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.