GAME: St John’s put a 35-point beating on Sacred Heart University Saturday afternoon at Carnesecca Arena. On the one hand it was a game you’d expect them to win by 35 but on the other the last two years happened, when they lost to Old Dominion and LIU and Incarnate Word and Fordham and NJIT, so I’d think that long-suffering St John’s fans would be wary of thinking too many teams gimmes. But they’re not. Sacred Heart kept it close during the first half by virtue of some otherworldly three point shooting. After though what I presume was a rousing win-one-for-the-big-Indian halftime speech – Joe Lapchick’s statue was unveiled before the game – and some ingenious half time adjustments, St John’s put Sacred Heart away quickly and never looked back.
You’d think it’d be hard to say something negative after a game that St John’s won by 35, shot 55 percent from the floor, held their 6th opponent of the year under 61 points, were plus eight rebounds, had 15 steals, eight blocks, and forced 25 turnovers, but St John’s fans are nothing if not resilient, and so there was some grumbling this morning on various St John’s forums, the gist of which was sure they beat Sacred Heart by 35 but they’re supposed to beat Sacred Heart by 35 and now they have to move forward without Marcus Lovett, who twisted his ankle this week in practice. To which I say: last year the team was 2-5 after seven games, this year they’re 7-1 after eight. Last year they were 302nd in scoring defense at nearly 80 points a game and this year they’re 24th, at 60 ppg. That constitutes improvement by any standard. That a couple of the wins were over just the sort of cupcakes that Lou Carnesecca used to feast upon on his yearly trek to a first round NCAA tournament loss – e.g. the year they went to the final four the pre season comprised Lafayette, St Bonaventure, Fordham, Davidson, Rutgers, Niagara, and Old Dominion – well, last year this time they’d given up 80 points in a loss to Delaware State. So I’ll be happy with this. Because you can only beat the teams you play and you can only beat them one at a time. It’s like what Coach Lavs said after one of his signature wins over mighty Fordham: “Focus on the path of incremental progress, because that’s what ultimately positions a team to do something special come March. Focusing on growth doesn’t guarantee success, but it’s proved to be the most effective approach to enhance the percentages or probabilities of playing your best basketball in the postseason.” Percentages or probabilities, what a maroon … A two game west coast swing looms on the horizon. Assuming a split they’ll be about 8-2 going into Marco Baldi’s Superbowl and Christmas all rolled into one, aka Iona at MSG in the Holiday Festival. Anyone who wouldn’t have signed up for 9-2 after 11 games raise your hands. After someone reads this to you obviously, because you’re gym teacher stupid.
PLAYERS: In the absence of Marcus Lovett Shamorie Ponds handled most of the point guard duties and handled them quite well, finishing with 22 points and 7 rebounds. More importantly he looked to have gotten his swag back: he threw a behind the back pass that was so good that even dopey Amar Alibegowitz was able to finish on the break and then later a through the legs pass to Trimble for a three on another … Tariq Owens double doubled (12 points, 11 rebounds) and threw down a sport center top 10 dunk on a poorly thrown lob … Simon once again stuffed the stat sheet: 14 points, six assists, three steals and three rebounds … Ahmed had 13 points on 5 of 7 from the floor: it’s amazing how good he looks when he lets the game come to him as opposed to how he usually plays … first vaguely good game by the wildly over estimated Marvin Clark, who finished with 14 points and seven rebounds … Yawke had 5 plus rebounds for the third time in four games, which doesn’t sound like much but at least he’s been looking interested lately. He also drew a couple of offensive fouls, which I don’t know if that’s much of a skill, but he’s good for a couple a game … Trimble played 22 minutes in Lovett’s absence and didn’t embarrass himself except a couple of time on defense … Alibegowitz wasn’t as awful as he might have been
NOTES: Sacred Heart is behind BU the second largest catholic university in New England, which perhaps explains why they’re on the schedule instead of say Yeshiva. The university was founded in 1963 so there’s not a lot about it to say. Famous alums include unfunny comedian Kevin Nealon, the actor John Ratzenberger (aka Cliff Klavin) and Lydia Hearst, a “fashion model, actress, and lifestyle blogger,” she being the daughter of Patricia “Tania” Hearst, which makes her heir to the 35 billion dollar fortune earned by her grandfather, the publisher William Randolph Hearst, the inspiration for Citizen Kane. Speaking of unfunny comedians, Hearst recently married the abominable Chris Hartwick …. Michael Rappaport showed up during the broadcast for an interminable appearance, about which I’m not going to say anything, because I like Michael Rappaport … Speaking of the gift that keeps on giving, it was discovered this week that a serial killer plaguing the Tampa area was formerly a member of the St John’s basketball team under – you guessed it – the repulsive Steve Lavin. It turning out that one of Lavin’s walk-ons savagely murdered more people than the late Charlie Manson should come as no surprise to anyone who’s followed his career, Coach Lavs being a bit of a sociopath himself. Obviously the fact that Lavin once mentored a player who turned out to be a mass murderer doesn’t make him equally guilty of the crime, but it does call into question his self serving some-things-are-more-important-than-winning mantra – and that’s leaving aside the fact that Lavin did very little in the way of winning. Because just like Mike Jarhead, a similarly sanctimonious nincompoop, Lavin prided himself on his role as a teacher and molder of men’s character. Jarvis wrote a book called skills for life and Lavin – when he’s not playing the role of halftime bobblehead – gives motivational speeches to groups of impressionable young men. No doubt that he mentored a mass murderer doesn’t come up in conversation. Relative to which – because I’m nothing but scrupulously fair – I’ve gone back looked at Lavin’s recruits, 17 of whom made it to campus. They are Dwayne Polee, Mo Harkless, Nurideen Lindsey, God’s Gift Gazunheit, Phil Greene, Amir Garrett, Dom Pointer, D’angelo Harrison, Jakarr Sampson, Jamal Branch, Chris Obekpa, Marco Bourgault, Christian Jones, Felix Balamou, Rysheed Jordan, Orlando Sanchez, Max Hooper, Amar Alimakeawish and Joey de la Rosa. You have in there two sociopaths – Jordan and Obekpa – one bona fide NBA player (Harkless, who fell into Lavin’s lap and got off it as soon as possible), two guys who had an NBA cup of coffee (Pointer and Sampson), a professional baseball player (Garrett), one great college player (Harrison), one charitably speaking average college player (PG 1V) and eleven mediocrities and nobodies (Polee, Lindsey, Gift, Branch, Bourgault, Jones, Balamou, Sanchez, Hooper, Alibegowtiz and de la Rosa). Which carry the one means that Lavin recruited twice as many attempted murderers as he did great college players; the same number of attempted murderers as players who were the best shooters he’s seen since Jason Kapono (Hooper and Bourgault); and as many transfers (7) as graduates, those seven graduates being only three fewer than the number of victims of Lavin’s serial killer. Say what you will about the Jarvae – and I have, both he and Lavin have me blocked on Twitter – at least his recruits confined themselves to petty thievery, drug dealing and sexual assault. So I think it fair that at least some of the stink rubs off on Lavin and especially because you know that if one of his walk-ons won a Nobel Prize Lavin would be standing in the front row with a big smile and shining eyes, clapping enthusiastically, and that afterwards he’d be available to the media. Whereas I don’t expect to see him at this kid’s trial as a character witness. The university otoh is another story. Serial killers come from all walks of life and social strata and any number of them were educated and some highly so. Ted Kaczynski the Unabomber graduated from Harvard and received a PhD from the University of Michigan; Ted Bundy – who kept the severed heads of his victims in his refrigerator – graduated from the University of Washington and later attended law school in Utah; the rapist slash murderer Michael Ross received a degree from Cornell; clown killer John Wayne Gacy graduated from Northwestern Business College; Dennis “BTK” Rader (BTK stands for bind torture kill) received an undergraduate degree in criminal justice from Wichita State; the Dating Game Killer – he appeared on the show during his spree – Rodney Alcala earned a degree in fine arts from UCLA and was attending NYU film school with another rapist – Roman Polanksi – when he was arrested for the sex slaying of an 8 year old California girl; former Oakland Raider and St Louis Cardinal Roger Rozier graduated from UC Berkeley before joining a black supremacist cult and murdering seven whites as part of an initiation ritual – turn about being fair play he was then himself murdered after testifying against the cult; Ed Kemper – who at 6’9″ 240 pounds could help St St John’s in the front court this year – was attending Santa Clara Community College when he murdered his mother and sodomized her severed head; Michael Swango MD murdered 60 plus patients after graduating from the Southern Illinois University School of Medicine; and Doctor Herman Webster Mudgett, aka HH Holmes, murdered god knows how many people in the specially constructed murder palace that he operated in Chicago during the world’s fair of 1893. Are you going to blame Harvard for Ted Kaczynski? I think not, no more than you’d blame the university for how godawful Barack Obama turned out.