Tag Archives: NCAA first round loss

Broken Heart

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.

Knights On Bald Mountain

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.

The L Word

200_s

GAME: There’s a temptation after a game like Friday’s humiliating 73-51 home loss to recent Division I convert Incarnate Word to say well, Saint John’s played poorly, could happen to anyone, chalk up the el and get ready for the next one. Which is true, but it’s unfortunately the same thing Syracuse was saying about Saint John’s after their win last weekend. Because that’s what you say when you lose a game you expected to win. After the Syracuse game Mullin told his players that when they do things the right way they can beat anyone in the country. Hopefully after last night he told them that this is what happens when you don’t do things the right way: anyone in the country can beat you … On offense Saint John’s SJ didn’t look too bad, at least not by the numbers: they shot 40 percent from the floor and from three; rebounds were more or less even; they had 13 assists and 6 blocks. The bad news was they turned the ball over 15 times and were 7 of 13 from the FT line, many of those misses comprising the front end of one and ones while IW was pulling away. The defense was another story: IW shot only 40 percent from the floor but 45 percent from behind the three point line – from whence SJU allowed them to shoot without a care in the world – and 14 of 15 from the FT line … All in all a pretty humiliating loss for a team some thought might have turned the corner. Which if they did they did they just ran over a pedestrian in the crosswalk. The only good news so far this week is that the semester’s over and a decision on M Lovett is allegedly nigh. Because this team could use a point guard.

PLAYERS: Durand Johnson led the team in points (15) and rebounds (6) and Sima had 11 points and 5 rebounds. So much for the players who played marginally well … Take out the Syracuse game and Mussini (7 points) is shooting 4 for 21 from three this December … Albiveckowich had 6 points and 4 rebounds in 20 minutes but was 1-5 from the FT line … Chris Jones had 2 points in 26 minutes … Mvouika was similarly futile: no points in 16 minutes. Strange that an offensively challenged team can’t get him some looks: he’s shooting nearly 60 percent from the floor and is fourth in the BE in three point shooting. But he had less attempts than anyone and as many as Malik Ellison, who had four turnovers in 11 minutes in his first game since November 16. He turned the ball over 4 times in that game as well. It’s too early for that to be called a pattern, but it’s definitely a tendency.

NOTES: Speaking of bad losses, there was a fan board exchange this week wherein a poster noted that he was bringing his kid to his first Saint John’s game, to which I replied (presciently it turned out): “May I be the first to welcome your son to a lifetime of disappointment.” Which in turn set me to thinking about my own wretched youth and all the angst that Saint John’s has caused me through the years. I’ve been considering lately as I commence the slow slide into the grave how my life might have been different if e.g. I’d rooted for the Yankees and Cowboys and Celtics rather than Saint John’s and the Detroit Lions and the Republican Party. Consider the effect of these NCAA tournament results on the young psyche, and remember, these were Lou’s good teams.

March 14, 1982, at Nassau Coliseum: Alabama – who a year earlier beat SJU in the NIT at Carnesecca Arena Alumni Hall – beat SJU 69-68 in a game in which Alabama shot 37 free throws, scoring 40 percent of their points from the line. Saint John’s starting five had 21 fouls between them and Mullin fouled out, which how is that even possible, he never covered anybody. Kevin Williams scored five points in nine minutes compared to Bobby Kelly’s two in 37 and Jeff Allen scored 10 points on 5-5 from the floor, versus zero points from Wennington in 20 minutes.

In 1983 Lou lost to Vern Fleming’s Georgia in the first round, 70-67. Kevin Williams had 12 pts in 20 minutes vs zero for Bobby Kelly.

March 15, 1984: Saint John’s lost to Temple in the first round when Terrance Stanbury buried a 40 foot jump shot after Mullin missed the front end of a one and one. Team featured twin point guards (Moses and Jackson) and towers (Allen and Wennington).

1985, loss to Georgetown, understandable, although I would have pounded the ball into Berry.

1986, loss to Auburn, Saint John’s has no answer for Chuck Pearson.

March 15, 1987: Saint John’s lost to DePaul when Dallas Comegys committed a lane violation after trying to brick a FT off the back rim at the end of regulation, except the lane violation wasn’t called and NYC native Rod Strickland hit a buzzer beater off the rebound to send the game to OT, where in a stunning turn of events Saint John’s lost.

In 1988, a first round lost to the Vern Maxwell/Dwayne Schintzius version of Florida, 62-59. Florida shot 17 free throws to SJ’s 8. Mercifully I have no independent recollection of this game.

In 1989 Lou won the NIT, woo hoo, which NIT banner proudly adorns the walls of Carnesecca Arena Alumni Hall to this day. Although the team featured freshman Malik Sealy, this era commenced what knowledgeable fans such as myself refer to as the Muto years.

March 18, 1990. Lou lost to eventual national champion Duke 76-72. The game turned late in the second half when near-cripple Billy Singleton cleanly stole the ball at half court but was called for a foul and then a double technical when he bounced the ball in frustration. SJ was up six when the foul was called and the game was even when play resumed. SJU never recovered. The repulsive Christian Laettner – other than Bill Walton the greatest white college basketball player I ever saw, better even than Mullin – was 0 for 7 from the field and had six points. In a stunning turn Duke was awarded 32 free throws, to 15 for Saint John’s.

In 1991 Lou beat #1 Ohio State but lost again to DewK in the regionals. DooK shot 28 FTs to SJ’s 6.

In 1992 Sean Muto and Malik Sealy’s senior year, SJ lost to Tulane, in the game that convinced Lou to hang up his sweater.

Now, that might not rise to the heights of despair suffered by fans of say the Buffalo Bills or Minnesota Vikings, but only because Saint John’s never reached as many championship games as those guys. Our hopes were always dashed much earlier. So to that guy, whoever he was, consider buying your kid some cute Duke rompers this Christmas, and maybe some Patriots sheets to lay his head on at night. And to the kid, good luck, you’re going to need it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Something Awful

bettie-page

GAME: Well that was ugly. And by that I’m referring to the 91-55 spanking the Vanderbilt University Commodores inflicted on an overmatched Saint John’s Red Storm in the first round of the Maui Invitational Tournament Monday night in Hawaii. It was the worst Saint John’s loss since, well, last March, when Steve Lavin’s seniors lost to Villanova by 37 on their magic carpet ride to a first round NCAA tournament loss. (That was only six games ago, good grief.) I can’t be arsed to figure out if this was the worst loss in Saint John’s history, but it was pretty bad, although at least they kept them under 100. The game that it brings foremost to mind is the early season 92-60 loss to Maryland in the Jimmy V classic in 2006; that one too was over after about six minutes. If Chris Mullin is half the coach Norm was he’ll have his team ready to play tomorrow; knowledgeable fans will recall that the night after the Maryland debacle Norm’s team lost to number 19 Texas by only a point. If he doesn’t, how long will it be before the Fire Mullins! chants are echoing in Carnesecca Arena? … There’s basically nothing else to say about the game. Saint John’s shot 30 percent from the floor, 12 percent from three, and were outrebounded 49-26. Whereas Vanderbilt shot 53 percent from the floor and 48 percent from three, and had 21 assists. Give Vanderbilt credit, they looked pretty good. But it is after all only November.

NOTES: there’s little point to this section, they all stunk … Mussini (5-13) and Johnson (2-10) had 14 and 10 respectively. Mussini impressed with a couple of sneaky good moves at the rim … Jones led the team with 5 rebounds and didn’t appear particularly overmatched considering the enormous size and girth of Vanderbilt’s front line … Mvouika had 8. It’s a shame he can’t dribble, they could really use a point guard … Sima needs to hit the weight room … Balamou is evidently not the second coming of David Russell. He might not even be the second coming of Nipsy Russell … Ablavlitowich clanked three straight on threes with his feet set and no one near him, but looked infinitely better doing that than he did when he tried taking his man off the dribble … Holyfield did nothing in eight minutes, whereas Dial had four points in two. Did someone say 6th man of the year?

NOTES: The game was called by B-b-b-b-bill W-w-w-w-walton and some guy who had a hard time getting a word in edgewise. Walton is arguably the best white player in college basketball history and also a babbling idiot, whose stream of consciousness commentary Monday night ran the gamut from solar power and women’s professional surfing to bull mastiffs and the Grateful Dead. If there was something unrelated to basketball that he brought up I would be hard pressed to tell you what it was, and not just because I turned the sound off a few minutes into the second half … Two time NCAA player of the year Jay “Look out for that tree” Williams and former Virginia Tech coach Seth Greenburg nearly came to blows at halftime discussing whether Indiana was better than Vanderbilt or vice versa. Whether the obvious animosity between them was the result of Williams’ antisemitism or Greenburg’s bigotry is anyone’s guess … Speaking of bigots, Vanderbilt University was founded via a grant by robber baron Cornelius Vanderbilt, a native of Staten Island who made an immense fortune operating steamboat and railroad monopolies in the 19th century; the details of his business dealings are unimportant, except to note that as Honore de Balzac said, “Behind every great fortune lies a great crime.” To put Vanderbilt’s fortune in perspective, it was around 100 million dollars when he finally died in 1882 – at that time 100 million dollars comprised around 13 percent of total US currency; Bill Gates fortune, estimated at 150 billion dollars, comprises less than 1 percent of today’s US currency … Vanderbilt married twice, both times to a first cousin, producing a brood of 13 inbred children whose myriad decedents still plague us today. (Vanderbilt’s great-great-great-great grandson Timothy Olyphant gets a pass, because you can’t hate on Raylan Givens.) Shortly after the War Between the States Civil War and at the urging of his then second wife Frank (despite her name, a broad), a former slave owner and ardent supporter of the Confederate States of America, Cornelius decided to endow a university in the south as a means of encouraging racial healing. That he ended up endowing Vanderbilt seems an odd choice, considering that the school refused to admit blacks until 1953; proudly counts among its graduates a conga line of unrepentant racists including Hiram Wesley Ellis, Imperial Wizard of the Klu Klux Klan from 1922 to 1939; had in the 1920s a football coach who everybody called “Nig” because of his dark complexion; and still houses students on scholarship from the Daughters of the Confederacy at Confederate Memorial Hall. The best that can be said for Vanderbilt is that it does not have quite as shameful a racial history as does nearby Duke University, but then that would be impossible … Like their Duke contemporaries, Vanderbilt graduates refer to their alma mater as the Harvard of the South, which I would too if I paid nearly 50 thousand dollars a year to go to a school in the Southeastern Conference. Proof that it’s not even the Harvard of Tennessee are its graduates, the worst of whom include climate huckster Al Gore; rapid white supremacist and Democratic ward heeler Georgia Theodore Bilbo (despite his name a guy, who once denounced an anti-lynching bill because it would “open the floodgates of hell in the South”); Clinton crime family member Vince Foster, who “committed suicide” wink wink after he threatened to go public with details of Bill and Hillary’s long criminal career; Randy Brooks, author of the satanic Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer; the repulsive Skip Bayless; Jay Cutler, who despite being one of the worst QBs in NFL history has somehow managed to never play for my Detroit Lions; and Dinah Shore, whose wholesome image belied the fact that she banged everyone from Dean Martin and Burt Reynolds to General George Patton and former NY governor Hugh Carey – my late 101 year old seamstress grandmother had a pin cushion that’d been stuck fewer times. Less appalling graduates include the novelists James Dickey and Robert Penn Warren; pin up girl Betty Page; the venerable David Brinkley; the late Fred Thompson, DUN DUN; Rich Kyanka, founder of formerly funny website Something Awful; and sportswriter Grantland Rice, to whom your humble author is often compared.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Good Knight

1320543274_3I was going to write a single word recap this morning – something along the lines of Wow! – and not just because I’m pretty hungover and want to go back to bed. Rather, Saint John’s 61-59 improbable come from behind victory Thursday was so jaw dropping that I wonder whether even I can do it justice. Or at least parts of it were jaw dropping anyway. Most of it was the normal sort of early season affair between two evenly matched but not very good teams, with the advantage to the older and more experienced one. Rutgers was up by seven at halftime by virtue of a 7-minute SJU scoring drought midway through the first that resulted in a 12-0 Rutgers run. Not long after I wrote “this could have been much worse” in my notes it became so: Rutgers opened the 2nd half with a quick 7-0 run to go up by 15 and still led by 16 at the 15 minute mark and the game looked all but over. But Saint John’s kept plugging away until an 8-0 run pulled them within 6 at around the 5 minute mark, at which point it all became too much for Rutgers and they choked – they managed just a single field goal and a single FT in the last 5.5 minutes. Saint John’s was up 1 with 9 seconds left when Felix Balamou – who speaking of choking had just missed two free throws – fouled poor Corey Sanders twice at midcourt, first knocking him askew with a vicious hip check and then taking him out by sweeping the leg. (Do you have a problem with that. No sensei.) Neither foul was called and after a Christian Jones FT the game winning Rutgers three was waved off, coming as it did a split second after the buzzer. Regarding the non-call I felt bad for Rutgers, almost as bad as I did a couple of years ago in the BET when drunkards Jim Burr and Tim Higgins missed Justin Brownlee dancing a victory tarantella and throwing the ball out of bounds with a couple of seconds left on the clock, an act of officiating so egregious that it led to Higgins retirement and the adoption of booth review. (Burr had no sense of shame, so he hung around for several more years.) Ha! Just kidding, I don’t feel bad for them at all. Screw Rutgers … Really good job I thought by Mullin keeping his kids heads in the game. Because they could have folded like a house of cheap cards. I expect seeing a bench full of Hall of Fame basketball players telling you everything is going to okay is a bit of a comfort. As opposed to say an 85 year old guy in a bad toupee with tomato sauce on his lapel … So Mullin remains undefeated at three and oh. The odds of returning undefeated from Hawaii are approximately infinity to one, but I’m willing to enjoy this while it lasts. Because I’m a half glass full kind of guy

PLAYERS: Recently reinstated Sir Dominick Balamou had 8 points, 11 rebounds and 7 assists in his first game since high school more or less. At the risk of alienating readers by patting myself on the back once again – oh, who am I kidding, my smugness is one of my most endearing qualities – I’m constrained to point out that I declared myself president of the Balamou fan club two games into his college career and predicted that he had a bright future. I just didn’t say how long it would take for that future to get here … A double double from Mvouika, who continues to impress … Sima had 13 points, 9 rebounds and 7 blocks in 39 minutes, which is a pretty absurd stat line from a freshman three games into his college career. As a bonus he seems to be money from the free throw line … Mussini had 13 points on 14 shots and seven rebounds, but zero assists. Will be much better off when he finally gets off the ball … Durand Johnson doesn’t make a lot of shots but seems to have the knack for making the important ones. This is the second game in a row he’s hit a big three when they needed one … Christian Jones had seven points but two only rebounds. That’s only one more rebound than Albaveckovich, and he’s awful … Darien Williams looks so far like one of those guys who should be a good player but isn’t. I’m thinking specifically here of the late Tyler Jones. Anyway he injured his shoulder in the first half and never returned.

NOTES: Steve Lavin did halftime and post-game commentary live from Carnesecca, which was a little awkward to put it mildly – it was like if a guy whose girl friend of 5 years dumped him because he couldn’t get it up later had to come back and describe the action while her new boyfriend Chris fucked the shit out of her. Anyway, Lavin was his usual amalgamation of vapidity and hail-fellow-well-met and displayed all the charm of a stick insect. He said for example that “it’s good to be back home,” which this isn’t your home, get out, that Saint John’s “is shorthanded,” which of course they are, you didn’t recruit an eligible player after 2011, and that “Chris Mullin has a bright future,” which is like Wally Pipp describing Lou Gehrig as a pretty good ball player. On the fashion front I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Lavin’s elaborate bouffant hairdo, which rose a good four inches off his forehead and was molded into what seemed to be a replica of the Flat Iron Building. In contrast to his usual grooming – vainglorious mousse and spray on tan – this new look has a degree of utility to it: if his career as a commentator goes into the shitter he can always audition for a Kid ‘n Play tribute band …. Rutgers University was founded in 1766, in New Jersey, which despite its reputation is not the worst state in the union and never will be until California falls into the ocean. As you might expect over nearly 250 years Rutgers has graduated any number of notable alumni; they run the gamut from the respected film actress Asia Carrera (born Jessica Steinhauser I kid you not) to Nobel Prize winners Milton Freeman and Toni Morrison; Ozzie Nelson quarterbacked the football team in the 20s; and James Gandolfini went there, as did Jim Valvano, NBA commissioner David Stern, former FBI director Louie Freeh, comedienne and giantess Judy Gold, chef Mario Batali, and Avery Brooks (Hawk on TVs Spenser for Hire); and oh yeah, Mr. Quincy Magoo was Rutgers grad, class of 1928 … The Rutgers Scarlet Knights were originally known as the Rutgers Queensmen. Perhaps worried that they would be portrayed as something less than butch they later changed their name to the Chanticleers, this a reference to a rooster in a fable popularized in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. This also was an unfortunate choice, for a couple of reasons. First, most Rutgers grads could not spell Chanticleer and even if they could none of them have ever heard of Chaucer. And second it gave opposing fans the opportunity to ridicule Rutgers players by calling them chickens and cocks. After the student body rejected a bunch of names – including the Redmen – the Scarlett Knight was unveiled in the late 50s …. Rutgers has been playing basketball since 1914, but except for a brief flirtation with success under Tom Young in the mid 70s, not very well. The ‘76 team though, featuring Phil Sellers, current coach Eddie Jordan and Hollis Copeland, entered the NCAA tournament undefeated – Indiana was undefeated that year as well – before losing to Michigan in the national semifinals … One of RU’s victims that year were the 1976 Redmen, one of Lou’s better teams and among the first in a long line of disappointments I remember well. Starters Frank Alagia, Glen Williams, George Johnson, Beaver Smith and Cecil Rellford went 23-4 in the regular season, losing only to undefeated Indiana in the Holiday Festival and then later on the road to Georgetown, Providence and Princeton. Saint John’s ended the season with two losses, first to Rutgers in the ECAC Metro tournament, and then later to eventual champion Indiana in the first round of the NCAA tournament. I don’t often give Lou a pass when it comes to his myriad NCAA failures, but that year Rutgers had to face Princeton, Uconn and VMI to make the Final Four – talk about your soft draw – whereas Lou had Indiana, North Carolina and Alabama in his half of the opening round bracket.

 

Who’s Lavin Now?

lana-turner

 (Ed note: I wrote a beautiful and frenzied 3000 word essay post press conference Wednesday afternoon which disappeared from my computer when I hit with my elbow by mistake some key on my keyboard. Poof it went. I’ve been writing for 30 years and have never had that happen ever and still don’t know how it could have. Not even an auto-save version remained. It goes without saying that I smashed the keyboard into little bits and then jumped up and down on its remains to make sure that it was dead and when Michael Dell dies I’ll go piss on his grave. I have a new cordless Logitech now, upon which I have typed this poor recreation of that essay, for which I apologize in advance.)

In 2001 I won a national handicapping competition sponsored by the Daily Racing Form. I won by picking the winner of the last race of the contest, the Breeder’s Cup Classic held that year at Belmont Park: Tiznow defeated the Eurotrash champion Sahkee by a nose, and I still cannot 15 years later watch that race without tearing up. “Tiznow wins it for America” Tom Durkin said, six weeks after the towers came down. It was the greatest day of my life and unless I build a machine capable of transporting me back in time to 1950 so I can bang Lana Turner I don’t expect to top it.

I once told the long suffering Missus Fun – no slouch herself – that December 7th  (our anniversary, a day that will live in infamy geddit?) was the second greatest day of my life. It’s the sort of thing you say, right? When Lavin was hired I told her she was bumped down to number three. That’s how excited I was by the prospect of my beloved sad sack Saint John’s Redmen returning to college basketball prominence. Or relevance. Or at least not sucking. Three years ago, after watching Steve Lavin coach basketball for two years I told her Missus Fun that she was back to number two. Because Steve Lavin sucks.

In many ways Lavin’s tenure was more disappointing than the one that preceded it. It was pretty clear from the outset that Norm was never going to get it done. Besides being only vaguely qualified for the job he was coaching in the best basketball conference in history against the greatest collection of college basketball minds ever assembled. He had no chance. Whereas not only had Lavin previously had success at the highest levels of college basketball, but he was recruiting at a level not seen at Saint John’s since the 1990s and was surrounded by a top notch and expensive staff of assistants; and perhaps most importantly the team had dropped in class to a basketball only conference, in which almost any nincompoop could have been competitive. He was competing against Oliver Purnell and Kevin Willard for Christ sake, not Jim Calhoun. But as I am wont to say, if you have no expectations you are never disappointed. And that was the problem with Lavin and why I grew to despise him. He could have succeeded. And he might have, if he wasn’t so dumb and lazy.

But dumb he was, and as it turns out, complacent. As to the former, that’s congenital. He is just not very smart. That’s genetics and there’s nothing to be done about it. The latter though is something else entirely. Steve Lavin did not have fire in his belly: he was happy to be good enough and by being so achieved his goal: he did not fail miserably. Maybe it’s because he was the youngest child; the literature’s there, read it. Maybe it’s because he suffers – as I’ve demonstrated over the course of two years – from histrionic personality disorder. Maybe it had to do with being handed things his entire life: the UCLA gig and ESPN and all the money and broads and accolades that celebrity brings. Or maybe it came later – maybe it was his cancer and Cap dying and the sort of existential angst that the thought of mortality engenders amongst the vapid when they reach middle age, when they have not yet before considered the road to nowhere. But for whatever the reason, Lavin just didn’t care anymore. Consider:

Steve Lavin stated publicly that as a college basketball coach whose only job it was to win college basketball games that he felt no pressure to win college basketball games. Imagine. Imagine that you manage a salesforce and one of your salesmen says he is under no pressure to make sales. Or that you are a principal and one of your teachers said that he was under no pressure to have his students learn. The mind boggles. Imagine further that your salesman or teacher showed up for work in a sweat suit. A fucking sweat suit. Steve Lavin’s alleged mentor John Wooden put on suit and ironed his tie before he took a shit. Whereas Steve Lavin showed up for interviews on national TV wearing gym clothes. Mark my words: if he’d been extended he would have next year coached in a bathrobe and flip flops.

Now that I’ve finished a discussion of Lavin’s virtues, let me tell you what I didn’t like about him, because I’ve come to bury Lavin, not to praise him: the worst thing about Steve Lavin was that Steve Lavin could talk.

Which means that the single best thing about Steve Lavin not coaching SJU anymore is that never again will I have to listen to him babble while watching his ginormous head balance precariously atop his rapidly expanding pasta belly. I will never have to listen to him spout left coast psychobabble about his team’s journey or ride up the mountain or hill. There will be nothing about unicorns, Energizer bunnies, Tasmanian devils or other arcane forms of life. Nothing about salt and pepper and sharing the sugar or other condiments. Nothing about arduous journeys, magic carpet rides, or baby steps. No more hammers will be hitting rocks. Nothing about Mister Myagi. No more John Wooden or Pete Newell. No more about his fucking prostate. No more February (for the rubes in the audience Steve Lavin was 10-25 at Saint John’s in meaningful season ending games in his SJU career). In short: no more bullshit, no more lies and especially – especially – no more fucking excuses. Quote the Lavin, nevermore.

Steve Lavin has many problems, but they all boil down to one thing: he’s from California. He’s not one of us, he’s one of them. He came from a state that’s in the main peopled by mellow extroverted assholes in Bermuda shorts all of whom are right now as we speak either taking a meeting or getting a pedicure. And rather than adapting to NY and adopting the greatest city in the world as his home Lavin wanted to transplant his vacuous west coast lifestyle here. You could see it in the big things – the pop psychology psycho twaddle , the star fucking, the insouciance – and in the little things – giving preference to west coast walk-ons as opposed to local talent and scheduling pre-season cupcakes from Northern California rather than the menu of local delicacies that Louie feasted on for lo those many years. The bottom line is that not only was Lavin not one of us but that he did not care to be one of us. He did not even like us. He was a tourist who looked down on the local peasants while all the while frequenting the local whorehouse. Well, fuck Steve Lavin. Good bye and good riddance.

***

I broke the bad news to Missus Fun the other day: she’s back to number three. And maybe even number four. Because Saint John’s has hired Chris Mullin as its new head basketball coach. Obviously Mullin is to all of us Saint John’s fans an iconic figure: the greatest player bar none in school history, a NBA all-star, an Olympian, a member of the basketball hall of fame. And he was to fans of a certain age even more special because he was like us a local kid and he was, like us, slow, un-athletic, and probably most importantly, white. But to me there is something more. I am now an unpleasant curmudgeon who views the world with despair and disgust and on my good days, indifference. I do not expect anything to turn out right at all ever and in the main the only satisfaction I feel is when bad things happen to other people. But I was not always this way – not that I was ever a ray of sunshine – but there were times when I had, I don’t know, hope I guess. And one of the things I had hope about was Saint John’s and one of the things that gave me hope was Chris Mullin. It sounds stupid when you say it out loud, but fuck it, sports is stupid. I’m a Detroit Lion fan. I bet maiden claiming races at Aqueduct in February. Truth be told I filled out a Yahoo bracket that had Saint John’s beating Kentucky for the national championship. You know what they say: inside every cynic is a dead romantic. Chris Mullin means something and what he means is almost mythic or archetypal. There isn’t a god, but if there was and he played basketball, he’d wear number 20.

There was much to admire watching Chris Mullin conduct himself at Wednesday’s press conference. Leave aside the basketball – that he’s going to study and learn, that his team’s will be prepared and in shape, that he will relentlessly recruit in a city that despite all the nonsense from the naysayers still regularly produces some of the best college basketball players in the country; and that his players will represent the university with the dignity befitting its mission in the community. I have no doubt that Chris Mullin is going to succeed at the basketball end of it: he has never failed at basketball before. What was most striking was that there was evident in Mullin a love for his hometown; a reverence for the university and its traditions and the program and Lou; and a sense of personal honor and rectitude. But the single most telling thing was when Mullin said that he felt an obligation to take the job, that he owed a duty to those who had come before him and to those who would come after. Chris Mullin believes it is a privilege to coach at Saint John’s – in contrast to Steve Lavin, who thought Saint John’s lucky to have him as its coach. It might even have been that when Mullin spoke those words I teared up. Okay, I did. And that’s coming from someone who didn’t cry when his parents died. Although that might not be a fair comparison, because I don’t hate Chris Mullin. But you get the point.

So where does that leave us? Well, I guess I’m all in: I’m wearing rose-colored glasses and drinking Koolaid from a glass half-full. I asked randomly the other day: how the fuck am I going to make fun of Chris Mullin. And the answer is, I’m not. Evidently I’m going to have to find some new material.

In the pink colors:

 

 

 

March Sadness

KC_STILLS_Espen_on_ice_1jpg

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

54590bc2fe94dc8063c4975f_loren_mansfield_better

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:

Numbers

Statistically the teams are nearly identical.

SJU / SDSU

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
SDSU +8

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.

ADVANTAGE: TIE

 Coaches

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.

ADVANTAGE: SDSU

Mascots

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.

ADVANTAGE: SDSU

Site

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.

 ADVANTAGE: TIE

Players

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.

ADVANTAGE: TIE

Tournament History

LOL

ADVANTAGE: SDSU

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.

ADVANTAGE: SJU

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.

ADVANTAGE: SJU

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

ADVANTAGE: SDSU

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.

ADVANTAGE: SDSU

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.

 

PU

jimmie-walker

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

1409940127000-phxdc5-6gwqz0jcvv5tcxt6bc0_original

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

sep

… 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.