: he has assembled a small group of players of roughly the same size, some of whom have little or no skill at all. In spite of which seeming hardships Saint John’s last night led at halftime. However for the second game in a row the opposing coach has made the necessary halftime adjustments – don’t ask me what they were, personally I think halftime adjustments is a phrase rubes use to describe the outcome of a game they barely understand, but whatever – despite which adjustments Saint John’s kept it about even until the 12 minute mark, when Nova’s depth and skill started to wear SJU down, resulting in a 38-18 run to end the game. By the 10 minute mark Nova had a 7 point lead; at 8 minutes it was 11 and by 6 minutes it was 14. It was like watching a building crumble in slow motion. Even if Lavin had some vague idea of what to do to turn things around he lacked the bodies to do so, having taken a couple of years off recruiting and having anyway failed to develop those players he recruited …. Saint John’s shot respectably: nearly 50 percent from the floor, 40 percent from three and 80 percent from the line. But once again they did not share the ball – Nova had 22 assists to SJ’s eight – and they got absolutely killed on the glass, 40 to 20. I know that Steve Lavin said that “rebounding is the least important statistic in basketball” but it seemed to make a difference last night … Under normal circumstances you’d say it was a good loss, or at least not a bad loss, playing the number 8 team in the country to a draw more or less, except when you’re 0 and 2 there are no moral victories. So now oh and three, and up next Providence on the road and then first place DePaul on the road and then we’re oh and five just like last year but with the prospect of playing our best basketball in February, just like last year. Don’t worry, Lavin’s got them right where he wants them.

PLAYERS: Harrison carried the team on his back for 30 minutes despite having nearly broken his leg at the end of the first half and having his jaw busted about halfway through the second … Phil Greene was 6 for 14 from the floor and now has more field goal attempts than points, a statistic that would be mind boggling if you had never seen Phil Greene play basketball. Most of those 14 were off balance jumpers with one foot on the three point line and 32 seconds left on the shot clock: it’s like watching Michael Jordan try and take over a game after having suffered severe brain trauma. One of them he banked in and another couple he air-balled, which sort of consistency is one of the signs of a deadeye shooter. It was a strip of Greene with a couple of seconds left in the first half – he was attempting to go one on three at the time – that led to the breakout that left Harrison writhing under the basket holding his knee. Harrison had hustled back on D; Greene, not so much … Obekpa missed a dunk in the first half and then feigned injury as he trotted up court after the play, asking to be taken out of the game. Justice was served when he suffered an actual injury later … Pointer fouled out with 8 minutes to go. Before that he was engaged in an entertaining game of H-O-R-S-E … Rysheed Jordan return was shall we say  inauspicious. No field goals, three turnovers. It’s a shame we couldn’t have worked through these issues in the pre season. Oh well. On the bright side he made both his free throws, which improvement could be huge in a one and done tournament like the CBI … Jamal Branch did his usual little bit of nothing … Christian Jones played 10 minutes. Involved in a remarkable sequence where his would-be dunk was blocked on one end and then he raced down the court only to fall down, allowing the very guy who blocked his shot to dunk himself … Garbage minutes for the rest of them. Miles Stewart displayed nice form on his jump shot.

NOTES: The game was called professionally as usual by Bill Raftery and Gus Johnson, although this game it was Ed Corbett, not the repulsive Jim Burr, who Johnson called “one of the great referees in college basketball history.” Note to Gus: all referees suck. Halftime contributors included Dudley Do-Right clone Austin Croshere and Ben Howland, who has all the charisma of a pillar. I’ve seen more dynamic deadfall. There was though an interesting feature on Chris Obekpa’s pants in the pregame, which is I guess what you talk about when you’re in last place. It’s entirely possible that next year at this time when we tune in and Saint John’s is oh and three in the big east and in last place the studio host will be Steve Lavin, who having left SJU better off than he found it returns to the west coast and a lucrative gig at ESPN LA, where he can replace cancer victim Stuart Scott, who it won’t surprise you I hated, but, you know, RIP and whatever, but not as much as Neil Everett, who’s just the worst. …Speaking of many happy returns, Lou Carnesecca, 90 years young … Interesting exchange between Wright and Lavin during the post-game handshake. Lavin said something to which Wright replied “You’re fucking crazy.” Could have been anything really.

“What do you think of my suit”

“You’re fucking crazy.”

 

“I’m a good basketball coach.”

“You’re fucking crazy.”

 

“Rebounding is unimportant.”

“You’re fucking crazy.”

 

Make up your own Lavin quotes. It’s fun for you and the entire family … I was casting about for something interesting to write about, and came upon Howard Porter. Porter was a three time All American at VU and most valuable player in the NCAA tournament his senior year, despite Villanova losing to UCLA in the finals. But when the ever vigilant NCAA discovered that Porter “had begun dealing with an agent before the season ended,” it was all VACATED. The run, the award, everything. Sure, any idiot could have googled that. But I noticed Porter died in 2007 and it turns out he was murdered and I thought oh, that’s too bad and then I Googled some more and found out that

“Former Villanova star and Ramsey County probation officer Howard Porter was trying to trade money and crack cocaine for sex with a prostitute when he was beaten to death, according to murder charges filed Tuesday against a St. Paul man … A prostitute … told police four masked men rushed in to her apartment and … beat Porter “real bad, God real bad” and that “there was blood everywhere.”

At which point I wished I’d stopped while you were ahead. Because that’s awful on a bunch of levels … Villanova lost the national championship game 68-62 to the Wicks/Rowe/Bibby version of UCLA. Whereas after Porter Villanova’s best player was the immortal Hank Siemiontkowski. Two teams had their appearances vacated in 1971, and oddly neither was called UCLA. The other was Western Kentucky, which was disqualified after it was discovered that Jim McDaniels had signed an ABA contract during his senior year. The contract was for $1.35 million, to be paid over the next 25 years. Does not seem fair: one point three million wouldn’t even pay Sam Gilbert’s bar tab.