March Sadness


And thus finishes the unfinished business: Saint John’s lost to San Diego State 76-64 Friday night in the first round of the NCAA tournament – that makes 12 of 24 first round losses for SJU since 1970 for those of you scoring at home. The loss marks the end of the careers of Lavin’s highly touted first recruiting class – a class that never won a BE conference tournament game, had only one post season victory, and until last night had never appeared in an NCAA tournament. In they came like lions and out they went like lambs … I find upon rising this morning that I took pretty copious notes the first half of the game, which is surprising: surprising because I started drinking martinis about noon yesterday so it seems unlikely that by 10 PM I’d be able to find a pen, much less hold one. But held one I must have. I’m not however much in the mood this morning to rehash it all and I suspect that visitors are not much in the mood to read it. So this bit will be brief … Things started off poorly when Rysheed Jordan got two quick fouls, about which more later. From there the first half was a game of runs: SJU was down 13 -6 at the 15 minute mark, then up 21-20 at the 9 minute mark, and then down 9 with 3 minutes left in the half – this last SDSU run led to nearly the first logical Steve Lavin TO of the year – and closed to 6 at the half. Much of SDSU’s offense came from SJU transfer Dwayne Polee, who banked in a couple of threes and had a four point play on another one. SDSU spurted away at the beginning of the second half – the lead was 12 after two minutes – and SJU never really got back within striking range. Every time they got close someone made a boneheaded play – either Jamal Branch threw a behind the back pass into the stands on a 3 on 1 break or Phil Greene dribbled the ball off his foot or somebody missed a layup. Saint John’s started fouling with about two minutes left and SDSU, which shot 60 percent from the FT line for the year, made them: their last 10 points came from the FT line, where they were 10 for 14, having gone 7 for 16 the previous 38 minutes. And that was that … The numbers that jump out are SJU’s three point shooting – they were 3 for 17 – and the rebound differential – 40 to 32 SDSU. It didn’t help that SDSU shot 40 percent from 3 – versus 30 percent from the year – and as usual SJU’s defense turned some big white doofus into Reggie Miller: the great Matt Shrigley had 12 points on 4 for 5 shooting from three, only the fourth time this year he’s scored in double figures … Lavin seemed genuinely upset – he seemed almost human – during the postgame presser but not so upset that he refrained from trotting out his usual litany of excuses: he mentioned his prostrate; he mentioned Cap. But he also came up with some new ones, saying at one point that things might have turned out differently had Maurice Harkless and Jakarr Sampson not opted for the NBA. He even mentioned Amir Garett several times. I mean, why not Nurideen Lindsey or Max Hooper? Oddly the one name he didn’t mention was Polee, who drove a stake through his heart. Lavin referred to this season as both a “special ride,” which I don’t see what was so special about losing your last three games by a combined 66 points, and called his team a “tenacious group who would not be denied,” which is odd, since they just had been denied with extreme prejudice.

PLAYERS: Dom Pointer was magnificent for the first ten minutes, at which point he fell down and didn’t get up. He finished his amazing senior year with yet another double double: 21 points and 10 rebounds. It’s a shame he can’t shoot, because with his motor he could be an NBA player… As he has for four years Harrison left it all on the floor. He cried when he fouled out and I might have misted up as well – I don’t remember though, as I said I was pretty faced by then. He was remarkably poised in the postgame press conference, gracious, and eloquent even. Despite the difficulties he labored under (his family situation and being coached by a numbskull) he had a remarkable career and I, we, were lucky to have seen him have it … Jordan collected 2 fouls in the first minute and a half and sat for the next 18 and a half minutes. Which was really quite astounding considering the circumstances. Lavin as much as blamed the loss on Jordan, calling his second foul “the turning point in the game,” which became something of a self-fulfilling prophecy, because if Lavin had put him back in at some point in the first half he wouldn’t have been not playing. It’s hard to believe that a different coach – a coach who was trying to win instead of trying not to lose – would have sat his most talented player for half the game. Lavin said in the postgame press conference that he “might have” put Jordan back in had SDSU’s lead gone to “double digits, ten, twelve, fourteen, sixteen” but that he was worried that RJ would get “a third or a fourth and end up fouling out when we needed him down the stretch.” Which is typical numbskullery. So instead he saved him and had him at the end when the game was already lost. You have to think that last night was the last time we’ll see Jordan in a SJU uniform. Too bad. … On the biggest day of his basketball life and the biggest stage of his career, Phil “Big Shot” Greene came up small: 9 points on 4 of 11 shooting and 1 for 4 from three. In the last three games of his college BB career – Nova, the BE tournament, and the NCAA tournament – Greene was 12 for 30 from the floor with 3 assists, 8 rebounds. He had a great three minutes the first week in December. Whoop de fucking do. Good luck in China Phil. Now get out … I’d say that Jamal Branch should also not let the door hit him on the way out, but if it did he’d probably suffer a compound fracture and I’m not that vindictive … Collectively the bench played 23 minutes: they scored no points, collected one rebound, had no assists, and blocked no shots. Get used to that stat line, because those guys are next year’s starting five … Steve Lavin said of Chris Obekpa: “I wouldn’t be surprised at all if he doesn’t return to Saint John’s.” That’s not too optimistic for a guy whose favorite pastime is putting lipstick on pigs

NOTES: I wrote a bit in the tournament preview about siting oddities and in regards to that no team got buggered harder than Providence, a six seed, which got play-in winner Dayton 80 miles from the latter’s home floor in Ohio. (Dayton was doubly blessed: their play-in game was in Dayton.) Predictably things did not go well, and you don’t have to look farther than the free throw differential – Dayton shot 30 free throws to PU’s seven – to see the effect that a home court advantage can have. The only other team that got screwed as badly by the committee was Georgetown. Say, what do Ed Cooley and JT3 have in common? That’s weird, huh? … After the first round the BE ended up 4-2, and most of those were laughers, except Texas put a bit of a scare into Butler, despite being coached by Rick Barnes. The teams I figured might lose won and the ones I figured to win lost, which seems about right … Basketball Mecca New York was oh and three the first round, although the two SUNY schools had tough draws and acquitted themselves reasonably well: their two losses were by a combined 15 points, versus SJU’s margin of 12 … So that’s that. One more basketball season closer to death and now the great sports desert looms. Sports-wise there’s essentially two and a half minutes on the first Saturday in May that I care about and then nothing until November when this sad sack program rolls out the balls again. The worst thing about going out in the first round is that I can’t even watch college basketball anymore. Last night after the game I ended up watching curling. Sweep! … This may or may not be the last thing I write this year. I don’t give much of a shit about recruiting and don’t see Lavin getting fired – Norm was given more of a chance to fail – so there’s nothing much to say. Perhaps I’ll crank out a season autopsy, who knows. Thanks to those of you who read and especially those readers who took the time to email helpful suggestions, such as that I should be funnier, and more interesting, and not use so many big words. Rest assured I’m going to work on that stuff during the off season.







Chronic Fatigue


Many of you have emailed asking for help in filling out your brackets and my prediction for Friday night’s game specifically. In the old days I’d have figured out a way that Saint John’s would be playing for the national championship and filled out my bracket accordingly. That system was abandoned in 1992, when Saint John’s lost to Tulane in the first round. I thereafter developed a second system, called System Number Two, which involved Saint John’s going out in the first weekend. Although there’s been only a small test sample, this second theory has shown an 80 percent success rate. Astute fans will take that to the bank.

Regarding this year’s first round game, I’m sort of at a loss, having not seen San Diego State play this year. Or perhaps ever. I have however over the years developed a system I use to evaluate tournament games which involves scientifically analyzing important parameters, statistics, and intangibles, viz:


Statistically the teams are nearly identical.


Rebound                    35.4 / 35.2
Assists                        12.6 / 10.6
FG %                             .44 / .42
3 point                         .35 / .32
Blocks                         6.5 / 5.0
Steals                          7.5 / 6.9
FT                                  .69 / .62

The only significant difference is in points scored and allowed.

Pts scored             71.2 / 61.8
Pts allowed          67.6 / 53.1

SJU +4

Saint John’s is better offensively, SDSU defensively. On the one hand, defense wins championships. On the other, the best defense is a good offense.



SDSU is coached by Steve Fisher, who won a national championship as an interim coach at Michigan and followed that up by recruiting the Fab Five. He was 109-79 at MU all told, made the NCAA championship game three times and won the whole thing once; he also won an NIT championship. (Caveat: many of those wins were vacated.) At SDSU he’s 338-183 total and has made the tournament 6 out of the last 7 years, including the Sweet 16 twice. Whereas Saint John’s is coached by Steve Lavin, who’s a chowderhead.



SDSU’s mascot is the Aztec, so called after a group of fearsome Native American warriors whose empire dominated Mesoamerica until Cortez came along and infected them all with smallpox. Among their many eccentricities the Aztecs sacrificed humans to appease their god of war Huitzilopochtl (literally “left handed hummingbird”). This they did by cutting open the chest of their victim and removing the heart, which was burned; afterwards the body was eaten. Much like the Saint John’s late Redman the Aztec has been a figure of some controversy: as late as last fall a group of humorless numbskulls who call themselves the SDSU Queer People of Color Collective (SDSUQPCC) – something of a circumscribed fraternity for a group that argues for greater social inclusiveness – demanded that the Aztec be replaced by something less inappropriate. Probably a unicorn or a rainbow or something. On the other hand Saint John’s mascot is a horse named after a weather pattern. Which makes no sense at all. In any event, an Aztec could beat the shit out of a horse.



The game is in Charlotte, which means SDSU is travelling across the country and three times zones. On the other hand the game’s at 10 PM, which is 7 PM in California. Saint John’s is playing in its own time zone, but at the ungodly hour of 10 pm, when most of them would normally be baked. Saint John’s was 4-6 on the road this year and SDSU 6-5.



I haven’t seen SDSU play but I’ve suffered through a bunch of SJU games and Saint John’s has issues. They have no size, they have no depth, and the players they do have are dinged up. Plus, one of them is Jamal Branch. They don’t rebound. They play down to their opponents and have phoned it in in big spots in the past. They’re prone to droughts offensively. They have no tournament experience and might just be happy to be there. On the plus side they’re seniors, which is good, and the seniors are guards, even better, and in Harrison they have a player capable of carrying them. SDSU on the other hand is big across the front, they’re deep, they have tournament experience, and a bunch of upperclassmen.


Tournament History



Coolest alumni

SDSU: Gregory Peck. Played Captain Ahab and banged Ingrid Bergman and Sophia Loren.

SJU: Bill Casey. Worked for Wild Bill Donovan to defeat the Nazis, ran the CIA, and lent a hand in destroying the Soviet Union before dying a timely death of a mysterious brain tumor while under congressional subpoena for allegedly masterminding the funding of the Contras.


Chemical Enhancements

SDSU: San Diego is right across the border from Tijuana. ‘Nuff said.

SJU: Saint John’s has one of the top pharmacy schools in the country. It stands to reason they have access to high grade pharmaceuticals.


Dwayne Polee

In his last year at SJU, Polee averaged 4.4 points 2.5 rebounds .6 assists

In his last year at SDSU, Polee averaged 7.6 points 2.5 rebounds .9 assists


Chris Obekpa

Lavin described losing Obekpa as “less than ideal” but also said that playing small will be to Saint John’s advantage. Which of course he’d say, because he’s an imbecile.


Outcome: Expect a low scoring ugly basketball game. Based upon Saint John’s abysmal performance coming into the tournament over the past several weeks and their well-publicized off the court problems I would not be at all surprised to see them win. But because they’re Saint John’s, I would not be at all surprised to see them lose. My heart says Saint John’s but my system says SDSU, five advantages to two and three ties. I don’t particularly like the pick but you can’t argue with science. On the bright side this is the classic anti-woof pick and also a hedge: if they win I’m happy because We Are Saint John’s and if they lose I get the satisfaction of being having been right. Win win. Neither of these teams will get past DoOk – once again playing in their own backyard, surprise – so it’s a moot point anyway.

NOTES: This is only Saint John’s third appearance in the tournament this century. They are oh and two, having lost to Gonzaga and Wisconsin. Saint John’s last victory in the tournament was as a two seed: they defeated Northern Arizona (the game was in Tuscon, 2 hours from the UNA campus and 2400 miles from Jamaica) 61-56, led by Bootsy Thornton’s 20 points, before losing in the second round 82-76 to Gonzaga; first game hero Bootsy Thornton shot 3 for 13 from the floor and 1 for 8 from 3 … Going back to 1970, Saint John’s tournament record:

Lost first Round
Lost first Round
Lost Second Round
Lost Regional Final
Lost first Round
Lost Second Round
Lost first Round
Lost Regional Final
Lost Second Round
Lost first Round
Lost Second Round
Lost Second Round
Lost National Semi
Lost first Round
Lost Regional Final
Lost Second Round
Lost Second Round
Lost Regional Final
Lost first Round
Lost first Round
Lost first Round
Lost first Round
Lost first Round

That’s 11 first round defeats in 23 attempts, which is perhaps Louie’s most impressive accomplishment … As noted above, DeWk has once again been awarded a first round home game.  Because why shouldn’t they have every advantage: they are, after all, white. Here’s this year’s seeds, sitings, and travel distance:

(1) Kentucky – Louisville (78 miles)
(1) Duke – Charlotte (141 miles)
Kansas – Omaha (189 miles)
Virginia – Charlotte (270 miles)
Gonzaga – Seattle (281 miles)
(1) Villanova – Pittsburgh (305 miles)
(1) Wisconsin – Omaha (429 miles)
Arizona – Portland (1449 miles)

Kentucky, a number one seed is playing an hour away from their home court. Fair enough. But Wisconsin, also a one seed, is playing twice as far away from their home floor as is Kansas, a two. Arizona, a two, is playing as far away from their home floor as would be Virginia, also a two, if Virginia was playing in Montreal. This may seem a small thing but in 1970 Saint John’s own Al McGuire, then at Marquette, turned down an NCAA tournament bid after being sent to Texas rather than to the Midwest regional. He went to and won the NIT instead, beating in the final, wait for it, Saint John’s, despite 15 points and 17 rebounds from Billy Paultz … Speaking of Kentucky, there have been seven undefeated D-I basketball champions in NCAA history: San Francisco (1956), North Carolina (1957), UCLA (1964, 1967, 1972, 1973), and Indiana (1976)  … And now the moment you’ve all been waiting for. My guesses:

Big East: You can’t go wrong drawing a line through Georgetown when filling out your NCAA bracket. This year they’re playing Eastern Washington University, in Portland. (This is in in the south regional incidentally. A team from DC playing a team from Washington State in Oregon. Because why not.) JT3 has done less with more than anyone since Jayne Mansfield … Xavier. Not impressed and would not be surprised to see them bounced by Ole Miss, if they can find a way to neutralize Stainbrook. I recommend Twinkies  … Butler. Ditto, they’re midgets. On the bright side they’re facing Rick Barnes, who sucks … Providence I could see playing in week two and maybe after that, because Kris Dunn is the best player in the country.

Sleeper pick: SMU. Larry Brown. NIT champions. A bunch of seniors and an aircraft carrier in the middle.

Final Four: Kentucky, Wisconsin, Villanova and because I am congenitally unable to have DoOk advance too far, Utah.

Final final: Kentucky 82 – Villanova 73

Why even play the games.




RECAP: Defending champion Providence University took the first incremental or baby step up the mountain or incline towards defending their BET title by humiliating or mortifying Saint John’s 74-57 on Saint John’s home court Thursday afternoon. The bad news is that Saint John’s has had the shit kicked out them two games in a row. The good news is that said kicking of shit doesn’t really matter much: they’re still getting their name called selection Sunday and they’re still a middling seed. All that matters now is the draw and it couldn’t have changed all that much despite how badly they were beaten. How poorly they played may well be another matter, but fortunately they have master motivator Steve Lavin on the sidelines to sort all of that out .. Saint John’s was ahead 7-0 and cruising towards a blow out when the floor caved in. Or the roof. Or when the sky fell. Choose your own metaphor, it’s fun. At about the 16 minute mark Providence stopped dribbling the ball off their own feet and throwing the ball out of bounds and started playing basketball and Saint John’s obliged them by stopping. Instead Saint John’s started missing their shots, all of them, and not by a little either, by an enormous amount: by rough count a third of their shots over the next 10 minutes were air balls, which resulted in a 30-6 PU run and a 13 point halftime lead. And if it hadn’t been for the referees it might have been much worse. (Many of those calls were by Pat Driscoll, who if he isn’t already on the SJU payroll, might be looking for a paycheck. He’s awful. Nice hair though.) After a rousing halftime speech by Steve Lavin a newly energized Jamal Branch kicked the ball out of bounds on SJU’s first possession and it was downhill from there. Saint John’s made a couple of mini-runs to get it within 9 or so but invariably they made some boneheaded play that allowed PU to spurt away again. In the long run this loss – despite its proportions – might have been the best thing that could have happened: at least now they can rest up and get their heads right. The rumor is that they play their best basketball with their back to the wall. As tenor baritone soprano bass alto sax player Charlie Parker once said, now’s the time … Steve hammer-to-rock play-your-best-basketball-in March Lavin is now 1-4 in the BET at SJU, 1-2 in the NIT and 0-1 in the NCAA, for a grand total of 2-7 in the post season. To that extent he is a worthy heir to Louie and is rapidly becoming part of the great SJU coaching tradition … So what does this all mean looking ahead? Who knows. Ever the contrarian I’d rather go into the NCAA tournament having lost two games by a combined total of 52 points, as has Saint John’s, than having won two games by 72, as has Villanova, or being undefeated, as is Kentucky. For me the prognosis remains unchanged. Saint John’s is not a team I’d want to play in the tournament and they’re just as likely to get bounced in the first round as they are to make the round of sixteen. As a lifelong SJU fan if I had to bet I’d bet on the first round bounce, but on the bright side if you have no expectations you’re never disappointed.

PLAYERS: Jordan gets the game ball by default – besides Joey De La Rosa he was about the only player who showed up. To the extent that they were ever in it he kept them there: 18 points, most of those from the free throw line. And to the extent that the game was entertaining it was entertaining to the extent of watching he and Kris Dunn – who’s already too good to be playing college basketball, good grief – trading punches briefly in the second half. I’ve been saying for a while now that this team is only going to go as far as Jordan takes them. If I’m right – and let’s face it I usually am – they’re not going to go very far … Joey De La Rosa got a couple of rebounds and a couple of points and even a block. It’s just a shame he’s not a freshman, he might be a player in two or three years … Oh dear, the rest of them … Harrison was off early and you could see that it got in his head. He’s 9 for 32 over the past two years in the BET. Hopefully he gets straight and goes out on a good note. On the bright side he was named to the all BE first team again this week, joining only Marcus Hatten, Malik Sealy, Chris Mullin and Mark Jackson as repeat SJU honorees … Phil Greene hit his first shot and then commenced a relentless attempt to shatter the backboard with a variety of thunderous misses, several of which avoided the rim entirely. Never fear though he got his mojo back in garbage time by nailing two threes to cut PU’s lead to 18 with 4 minutes left. No doubt he and his girlfriend flashed backed to his heroics in Syracuse several months ago, at least until a resounding CLANK awoke them from their twin reveries. Finished 3 for 9 and 2 for 7 from three. In a game where 40 personal fouls were called Greene managed none, which seems remarkable until you remember that he doesn’t bother to play defense .. Jamal Branch started. By the 14 minute mark he’d displayed his entire skill set: he’d thrown several pointless no look passes, committed several fouls near the midcourt line and dribbled the ball off his foot … Obekpa fouled out and grinned inappropriately when it happened … Pointer fouled out but kept his amusement to himself … The box score says that Albivivocvic had zero fouls, which must be a misprint. He commits three in the run way before the game … Balamou curiously absent

NOTES: It’s late in the season and there’s not a lot to say without repeating myself. Donnie Marshall was his usual awful self. The other guy was worse. Tarik Turner was described in a Fox graphic as having “led Saint John’s to 1998 NCAA tournament,” which is like saying that Phillipe Petain led France to a victory in World War II (H/T Desco) … I’ve got nothing else except a note about the late Jimmy Walker, who Ladonte Henton passed this afternoon on the PU all-time scoring list this. Walker – who fathered and then deserted his bastard son Jalen Rose – scored his 2045 points in three seasons and that without the 3 point shot. As a senior in 1967 he led the nation in scoring, averaging more than 30 points a game. He was the number one draft pick in the NBA draft, ahead of Earl Monroe (2), Saint John’s own Sonny Dove (4), Walt Frazier (5), Pat Riley (7), the amazing Mel Daniels (9) and even Phil Jackson (17). (Interestingly three of those players – Frazier, Monroe and Jackson played in Division II). I’m a great believer in statistics as a measure of player performance but here’s one where they lie: Henton is not worthy to carry Jimmy Walker’s jockstrap … Don’t be sad Saint John’s fans, do the Hucklebuck:




No Means Nova


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


… 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.











Marquette Zero


RECAP: Saint John’s beat Marquette 67-51 in Wisconsin Wednesday night. It was an ugly if workmanlike victory. As usually happens when Saint John’s plays lousy opponents, they played lousy. But to the extent that it wasn’t much of a game after the first 15 minutes that I suppose is a good sign. At least they put away an obviously inferior opponent and closed it out on the road and I mean, they probably have other things on their minds – there’s a vicious beating by Villanova on the horizon, and then the BE tournament on their home floor they’d like to not bollox up completely, and then the chance for the seniors to not only to play in their first NCAA tournament game but to be the first Saint John’s team to win an NCAA tournament game since the Jarvae’s team beat Northern Arizona in 2000. Whereas Marquette has only won 3 games since New Year’s Eve and had been for the most part been getting stomped while doing so and even with Wojo the floor slapping dope prowling the sidelines were probably pretty hard to take seriously … The numbers reflect the game: both teams were awful. Saint John’s shot 40 percent from the floor, 50 percent from the three (they’re close to 50 percent from three as a team since the Georgetown loss) and a terrifying 52 percent from the FT line, where they’re now 62-103 over their last four. This does not bode well moving forward and especially going into the tournament, where games are not called like rugby matches. Marquette shot worse: 34 percent from the floor, 28 percent from three and 38 percent from the FT line. That’s right, 38 percent, most of that the fault of big white doofus Luke Fischer. For some reason the announcers were drooling over him most of the game – I didn’t see the appeal. The rest of the numbers were nearly identical:

OR 13/13, DR 28/29, AST 15/12, ST 8/8, BLK 5/7, TO 13/14, PF 13/14

… If you subscribe like I do to the notion that where Lavin is concerned every decision is a mistake this sort of game was right up the great and powerful alley. All he had to do was pick 5 players, roll the balls out, and start clapping his hands and jumping up and down. There was none of that troubling thinking to be done, no logic to be applied, no problem solving skills needed. In that regard although 20 years old Baron Davis’s words ring prescient: We should have a banner up there: the only team to make the tournament without a coach. Only one thing troubled me last night and that was Lavin’s complexion. When I first notice it several games ago I thought maybe it was pancake make-up but now I’m thinking it’s some sort of spray on tan. The orange sheen is off putting and gives him the pallor of a space villain on Star Trek. Monasch was sitting behind the bench and he looked normal in comparison and he’s an oompah loompah.

PLAYERS: Jordan had 25 points on 11 shots (including 5 for 9 from three) all of them in rhythm and in the flow of the game. He, Dunn and Billy Garrett Jr. comprise a pretty nice trio of sophomore guards. In the old days you’d look forward to seeing them battle each other for four years. Nowadays you wonder in they’ll play another four years between the three of them in their college careers … The Unicorn had a near triple double: 11 points, 13 rebounds and 7 assists. Had a very nice flop in the first half that drew an offensive foul, but if he’s looking to make Sportscenter again like the last time he threw himself to the ground he’s going to have to work harder than that …. Harrison was 2 for 9 in the first half and 5 for 7 in the second to finish with 21 points. The second was the first half in a while where he looked like himself … Phil Greene had 11 points on 13 shots and is 15 for 36 (40 %) from the floor over his past three games. It’s fair to note that Phil doesn’t play well west of the Mississippi, having taken a couple of donuts in Chicago versus DePaul as an underclassman, so there’s precedent for him choking in front of friends and family. Of course he doesn’t play that well east of the Mississippi either, so there’s that. (Astute fans will note that SJU is currently projected in the Midwest bracket, which does not bode well for Phil’s post season.) Greene did have 8 rebounds though, and 7 the game before that. So PG4 can rebound, who knew: evidently all this time it was just a lack of effort. I’m looking forward to seeing what other heretofore hidden skills Phil will display in the waning weeks of his career. Perhaps he can play defense or maybe he’s an excellent passer. It’s like peeling back the skin of an onion … Chris Obekpa had two points and 4 blocks and seems to be hobbled and seems to have aggravated his hobble late in the game. Like most things he does his injury is accompanied by histrionics – last night after seemingly tweaking an ankle he limped down the court grimacing and took himself out of the game, the latter for not the first time this year. Perhaps his injury is more severe than has been let on, but since his coach is not shy about exaggerating his players physical difficulties that’s hard to believe. Must be serious though because Harrison is about as banged up as a player can be and he never asks out of a game … Amir Amiroveckovich committed four fouls in eight minutes. Also, he dyed his hair, although whether from his natural color or to I have no way of knowing. Anyone who’s seen him in the locker room, let me know if the curtains match… Felix Balamou did not play, which is odd, because according to astute SJU fans he might as well have been recruited by Johnnie Calamari or Mike Kryszruski as Lavin. Evidently SJU has some of the most coveted walk ons and bench players in Division One.

NOTES: Not too many, which is good news for those who have been emailing to complain that these things are running long. Rest assured that I’ll take those complaints seriously, as a short attention span is a sure sign of high intelligence … The game was called by Brian Anderson and Tarik Turner. Anderson is part of the Milwaukee Brewers broadcasting team that was recently named the 8th best broadcasting unit in major league baseball. Unfortunately, last night he was calling a basketball game. Turner was his usual babbling idiot self. Of Dom Pointer Turner said “His versatility is special to watch,” an amalgam of illogic and garbled syntax worthy of Norm Crosby or Professor Irwin Corey. He also said that Saint John’s was running an “offensive clinic,” which is an interesting choice of words to describe a team that shot 39 percent from the floor and 50 percent from the FT line. Perhaps that was the sort of clinic Turner attended when he was a youth, which would explain his college career. For those of you who’ve forgotten it Turner’s teams at SJ were 14-14, 11-16, 13-14 and 22-10 – the last year outlier was when Fran brought in Colin Charles and sat Turner down most of the season. Despite being one-third of the most heralded recruiting class in Saint John’s history, Turner appeared in one NCAA tournament game, a loss to Detroit … Mark it zero. This is a league game Smokey