Nowadays I rarely get mad enough during basketball games to scream at the television but I made an exception during St John’s 46-43 victory over Central Florida in the consolation bracket of the Advocare tournament Sunday afternoon. I screamed at Bashir Ahmed when he threw an ill-considered full court pass to Kassoum Yawke, who has a hard enough time catching the ball when you hand it to him. I screamed at Marvin Clark when he took the ball end to end on a break instead of giving it up to one of the guards, and then screamed at him again when he did it again. And I screamed at Justin Simon when he almost gave the game away by nearly turning the ball over at half court with a minute left. But mostly I screamed at the referees. Consider: UCF did not score a point in the first 10 minutes; they did not make a field goal until seven minutes were left in the first half, a half in which they managed four field goals total; they made a mere 14 field goals the entire game, had 15 shots blocked, turned the ball over 21 times and had their best player foul out three quarters of the way through the second half. And yet they came within a clam’s hair of winning by virtue of the the 14 of 23 free throws they made – good thing they sucked at FT shooting huh? – in a seemingly unending parade to the line. And meanwhile St John’s didn’t shoot a free throw until there were 13 minutes left in the second half and ended up with a total of eight, half of those in the last five minutes. Things got so bad that at one point a referee collapsed, exhausted from the strain of whistling fouls against SJU. (Just kidding, he got head butted by one of UCF’s players, which resulted in a St John’s foul.) Being uncharacteristically sober it took me a bit to figure out what was going on, but then the light bulb went off: former dookie Johnny Dawkins was on the sidelines, that was why UCF was getting the benefit of every call. That was why for example Tarko Fall could grab a rebound under the basket, stumble halfway across the court and end up laying on his back near the sideline where he was awarded a time out: it wasn’t because he’s learned the secret of teleportation or because he’s the most supernaturally coordinated golem in the history of golems, it’s because his head coach attended the best Ivy league school in the ACC. It all became clear: St John’s was getting rogered, just like they got rogered in 1990, when dook shot 32 free throws to SJU’s 15 in a 4-point first round NCAA tournament loss, and just like they did in 1991, when dewk shot 28 free throws to SJ’s six. It wasn’t merely bad basketball, or blind and biased referees: it was part of a vast shadowy conspiracy of karmic forces that has existed for more than 50 years. In which case there’s nothing to do be done about it, so you might as well scream into the darkness. (Meanwhile in Pennsylvania, Villanova just played an entire game without committing a single foul. Last year when they didn’t commit a foul in a half against St John’s I called that loaves and fishes territory. No fouls in an entire game means Jay Wright has moved on to raising Lazarus from the dead). Which whining about the refs is not to say that SJ played well. They did not. They were putrid: they shot 25 percent from the floor and 7 for 27 from three and committed 22 turnovers. But I don’t care. In a four point game where 80 points were scored total UCF shot 400 percent as many FTs as SJ and scored a third of their points from the line: they made as many FTs as they did baskets. Some guy called C Brown on UCF took six shots that resulted in 13 free throws, and meanwhile Lovett, Ahmed and Ponds took 40 shots between them and got fouled twice. Not buying it, not at all. The refs were horseshit … About the previous three games there’s not a lot to say. SJ made a nice comeback against Oregon State, but Oregon State stinks so there’s not a lot of there there. The Missouri game was a bit of a disappointment, because they had them and let them go. Although the difference in the score at game’s end was eight the real difference was fourteen: 14 more FT’s for Missouri – they made eight more than SJ took – and they had 14 more rebounds than St John’s and they made 14 threes. That’s more fourteens than Roy Moore’s had. Still, six and one after seven games is about as good a start as any non-delusional fans – and there are a lot of you – could expect, because even if they’d beaten MU they’d have had their heads handed to them by West Virginia. The big tournament take away for me is the defense, i.e., that they’re actually playing some. And that’s a big deal. Because if you play defense you can win games you shouldn’t, just like the one they won today … There’s five games left before the real ones begin: assume a loss to Arizona State and that they beat snot out of the the cream puffs (Sacred Heart and Iona); even if they lose a game they probably could win against Grand Canyon or St Joe’s, that’s nine wins, which is just about where you’d expect them to be in December: halfway to a favorable seed in the NIT.
NOTES: Advocare was sponsored by the sinking ship ESPN, meaning that I was spared the presence of the repulsive Steve Lavin and dimwitted Tarik Turner; the bad news is that I was subjected to unending streams of ill-informed nonsense by the conga line of failed coaches that ESPN foists off as alleged experts: Dan Dakich, Seth Greenburg, Dino Gaudio, Mark Adams and Bob Valvano have between them 1500 coaching losses, three NCAA tournament appearances, and the combined charm of a convention of Albanian marriage brokers. The worst offender though this week was former SJU coach Fran Fraschilla, who noted during the game that we were watching bad basketball and “probably bad coaching” – which is a remarkable statement coming from someone whose own once promising career exploded more spectacularly than anyone not named Bobby Gonzalez. What Fran failed to note was the atrocious announcing: an indication of the kind of day Fran had was that when a Marcus Lovett jumper lodged itself between the rim and the backboard Fran went on a 30 second dissertation about how that shot was “an indication of the kind of night Shamorie Ponds is having.” In one short sentence he got the player wrong, and the time of day, and drew the wrong conclusion from what he’d just watched twice, but other than that made some fine points. On the bright side he didn’t pull his cock and balls out and start shaking them in anyone’s face, so there’s that … And finally the elephant in the room. Many of you have written over the past week, the gist of which was hey fun, what gives? Where’s my recap. The short answer is that I couldn’t be bothered and the longer one that it’s all part of the master plan: like Saint John’s in the first half of many of its games I’m starting slowly and conserving my energy for the second, when games are won. In point of fact Molloy was a glorified exhibition against a nursing college – Lou used to joke about playing the little sisters of the poor but it took Chris Mullin to actually pull it off. What was I supposed to write about? How to make jello? How to jerk off doctors in the linen closet? (Hint: use jello). I couldn’t have been less interested. Still, one astute poster in the interminable game thread at one well trafficked fan board – you’d think they were playing for the national championship the way these dopes analyze the excruciating minutia of every possession – termed the win “a disgrace,” evidently because SJ only won by 29, after having sat their two best players for the last 10 minutes of the second half. No doubt the same poster would have complained if Lovett and Ponds were in at the end, lest they get injured. Because some people are only happy when they’re unhappy. Re the Advocare tournament, I wrote three recaps in three days during last year’s preseason tournament, after which I said to myself, self, if I’d known they were going to play three games in three days I’d have written one recap comprising all three games, which is exactly what I did this year, having this year cleverly looked at the schedule beforehand, as opposed to last year, when I was drunk. Not that I’m not drunk now obviously, but at least I looked at the schedule. And I actually did some research into the schools we played, just in case. The Oregon Beavers were a treasure trove, beaver being along with area 51, axe wound, baby cannon, badly packed kebab, beef curtains, broad faced chicken, clowns pocket, furburger, front-butt, meat curtains, minge, muff, Sarah’s saddlebag, sausage wallet, shame cave, smiling dolphin, stench trench, stink box, tinkleflower, tuna purse, twinkle cavern, Valarie’s stinkhole, yippee bog, and yogurt factory a synonym for the female private parts. It turns out that in days of old it was thought that venereal disease was spread by contact with the pubic hairs of prostitutes, who in turn shaved their nether regions and wore instead vaginal toupees, called merkins, made from beaver pelts. Today of course most women shave themselves bald as a matter of course, snow flake millennial males evidently being sexually aroused by the Barbie dolls with which they grew up playing. Me, I’ll take a hirsute 80’s porn bush any day of the week. De gustibus non disputandum est. And Missouri, the Tigers, was the alma mater of Tom Berenger, Sheryl Crow, Jon Hamm, Robert Loggia, Brad Pitt, George C. Scott, Tennesee Williams, Art Shamsky, and Ed Sanders, founder of the Fugs, whose The Family (The Story of Charles Manson’s Dune Buggy Attack Battalion) is the sine qua non of Manson porn, poor Charlie having shuffled off the mortal coil in a synchronistical bit of good fortune this past week. RIP Charlie.