Ifs Ands And Butlers

 

GAME: Missus fun came down with something about a week ago – the flu, cholera, I’m not sure – and as I do whenever she brings disease into the house I exiled her to the servants quarters, donned a biohazard suit and locked myself away like they did from the plague in the Masque of the Red Death. They say that misery loves company but I don’t like misery and so other than shoving a bowl of soup under the door every couple of hours I left her to the fates and her immune system, because that I figure is her problem: we all die alone. The problem for me is that without her civilizing influence I tend to run amok, which is why I was sitting last night at midnight in my study, four windows open to the February air, wood stove blazing, with a freshly lit La Flor Dominicana and making bubbles in a bottle of Stoli: because there was no one there to shoot me disapproving looks intended to save me from myself. The problem for you is that my notes about the 110-86 beating St John’s took at the hands of the Butler Bulldogs Wednesday night in Indiana look like the lunatic ravings of an opium eater as transcribed by Michael J Fox. Most of it I literally can’t make out and what I can make out I wish I could not. The gist of it seems to be that St John’s did not play well and Butler did and that displeased me but that’s nothing I couldn’t have figured out by reading the box score.


To say that St John’s came out flat would be an understatement: Ahmed took a bad shot and then Lovett took one and in the meanwhile Butler scored on three straight possession off six rebounds. It was 7-0 when Mullin took a time out that didn’t help; it was 12-3 before St John’s made its first field goal five minutes in; it was 21-9 when Mullin was shown on camera asking his team to “maybe show up,” they having then shot two for nine from the floor and been outrebounded 13-3; it was 54-35 at half time; another 50 point half followed and 110 points is the most I can recall St John’s giving up in quite a while. Part of that was because Chris Holtmann left his starters in to the bitter end and it would have been poetic justice had one of them broken a fibula or something but it was just one of those nights where no good came of anything. Hopefully Mullin files it away and returns the beating at MSG in a couple of weeks … The numbers speak for themselves: Butler shot 55 percent from the floor and 50 percent from three versus 44 and 35 for St John’s; SJU got murdalized on the glass where Butler was plus 15; turnovers were even but St John’s had only two blocks – they average six … Another atrocious job by the referees, who called 55 fouls that resulted in 77 free throw attempts, which is about two a minute, which made the game two and a half hours long and as exciting as a colonoscopy … One thing my notes are clear about was welcome relief that I no longer had to suffer through another broadcast on CBS. Instead I tuned in Fox and heard Bill Rafferty calling the end of the Providence game and thought to myself self, this is how college basketball should be in February. And then to my delight the repulsive Steve Lavin was absent from the pregame – I guess like his contract at St John’s his contract at Fox does not require him to work weeknights. It turned out I was denied even that morsel of satisfaction, because instead of the B team – Spanarkle – or even the C team – Dickey Simpkins – the late game was called by someone called Jordan Cornette, whose Linked In page describes him as a “TV Personality.” It turns out the Jordan Cornette is the brother of the late Joel Cornette, a recent Butler grad who died of a coronary incident in the fall and whose casket was displayed at center court in Hinkle Field House. I mean what the hell? Last week Steve Lappas was slobbering over his successor during the Villanova game and now we get treated to impartial commentary by the dead guy’s brother. Maybe to even things out Malik Sealy’s orphaned children can call the next St John’s game. Of his brother Cornette said “I don’t want to personalize this broadcast” before personalizing the broadcast by dragging his brother’s corpse through the middle of it: he postulated that his brother would be pleased by Butler’s performance and noted that he found it “ironic” that he was calling the game from the court where his brother was memorialized. Whereas I find it “ironic” that a “TV personality” who graduated from Notre Dame with a degree in journalism doesn’t know the meaning of ironic, because there was nothing ironic about it. It was sad maybe, or melancholy, but only Alanis Morisette would find it ironic. Among Cornette’s other insightful observations were that Butler was “really running some clock” – with 12 minutes left in the first half; he said of Shamorie Ponds after his technical: “Shamorie Ponds, a six foot tall guy, I question his toughness … This is what I don’t like” – to which I appended in my notes, “Yeah well, he’s got more heart than your brother,” which in light of day seems a tad harsh but I found it hilarious at the time; and speaking of hilarious he said that Mussini was “called for a reach around,” not that there’s anything wrong with that … The loss dropped St John’s to eighth in the conference, tied with Providence at 6-8 with four games to go. Two and two is doable, meaning 8-10 in conference plus or minus. They’re a couple of winnable losses away from the NCAA bubble. Think about it: flip VCU, ODU, Delaware State, LIU, and Penn State – all games they probably win if they played them now instead of in the fall – and they’d be 17-10 with a better resume than Seton Hall, Marquette and Providence. Future’s so bright I gotta wear shades.

 

PLAYERS: To the extent there was a game ball it goes to – wait for it Monte, wait for it – Federico Mussini. Twenty points, 7-13 from the floor, four of seven from three, three rebounds and three assists including a neat no look to Owens. That’s two out of three in double figures for the Italian Rapscallion and I’m not even going to mention that both of those were losses … Ponds and Lovett had 33 points between them but were only 8 of 22 from the floor; nearly half their points came on free throws … Owens had eight points and six rebounds but only one block … Ahmed had 15 points before fouling out … Yawke finished strongly on a couple of rolls to the basket but two rebounds in 23 minutes just will not cut it … Speaking of not cutting it, Malik Ellison as an energy guy off the bench is worse than Malik Ellison as a starter: twice as many fouls as points in 12 minutes and yet another lazy cross court pass leading to a breakaway. How many times can you make the same stupid play. Tune in versus Marquette next Tuesday to find out … Alibegowitch fouled out in 14 minutes. I predict that he will learn the meaning of the term “box out” next year while working as a stock boy in a Serbian market where part of his job will be helping the old ladies carry groceries to their cars. If in fact people in Serbia have cars … Williams did not play and Feudenburgh may as well not have

 
NOTES: February 15th is Jour du Drapeau National du Canada, aka National Flag Day in Canada, the worst country in the world, a worse country even than France and France has an excuse: it’s full of french people, whereas Canadians are more like Americans who don’t know any better. On this day Canuckleheads emerge from their igloos, don their ceremonial touques and celebrate their cultural heritage by ingesting enormous quantities of seal blubber washed down with copious amounts of the piss that passes for beer in the great white north. If you’ve ever celebrated Saint Patrick’s Day in NYC – and what red blooded American hasn’t – it’s like that, but transplanted to a third world hamster in a wheel socialist shit-hole.

We of course all know what Canada’s flag looks like: it’s essentially a shrubbery, red. However it has not always been thus. In fact, before 1965 Canada had a pretty bad ass looking flag, a variation of the British Union Jack.

Cool beans, right? Its red white and blue and has dragons and harps and mythical monsters. In 1965 though, inspired by a bout of sour grapes nationalism led by then Prime Minister Lester Pearson, today’s well known maple leaf was adopted, but not before six months of acrimonious debate that led the country nearly to the brink of a civil war. As flags go one that pays homage to pancake syrup doesn’t seem like much but if you consider that ten percent of the nearly 3500 designs considered back then depicted various incarnations of a beaver – and not Pam Anderson’s glorious Canadian beaver either or Jessica Lucas’s – I mean an actual rodent with fur and buck teeth

– see the difference? – a national celebration of flapjacks isn’t necessarily the worst outcome. It’s still pretty bad though. I can understand the appeal of the animal: a giant grizzly bear like they have in California; or a snake that sinks its venomous fangs into your ankle if you tread on it; or a mighty lion like the one that graces the flags of Bermuda and Montenegro – they all portray a message of strength, resolve and ferocity. The logic behind the beaver though eludes me: if threatened I will gnaw through a tree trunk so that it falls on your head and afterwards I’ll beat you to death with my big flat tail is more likely to inspire laughter than terror. It turns out though that the beaver is not the worst idea for a national symbol if you consider that the Cayman Islands’ flag features a turtle and Croatia’s a goat and Moldova’s a cow and Saint Maarten’s a pelican and Turks and Caicos Islands’ a whelk. (“The whelk is nothing but a homosexual of the worst kind. This gay boy of the gastropods, this queer crustacean, this mincing mollusk, this screaming, prancing, limp-wristed queen of the deep makes me sick.”) It’s not even hipster meta irony like UC Santa Cruz’s banana slug mascot. It’s just dumb.

Anyway, although a despicable communist apologist Pearson was far from the worst Canadian prime minister – one need only look to current PM Justin Zoolander to see that – and for his sympathies he was – like several horrible US presidents – awarded a Nobel Peace Prize. Pearson earned his for his role in mitigating the so called Suez Canal Crisis – a crisis in the middle east is what the left calls it when Israel defends itself against its genocidal neighbors. In being so honored Pearson joined an illustrious conga line of eleemosynaries that includes virulent racist Woodrow Wilson, mass murderer Yassar Arafat, antisemitic buffoon Jimmy Carter, inventor of the internet Al Gore, and Barack “I’m really good at killing people” Obama. For his efforts in the Middle East Pearson became known as the “father of peacekeeping,” peacekeeping being the term the UN uses as a colloquialism for the rape, pedophilia, child prostitution, and ethnic cleansing that have for 50 years accompanied its humanitarian activities in socialist paradises like Bosnia, Rwanda, Cambodia and Haiti. Which is not to say that Canada is or all Canadians are bad. My boon companion Redmannorth is a Canuck and besides him they gave us Second City Television, Doug and the Slugs, Neil Young, Gil Evans, Mark Steyn, and Ted Cruz. But on the other hand they produced a long list of horrors that starts with Samantha Bee and Peter Jennings and runs through Nickleback and Justin Bieber and ends with John Kenneth Galbraith and Malcolm Gladwell. Which let’s face it, that’s a lot to overcome, even for the country that produced Shannon Tweed

 

PIE ROTS

As faithful readers know, I’m something of a connoisseur of schadenfreude. Which is to say that there are few things in the world that make me happier than when bad things happen to other people. Which is why Saint John’s 78-70 defeat of the Seton Hall Pirates at Madison Square Garden was so much sweeter than the usual run of the mill win. Because for Seton Hall, on Selection Sunday, Saint John’s is going to be a bad loss. And if Seton Hall doesn’t make the tournament – as I fervently hope they do not, because fuck Seton Hall – then today will be a major reason why. To put my glee in perspective, I had a fin on a $60 horse today in the seventh at Aqueduct, a Finger Lakes shipper called Hey Jabber Jaw – lone speed baby! – and the thrill of that cha-ching pales in comparison to the joy I feel at the thought of Kevin Willard’s rat guts roiling on the long bus ride back to Jersey … As games go, this was not a particularly compelling one. Things were close for about the first ten minutes, at which point SJU went on a 20-6 run to lead by 10 points at half time and things would have been much closer had SJU not missed half a dozen lay ups. Things did not get much closer after that: I can’t be arsed to check but I think the lead in the second half was never less than seven, and that’s taking into account a 9-2 SH run about midway through the half. What was compelling was how Saint John’s won: they didn’t win as usual by shooting the lights out from three – they were 3-11. They won by playing defense, by controlling the tempo, by absorbing a punch, in short by doing all the little things that good teams do routinely when they win. I noted a bit ago and will note again: despite their youth this team is starting to gel. You can see them getting better and you can feel them getting better; and you can see and feel Mullin becoming a head coach. To the extent that Saint John’s basketball is thrilling – which is easily as thrilling as a 14 thousand dollar claimer at Aqueduct in February – this is it. I don’t mean that it doesn’t get any better than this – because next year will be better than this – but at this point in time and at this point in the process, we are you and I a couple of glorious seconds short of ejaculation. It’s like Hannibal Smith used to say: I love it when a plan comes together …

 

Some points high and low from the box score: both teams shot about 40 percent from the floor; SH shot 40 percent from three, versus 25 percent for SJU; Seton Hall turned the ball over 19 times, versus 8 for SJU; Seton Hall shot 65 percent from the free throw line – nine misses in an eight point game, haha – as opposed to 19-21 for Saint John’s, those two misses by Lovett and Missini, who are usually money; it wasn’t evident to me watching the game but SH was plus 12 rebounding, didn’t matter, don’t care … Other than his decision to inexplicably take the air out of the ball late in the second half when he should have put his foot on Kevin Willard’s throat and torn his jugular out with his teeth, another well-coached game by Mullin. As goofy as he may have looked sitting on the scorer’s table last year at this time, that’s the opposite of how good he looks this year on the sidelines: in control of his team and himself. Speaking of schadenfreude, its a bit too soon to call all the Mullin haterz to the carpet, but that time is coming: in short order there will be a shit ton of crow for Mullin doubters to eat and I will personally shove each and every black fucking bird down each and every throat. Because seeing Mullin finding himself on the sidelines is marvelous … I’ve expended many words this year shitting on the officiating but today the officiating did not suck. I don’t mean that the officials could see or were not stupid or understood the rules of basketball. Heaven forfend, because they missed a shit ton of calls. But today they did not interfere with the game: they did not destroy its rhythm or integrity by calling too many fouls; they did not play favorites by penalizing one team at the expense of the other; in other words, other than that they were there, you could not tell they were there, which is how it should be. It did not even bother me that Angel Delgado was permitted to stand in the lane long enough to grow roots: I tortured Missus Fun by continually rewinding the game and counting how many three second violations ADG committed, which was half a dozen, with four of them comprising five seconds each time – with that sort of advantage no wonder he leads the conference in rebounding … SJU Is now sixth in the conference – not in something, actually sixth place in the conference, in Mullin’s second year. They have six wins, as many as Marquette and more than Seton Hall and Georgetown and Providence. They’ve won four out of their last seven. Other than two losing streaks where they lost nine of nine they’re 12 and 5. I find this wonderful and hilarious. If you don’t you should find another team to root for.

PLAYERS: Marcus Lovett once again did not start but my did he finish: 19 points, six assists, and five rebounds … Tariq Owens double doubled: ten points and 12 rebounds to go along with 4 blocks. I don’t recall an SJU player ever having a triple double but he’s a candidate. On one remarkable sequence he blocked a shot at one end and followed up a missed shot with a dunk on the other. If it doesn’t make ESPN’s top ten then something is amiss at ESPN … Ahmed pressed a bit but had 11 points and eight rebounds, disappointing fans who think he stinks. Had a marvelous no look pass on break that led to a Missini lay in … Ponds had 17, a bunch of it acrobatically in traffic. Made a spin move in traffic in the first half that should be in a museum … Yakwe had eight points and three assists, but also three blocks and drew three charges. To the extent hat Delgado was not a factor he was not a factor because of Yawke … Amar Aligegowish emerged from the primordial muck to have a not shitty game: he made a couple of lay ups – one on a spectacular no look from Lovett – and hit a big three that swished right as I was yelling at him for taking it … Missini made a couple of plays but was mostly ineffectual. In one sequence he missed a three, flubbed a rebound on the other end and allowed his man a three, which was about a nine point turn around .. Ellison committed three fouls in five minutes and was pulled after throwing one of his patented lazy half court passes that led to a SH fast break. Mullin said he injured his thumb, but I hope he didn’t play in the second half because he sucks, which he does … Darien Williams did not play because he has a walking boot on his shoulder and Fruedenbrgh didn’t play because he stinks.

NOTES: Last week I ragged on the CBS coverage to no end. Today it did not suck. In fact, other than he first appearance of Wally Scerbiaks’ terrifying eyebrows I quite enjoyed the it. Doug Gottlieb – who as a radio host makes those morons on Mike and Mike look like Bertrand Russel and Alfred North Whitehead – was eloquent and well informed. About the rest of them the less said the better … As I mentioned last week I received an email, the gist of which was that I’d softened my stance on Fedrerico Mussini in the face of his (the reader’s) and other’s criticism that I was prejudiced against Italians – can you imagine in this day and age, a jew broad, prejudiced against italians – noting that I had even taken to spelling Mussini correctly, as opposed to my preferred Missini. That of course is twaddle. In the first place I don’t hate Italians – I mean sure I hate some Italians, my family for instance, but not all of them, how can you hate a race nationality that turned out Sophia Loren and Claudia Cardinale for god sake – and in the second it should be evident by now that I don’t give a shit what you people think. But as pari-mutuel fans of the ALL button know the most important place is the third: in his last several games Missini- not today but in general – has played limited minutes adequately, which is about all you can expect from a short skinny less than talented dago. (Interestingly although dago is often employed as a slur against Italians its etymology suggests that it’s a variation on the Portuguese surname Diego.) It did get me to thinking though about how few Italians have made their mark in basketball. There are any number of great Italian baseball players, inter alia Steve Balboni, Rocco Baldelli, Kurt Bevacqua (of whom self hating Italian Tommy Lasorda said “he couldn’t hit water if he fell out of a fucking boat”), Buddy Biancalana, John Boccabella, Jim Fregosi, Pete Incaviglia, Cookie Lavagetto, Lee Mazzilli, Tiger great Don Mossi, and Mike Pagliarulo. Just kidding, those guys stunk. But Sal Bando, Yogi Berra, Craig Biggio, Ralph Branca, Roy Campanella, Tony Conigliaro, Joe DiMaggio, Tony Lazzeri, Sal Maglie, Rico Petrocelli, Mike Piazza, and Phil Rizzuto, they didn’t stink. So it’s not that eye-ties are terrible athletes. And in fact some were great athletes: Willie Mosconi was Italian; so was Charles Atlas; so was Rocky Marciano; so was Brian Boitano. They’re a little thin in football, but Marc Bavaro, Daryl Lamonica, Mike Lucci, Dan Marino, Dan Pastorini, Tony Siragusa, and Adam Vinatieri are nothing to sneeze at. So it strikes me as a bit odd that there are so few great Italain basketball players, the best of which was arguably Diana Taurasi and if not him her then probably former NBA rookie of the year Ernie DiGregorio, who stil holds the single game NBA assist mark at 25. After him things drop off precipitously: you’ve got Saint John’s own mix breed Jayson Williams, Villanova alum Bill Melchionni – Melchionni played on two of the most talented basketball teams ever assembled: in 1967 he played with Wilt Chamberlain, Hal Greer, and Chet Walker on the 76ers and in 1974 he won an ABA championship with Julius Erving, Larry Kenon, John Williamson, and Billy Paultz – and beyond them the Vinny Del Nigros and John Gianellis of the world. I mean, the French are the worst nationality on the planet and they produced Bob Cousy and Tony Parker. Look at for example the list of the top Irish American basketball players and you can leave aside the Al and Frank McGuire and the brothers Mcyntyre and even Bobby Kelley and still have this starting six: John Stockton, black Irish Jason Kidd, Chris Mullin, Rick Barry, Kevin McHale, and Bill Walton, and after that you can bring former Saint Johhn’s coach Matt Doherty off the bench. That’s a pretty good basketball team and although they wouldn’t beat Magic, Michael, Julius, LeBron and Wilt, it’d be a pretty entertaining game, and maybe even competetive. Where Italians have made their basketball mark is as coaches: Geno Auriemma, John Calipari, P.J Carlesimo, Louie, Mike D’Antoni, Tom Izzo, Rollie Massimino, Thad Matta, Dick Motta, Rick Pitino and Jim Valvano were all wops. What does this all mean, other than that since basketball is a game Irish excel at evidently you can play it shit faced? I’m not sure, but I only have 2000 words to write, and that was a thousand and morals are extra.

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.

Bare Marquette

RECAP: Other than picking the Derby winner or seeing Tom Brady snap a fibula if there’s anything sweeter than watching dwekies fail at basketball I don’t know what it is and Saint John’s 82-76 win over Marquette at Madison Square Garden Wednesday night was no exception. Sure Marquette isn’t the evil empire per se but the presence on the sidelines of floor slapping dope Steve Wojowhatever makes it close enough and especially the way the last couple of years at Saint John’s have gone. The look of bewilderment and impotence on Wojo’s face as his team’s post season hopes swirled down the toilet wasn’t priceless, but it was easily worth a sawbuck and the outcome finds me in such a good mood this morning that I’m barely able to work up the bile necessary to write one of these things and probably if I hadn’t drunk enough gin last night to kill a less hardy man probably wouldn’t bother, but why waste a good hangover … So where was I oh yeah Saint John’s defeated Marquette 82-76 at Madison Square Garden Wednesday night. It was their fifth conference win of the season – their fifth – and moved them into sixth place – sixth – in the Big East, ahead of Georgetown, Providence, and Seton Hall and only a half game behind Marquette. I noted after it might have been the Villanova game that Saint John’s was starting to put it together but that it was hard to tell because they had been playing a couple of weeks worth of ranked teams. At the risk of injuring myself patting myself on the back too vigorously I think it’s fair to say that that assessment was correct: they beat Providence in Providence and played Xavier tough and last night spanked Marquette on their home court the way a good team should. Dopey Steve Lavin always talked about getting his team to play its best ball in February, which in his case was just an excuse for his team’s lousy play the other 11 months of the year. This year I think it might be happening, a case of the freshmen maturing and the team coming together and Mullin getting his coaching legs under him. That having been said no doubt Nova beats them by 40 on Saturday. In event it’s welcome and if I didn’t feel like dying I might even be in what passes for me as a good mood …


If you didn’t know the outcome you’d think that Saint John’s was the thin blue line above, because that’s how lots of their games go: they keep it close for a while, go down big, make a feeble aborted comeback and come up short. Last night the opposite happened. Saint John’s went into the locker room up eight by virtue of a 10-2 run late in the first half and except for an 8-0 Marquette run early in the second the outcome was never really in doubt. Offensively Saint John’s did what they do more or less: they shot 50 percent from the floor and 40 percent from three, albeit 17 assists on 32 made baskets is a bit more than usual. What made the difference last night was rebounding and defense. It wasn’t just the obvious stuff, like Ponds and Lovett making Marquette’s guards look foolish by stripping them of the ball half a dozen times at midcourt. It was the effort and the little things they usually don’t do: fighting through screens and boxing out and, you know, stuff that good basketball teams do. Speaking of defense, since Saint John’s allowed DePaul to shoot 15 of 16 from the free throw line a couple of weeks ago their opponents are 56 of 93, which is about 60 percent. Credit to whoever’s been working with the kids on that in practice, probably Saint Jean … Mullin coached I thought a marvelous game. He waited a minute or two longer than I would have to call a timeout in the second half – Marquette had gotten to within five when he finally called one but maybe he was waiting to see if they could fix things on their own. Other than that I had no complaints and especially not about the two white lummoxes not seeing the floor: neither Alibegowitch or Freudenburgh played, which is fine by me. Amar is hopeless and the German is still a couple of steps slow. People talk a little bit of shit about the fact that Mullin’s less than articulate in the huddle, which yeah he is, but for the most part if the difference between winning a game and losing it is a couple of minutes worth of sideline exhortation then you’re not doing your job the rest of the week. I mention this because FS2 – horrible picture by the way, it reminded me of watching porn on my Commodore 64 – cut to Wojo during a time out yesterday when he said this, verbatim:

We won that last four minutes by eight points. You know why? Because we’re competing. We’re competing. No. We were not playing scared. We’re competing. Compete for this last eight minutes.

So to recap: they’re competitive because they’re competing. And this guy went to Dook, the finest Ivy League school in the entire ACC. Remember that next time Mullin mumbles something incoherent … Next up Villanova away. Gird your loins.

PLAYERS: JUCO bust Bashir Ahmed who needs to be benched until he learns to play basketball the white right way had easily the best game of his brief college career: 23 points and six rebounds, including a huge one in traffic with about two minutes left. He was aggressive but for the most part under control. Nice to see because he plays really hard … Also nice to see Kassoum Yakwe, who for the first time this year looked like the player he was going to be this year last year at about this time. (Read it again, it makes perfect sense.) He fumbled one pass but the rest of them he caught and finished. Add to that six rebounds and yeoman defense on Marquette’s big front line and you have a pretty good day at the office. Hopefully this was the start of his resurgence and not an anomaly … Ponds and Lovett had between them 35 points, 10 assists, and seven steals – most of the latter around midcourt, where as I mentioned they made Marquette’s guards look silly. Ponds had seven rebounds as well …. Tariq Owens: 11 rebounds in 20 minutes … Malik Ellison took his rightful place in the offense: behind nearly everyone else. When he doesn’t try to do too much he looks like he’s doing more than he is, which is almost enough … Mussini [sic] hit a couple of threes. On the first he head faked the MU player aside, set his feet and swished it. Very pretty, I watched it a bunch of times. His other one came late in the second half when MU got within seven. If he does that every game I’ll have to find another dead horse to beat … Williams played 10 uneventful minutes and no one else played any

 
NOTES: When I switched the game on last night around nine Missus Fun said something about me not having my notebook that I use to write my “little blog,” which sometimes she has to get her digs in and I let her because believe it or not I can sometimes be something of a long day. So we got to talking about my little blog and she asked why I don’t reply to the comments that people leave – which are generally favorable – and I said for the same reason you don’t thank construction workers when they whistle at you on the street, it’s unseemly, and that anyway what little conversation these gambols provoke take place in fan forums and have less to do with my incredible basketball insight and more to do with what picture I stick at the top of the page. This week for example I wrote three of these and the only thing anyone wanted to talk about was why last time I used a photo of Lisa Whelchel from the Facts of Life instead of Phoebe Cates, who the guy who banged Mindy Cohn banged in Fast Times. The answer’s simple: I already used Phoebe Cates (many times, believe me) and anyway sometimes I feel like a blonde. To her credit Missus Fun stayed awake for most of that conversation and almost the entire game, so that I didn’t have to implement my new draconian no snoring during basketball regimen, but since I know now that she’s a fan, she’s forewarned.