Tag Archives: saint john’s

Broom Goes the Dynamite

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GAME: The most striking thing about Saint John’s 77-61 victory over Binghamton University Monday night at Carnesecca Arena was the normalcy of it. It wasn’t like the preseason last year, with a bunch of newcomers and ne’er do wells stumbling around the court in a ballet of incompetence. And it wasn’t like under the previous regime, with Coach Tesla starting his walk-ons and teaching future felons important life lessons and shuffling players in and out randomly under the pretense of discovering just the right recipe for success in February. Instead we got a workmanlike victory by a bunch of good looking newcomers which was all the more enjoyable because there’s no pressure or expectations. Next year this time will be a different story: next year is when everyone expects Mo’s great leap forward. This year we or at least I can just relax and enjoy it … Once again there’s nothing to be learned from looking at the box score, except to note that SJU missed half their free throws, which that can’t continue. The next two games though will tell the tale: even though little Ricky Pitino is on his way to being run out of Minnesota on a rail the Gophers are a real Division One team and Izzo is one of the great coaches of his generation. It’s be interesting to see how everyone react facing real competition …. Missus fun credited me with the fact that Mullin’s hair is back to its normal gray from the Lucille Ball look he was sporting versus Bethune-Cooke, but that seems to me a bit of a stretch. In any event, crisis averted.

PLAYERS: You might have to go back to Erick Barkely to find a freshman guard with as well rounded a game as Marcus Lovett. D’Angelo Harrison didn’t have his handle and neither Daryl Hill nor Omar Cook had his jump shot. The only thing I don’t like about his game so far is his day glo sneakers and I could get over that. Add Shamorie Ponds into the mix and you have the best freshman back court at SJU since Elander Lewis and Marcus Broadnax. Just kidding, since ever. Between them they had last night 44 points (including 9 threes), 8 assists, 14 rebounds (10 by Ponds) and 4 steals. I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself but it’s scary to think how good they’ll be in a couple of months, much less a couple of years … Where that leaves great white hope Federico Mussini – who managed a meager five points in 22 minutes on 2 of 7 from the floor – and Malik Ellison is hard to say. Ellison could get some minutes at the three if Ahmed doesn’t turn things around – he wouldn’t be the first JUCO to struggle with the transition to Division 1 – but Mussini is to slow and puny to be anything but a two guard and we already have two guards … Unlike the back court, roles and minutes in the front court are a little more unsettled. Neither Yawke, Owens or Sima have much of an offensive game but all three have good enough hands to benefit from the improved guard play. Forty or fifty minutes shared between their three heads and 15 fouls seems reasonable …. Richard Fredunberg invaded Poland scored his first points of the year. Congratulations Richard. For all the hype I heard about him in the off season so far to me the most remarkable thing about him is how much he looks like every Waffen SS officer I’ve ever seen watching Holocaust porn on the History Channel… That leaves Alibegovic and Darien Williams with garbage time minutes, which seems about right

NOTES: UB is in Broome County, which might have made for a bit of a gambol if it had been so named for making sweeping implements – like nearby Gloversville is for making gloves and the Collar city Troy for menswear – but unfortunately its named after a minor 18th century politician called John Broome about whom there was nothing remarkable at all. Neither is there anything remarkable about Vestal, where the university is located (trust me, there are no virgins in Vestal),  or in fact about most of the I-88 corridor, which although picturesque is essentially a desert with trees and water. The story goes that the only reason the highway to nowhere got built in the first place is because some forgotten NY politician had a summer home in northern Pennsylvania and needed a way to get there after he was through collecting bribes while the Senate was in session in Albany …. UB’s mascot is the bearcat, which although not as apocryphal as the gryphon might as well be. Neither a bear or a cat, it’s actually a sort of weasel and native to Indonesia. How UB settled on it I’ll never know, but there are in fact ten college teams that claim the bearcat as mascot, including recent SJU victim Baruch College, which makes even less sense because that’s in Gramercy Park. At least Binghamton is in an exotic upstate NY … Other than Fordham you’d be hard pressed to find a worse CBB program than UB. They’ve won a mere 25 games in the five years since former John Thompson assistant Coach Kevin Broadus and half a dozen school officials resigned in disgrace in the wake of a scholastic and recruiting scandal that ended with the sort of sanctions the NCAA reserves for corrupt programs that don’t impact their bottom line. To show you how bad things are, current coach Tommy Dempsey was 88 and 12 in three years as a D3 head coach and won 120 games in 7 years at Rider. At UB he’s 25 and 96 and if what I saw last night was any indication things are not going to get better any time soon.

Make Alibegovic Great Again

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HERE WE GO AGAIN: An old saw says that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. And so here are we Saint John’s fans once again in November thinking optimistic thoughts about the program and here am I once again to dissuade you from them. I frankly am not looking forward to my task this year. When I started writing these things it was out of a sense of frustration with the fate of the only sports team that I follow with any sort of passion and a loathing for its awful coach, the repulsive Steve Lavin. But now Lavin is gone lo these many years and with him the stench of failure and of his players only one remains and in the meantime the prodigal son has returned and the fatted calf is slain and the pieces are in place and things frankly are looking up – or as far up as things look in Jamaica anyway. And so what’s a boy to do? Sure I’m a cynic but not so far gone that I’m going to trash Chris Mullin and honestly even the skeptic in me believes that happy days will be here sooner rather than later. Where that leaves this experiment I am not sure and for the time being I’ll proceed in good faith but I suspect a time is coming when I’ll be happy enough to just watch the games and leave the commentary to the many genyiouses who so generously share their wisdom on various SJU forums … About what to expect this year I have not too much to say having only seen now 80 minutes of basketball, which is not enough for even the most astute observer to form an opinion. I will admit though that what little I’ve seen leaves me cautiously pessimistic: the newcomers look all of them like the real thing, the returnees look bigger and stronger, the staff looks energetic and engaged and the recruiting is better than it’s been forever. It’s probably too soon for any of that to translate to success on the court – college basketball being one of the few endeavors in life where age often trumps beauty – but it would be nice to see this year when all things shake out double the win total from last year (~16), a mid pack finish in the Big East, and an NIT bid, which is not an outlandish expectation considering that Chris Mullin is the coach and New York the television market. But as I say almost every year in November, wait till next year bums … About this game I have little to say as well: they ate the cupcake and although it was delicious there are no lessons in the empty calories. We’ll have a pretty good idea of how things are going to be by Thanksgiving, once Tom Izzo gets through with us … On my television last night Mullin’s hair was the same color as Frank Costanza’s. Hopefully that was an aberration and not a dye job

PLAYERS: Speaking of the real thing, Marcus Lovett did not start, despite being the best player on the court last night. Was it just one of those things or was Coach Lavin Mullin trying to teach his young point guard an important life lesson. I don’t know but if the latter get the orange jumpsuit ready … Federico Mussini had 20 points in 18 minutes, gladdening the hearts of racists everywhere. I’d remind those people that last year Mussini made 30 percent of his total threes (16 of 56) in November versus D2 competition, so I wouldn’t get too excited just yet. To be fair to FM he looks bigger and firmer and more athletic than he did last year, although I’ve seen fence posts that look more athletic than he did last year and he still this year can’t cover a pillar … Tariq Owens continues to impress although he’s going to have to manage more than four puny rebounds to make anyone forget Christian Jones, who had 13 last night versus real D1 competition … Shamorie Ponds led all players with 26 minutes and looked not much like a freshman doing so …. Bashmir Ahmed on the other hand played only 18 and looked to be pressing … At first thought I was disappointed that fun fave Kassoum Yawke only played 20 minutes and didn’t do much of anything with them but then I remembered just how young he is and what a luxury it is to be able to bring gifted players along slowly, rather than just throwing them to the dogs … Sima had 11 points in 15 minutes, confounding those who are already predicting his transfer … Like Mussini Malik Ellison looks bigger and stronger this year and seems poised to take a step forward … Richard Fredenburg will have to do better than zero points in 23 minutes if he expects me to learn how to spell his name …. Speaking of spelling, Alibegovic had a nice put back immediately upon entering the game and did a nice job of waving his towel thereafter. Anything they get from him beyond that will be a bonus … Darien Williams spent garbage time looking like someone whose had a bunch of surgeries and hasn’t played ball in a couple of years.

NOTES: Friday was Veteran’s Day, a public holiday intended to memorialize those who have served in their nations military, even, presumably, Germans. To those volk folk we offer a humble and heart felt thanks. Veteran’s Day falls on November 11 because the first world war – that’d be the war to end all wars for those scoring at home – ended on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1919, when the Huns surrendered to the Allies in a railway car in the North of France. (Ever the kidder Hitler had the French surrender in the very same railway car 30 years later.) In the United States the holiday was first promulgated by then President Woodrow Wilson, who besides being generally acknowledged as the first political “progressive” was the worst president of the 20th century and is on the short list for the worst president ever: an unrepentant racist, Wilson segregated the federal government, firing most black government employees – like most progressives he thought blacks “an ignorant and inferior race” – and consigned those who remained to colored bathrooms; in his memoirs he described the Ku Klux Klan as a “great” organization designed to “preserve the white race” and segregation as “a great benefit” to the negro; not content with that legacy he presided over the creation of the Federal Reserve system, instituted the first federal income tax, jailed his political enemies for treason and gleefully passed while as governor of New Jersey a bill requiring compulsory sterilization of felons, the mentally ill, and the differently abled. Add that all up and he makes Jimmy Carter look like Pericles … Speaking of politics, Theo R_______ (not his real name) writes:

Fun, could you share your thoughts on the recent election? As a millennial and a progressive I’m devastated and could use some solace.

Well sure Theo, I’d be delighted.

Louis Brandeis wrote that the right most cherished by civilized men is the right to be left alone. By that he meant that the essence of liberty is the right to opt out: from people, from relationships, from community, from ultimately from civilization. And so although I have firm opinions about the body politic – my belief that humanity is a dung heap and history the story of those who were ambitious enough to scale it has me positioned politically just to the right of Caligula – I’ve never voted. And this election was no different. Instead of participating I’ve endeavored to arrange my life so that it’s unaffected by the vagaries of government. I have no children and few attachments and enough money to tithe the state and afford my vices and since I’m interested in practically nothing other than my own comfort it doesn’t much matter which partisan hacks are ravening at the public teat at any given moment. All I want is to be left alone and for the most part I’ve achieved that.

Which is why I was pretty surprised late Tuesday evening when I realized how extremely unhappy I was going to be if Hillary Clinton were elected president. It wasn’t just the idea of living in a country governed by a cheap pant-suited grifter who’s spent her adult life feeding at the public trough in the name of public service. It wasn’t even that she’s married to a serial rapist and has a daughter that looks like Mister Ed. No. It was much more than that. Because by failing to elect Donald J. Trump president of the United States my fellow Americans would be squandering the opportunity to make so very many people so very fucking miserable and opportunities like that only come around a couple of times in a lifetime.

Mind you, I’m not talking about just the public mortification facing the likes of appalling no talent blowhards like Cher and Alec Baldwin, corpulent fuckhead Michael Moore, no talent whores Katy Perry and Lady Gaga, obese cum dumpsters Lena Dunham and Amy Schumer, rug munchers Rosie O’Donnell and Rachel Maddow, banana nosed bozo Barbra Streisand, ignorant fucking slut Madonna, and various smug and sanctimonious left wing stooges like Whoopi Goldberg, Joy Behar, Sean Penn, Ed Asner, Jane Fonda, Woody Harrelson, Jessica Lange, Norman Lear, Martin Sheen, and Oliver Stone. And neither do I mean the disappointment felt by herds of coddled youth of the stupidest generation who flooded the internet with hilarious heart wrenching videos of their weeping disappointment before fleeing to safe spaces where they could share their feelings with grief counselors and assuage their disappointment with play doh and coloring books.

(Fans of irony will relish the fact that these ministrations to the feelings of the current generation of delicate snowflakes occurred on the eve of a holiday dedicated to remembering the bravery their great grandparents displayed storming the beaches of Normandy and will swoon with delight at the idea of millennial comparisons of the disappointment they experienced on 11-9 to real events that happened on 9-11.)

No: it was much bigger than all that.

See, it all came to me right about 2:00 AM, watching DemonRat toadies Wolf Blitzer and Van Jones frantically trying to parse their way to a Clinton win in the electoral college: I suddenly flashed on Hitler in his bunker pushing nonexistent Panzer divisions across a map of Eastern Europe. And it came to me that come morning whole continents would erupt in a glorious symphony of weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth: dog faced PM Angela Merkel and her Germanic hordes; Canadian Prime Minster Zoolander and the myriad citizens of his third world hamster in a wheel socialist shit hole; entire nations of stinky cowardly frogs, murderous Huns and Cossacks, pathetic impotent Swedes and Sprouts, various rag and towel heads; and lest we forget those one billion inscrutable Orientals who’ve been buying up our country for the past 20 years, all of them singing in one voice: we are the world, we are the disconsolate, waa! Because there’s only one thing that’s sweeter than the feeling that comes from good things happening to me and that’s other people’s fucking misery. So take solace Theo: you might not feel so good but there are many many other people who feel worse, and that’s always cause for celebration. And if you worry about all the concentration camp fantasmagories that terrify you about the new president just remember that nothing that he could ever imagine doing will ever reach the depths plumbed by Woodrow Wilson and they’re still naming public buildings after that guy. So god bless America and god bless President Donald J. Trump. Schwing!

 

 

Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious

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From Hell’s heart, I stab at thee;
For hate’s sake, I spit my last breath at thee

RECAP: I woke up this morning pretty sure I wasn’t going to write anything about Saint John’s 10th straight loss, this one to Marquette 78-73 at Carnesecca Arena Sunday afternoon. Frankly I’m bored with this exercise: without Lavin here to fuel me I am like Ahab without Moby Dick. They lost another game, they’re going to lose a bunch more, next year will get here eventually. Frankly I was last night happier to see Tom Brady suck it than I would have been had Saint John’s won. It took some fan boi moron referring to Steve Lavin as a “magic wand” – some geniuses are using the occasion of the loss to rehash the ‘was Lavin a better coach than Norm debate,’ which no he wasn’t, he’s not a better coach than anyone, he sucks – to get me to produce even this dreck and only so I can point out what a complete and utter tool that guy is, Lavin is a magic wand, LOL. Hey Rocky, watch me pull a prostate out of my ass.

PLAYERS: Durand Johnson led the team in in points, steals, assists and had 5 rebounds. Imagine what he could do if he hustled … Mussini scored 19 points, all of them after Saint John’s was already down by 15 … Malik Ellison had 4 turnovers and 5 fouls and missed 4 shots, in only 18 minutes. That’s a little less than one screw up a minute. It’s a shame he didn’t suit up for Marquette, Saint John’s might have won … Yawke had 7 points and 8 rebounds, which would have been pretty good had not Ellenson gone for 16 and 18 … Balamou got pulled early after not closing on Duane Wilson who hit back to back three from the same spot early in the first half. He did not play much after that and who cares … Alibegowich once again see sawed back and forth between the sublime and ridiculous. For example early in the first half he had a put back that might well have been on ESPN’s top 10 and then on the very next possession threw a stupid lazy ¾ court pass that led to a Marquette break away … Mvouika and Jones were a combined 2-11 from the floor

NOTES: Some magic riffs, which this morning I can’t be arsed to flesh out.

– Wasn’t Rico Hines the real magic wand on that staff?

– The only time Lavin would say open sesame was when he went out for sushi after the game.

– Lavin was less Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo and more aBRAcadaBRA, (because he had pasta titties)

– Keady’s incantation: By the Power of Grayskull

That’s gold Jerry, gold.

And now, hocus pocus:

 

Something Awful

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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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This Is How We Do

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And so the long sports desert is behind us and college basketball is back and with it so am I. Much to the delight of my many fans it goes without saying. I’ve been in many ways dreading this moment: once again this year I am tasking my drunk ass with writing 30 or so essays about the futility that is Saint John’s basketball. Looking ahead, that seems something of a chore. Over the last several years it has not been. Very quickly into Steve Lavin’s tenure at SJU I grew to loathe him and these essays served as a purgative: they got out hate. Although a lifelong SJU fan I have over the past several years been rooting for them to lose, because I wanted the repulsive Steve Lavin to fail, so that I could mock his incompetence. And Steve Lavin obliged me by being an inept bungler. So not only was I afforded the opportunity to ridicule the object of my detestation, but I did so gleefully, because I was delighted that Lavin’s floundering disappointed everyone else. He really was a godsend, at least in terms of my literary output. But now it’s different: I want Chris Mullin to succeed. And more than that: I believe he will, and so now I need him to, if for no other reason than to prove myself right. But the rub is: if he does succeed, I’ll have nothing to write about. Cruel fate. Because it’s not like I’m going to sit around writing happy little essays about how great “we’re” doing, or whatever. On the bright side I can usually find something to be miserable about, so there’s that … Re Mullin, I‘ve been surprised to hear many long-time Saint John’s fans doubting his ability to succeed as head coach. I can perhaps understand the skepticism of young fans who never saw him play or maybe even don’t know who he is, but many of the doubters are middle-aged men who saw what Mullin did on the court and afterwards. To me it’s like doubting whether Mozart might be a successful seventh grade music teacher because he doesn’t know who Katy Perry is. Personally I’ve no doubt that Mullin will be successful at SJU: he’s never failed at basketball before and in fact has achieved a level of success over a 40-year period equaled by only a select few. And of all the roles he’s attempted coaching at the college level is probably the easiest: if you don’t believe that, explain the successes of obvious lunkheads like Jim Boeheim and Bob Knight … About the exhibition games the less said the better. It looked to me like Mullin just rolled out the balls the first game and didn’t really care what happened. Which makes a lot of sense if you think about it: he has 10 new players, 6 of whom are freshman and perhaps the best of those sat. In the three days between STAC and Sonoma SJU went from looking like a bad D3 team to one that could compete for a D2 national championship. After Wagner SJU looks like they could contend for midpack in the NEC. That sort of improvement is all coaching baby! In point of fact Mullin looks comfortable on the sidelines, engaged with his players and has not in three games made the sort of egregious strategic blunder that the former coach used to make twice before the first TV time out … About the Wagner game there’s not a lot to take away. Saint John’s beat a crappy team of the sort they always beat in the preseason – but for a couple of banked in threes it would have been a laugher. Had they lost there might have been something to say, but they didn’t, so there isn’t. Either way this is going to be a long brutal season. But wait till next year bums. Or perhaps the year after that. It was nice though to see Mullin get the first one under his belt.

PLAYERS: As the ever perceptive Tarik Turner noted during the first half of Saint John’s first exhibition game “it’s still early in the season,” so I’ve as of yet been unable to form any firm opinions about the various newcomers – unlike many knowledgeable fans I actually have to see them play before that happens. But I do have some early impressions, viz … Frederico Mussini looks to be the great white hope the Red & White Club has been waiting for lo these many years. It’s unfortunate that he has to play the point this year, because he seems like a two guard to me. Initially he looks to be a step slow but I expect he’ll adjust to the speed of the college game. Unfortunately he doesn’t seem to want to cover anybody and that doesn’t have anything to do with footspeed. Hopefully he’ll work on his free throw shooting, because he looks to be an adventure at the line … Malik Ellison has the tools and pedigree to be a good 4-year player but in a perfect world he’d sit on the bench for a year. This being Saint John’s, we’re about as far from a perfect world as can be … Steve Lavin described Christian Jones as having the ”best post-up game of any freshman I’ve ever coached.” Leaving aside that Steve Lavin is an idiot, Jones has so far looked to have turned into the player Lavin said he already was three years ago. He’s always had the tools – good hands, good feet, good body – it was his mind that wasn’t right. Maybe the lightbulb has come on, as it sometimes does, as it did for Pointer last year. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that Jones would make anyone forget Jakarr Sampson – as did one delusional fan last year – but his play thus far has been a pleasant surprise … Yankuba Sima looks thus far like a poor man’s Chris Obekpa, minus the psychotic smile, stupid shorts, attention seeking behavior, drug abuse problem, anger management issues, and poor free throw shooting. In fact I predict boldly that by February we’ll all be saying Chris Whobekpa? … With Phil Greene finally having graduated Amar Albavivovich – who makes Tomas Jasilionus look like Dirk Nowitski – has been anointed my whipping boy until he too gets the hell out. Lavin bringing AA back from his European “recruiting” trip of several years ago is like when I’m coming back from out of town and stop at the last Thruway rest stop before my exit and buy the old lady an I LOVE NEW YORK snow globe to show that I was thinking about her the whole time …. For the most part I can’t yet tell Mvouika, Williams and Johnson apart, except one of them wears a dopey headband. Obviously it was a good idea on Mullin’s part to bring in a bunch of upperclassmen, I’m just not sure it was a good idea to bring in these three. Just kidding. They seem to be all shaking off the cobwebs and even if they don’t they’re only here for a year or two anyway. Of the three Mvouika has impressed me the most thus far, but Williams looks to have the most potential … Felix Balamou – who Steve Lavin activated for a game during his red shirt year costing him a year of eligibility – was declared ineligible by the NCAA shortly before game time. According to @NYPost_Brazille Balamou’s eligibility issue was leaked to the NCAA by Steve Lavin or one of his flunkies. If this is true it’s ironic: it would mean that the thing least damaged during Steve Lavin’s tenure at Saint John’s was Steve Lavin’s prostate … Absent Marcus Lovett walk-on Elijah Holifield suddenly becomes something of a big deal. Well, not quite all of a sudden. Saint John’s has a long recent history of walk-ons becoming integral team members – e.g. Andre Stanley, Phil Missere, and most of Steve Lavin’s bench. If Holifield is half the player Andre Stanley was that would be a good thing

NOTES: A bunch of noteworthy things happened since last we spoke, but none more note or worthy than this:

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I have been for the past several years posting the most egregious and slanderous bile about Steve Lavin that arose in the fever swamp of my inner dialogue – which inner dialogue frankly makes Pink Flamingos look like It’s a Wonderful Life. I have in fact written nicer things about Stalin. (I like his mustache, sue me.) During all that time, I heard nothing. And then suddenly over the summer: BLOCKED. So what was it that caused it, finally? A fairly innocuous response to a tweet of Lavin’s describing the moribund Phil Greene as a “basketball ambassador” or some such twaddle. And all I said was something like “You’re no longer the SJ coach. Get out and don’t let the door hit you,” to which I might have appended the hashtag #SteveLavinIsWorstCoachEver. Doesn’t seem like much considering how much abuse I’ve slagged on him over the years. Evidently though that was the last straw. I don’t flatter myself that Lavin regularly read my little blog, although I know some staffers did: e.g. Ron Linfonte blocked me like three years ago. I mean Ron Linfonte, good grief … Speaking of Lavin, he showed up doing commentary at half time on Fox Sports One. I almost didn’t recognize him because he was wearing a shirt and tie, his hair was no longer died jet back and caked with mousse, and he wasn’t wearing the Oompa Loompa pancake orange clown make up he sported when last we saw him on the SJU sidelines. When he opened his mouth though and the same old vapid bullshit came out, I knew it was him right off … Speaking of the primordial slime, does the air smell a little sweeter this year? Are sunsets a little more poignant? One reason might be that Jim Burr is no longer a college basketball referee. Well, that’s not exactly true. A truer statement would be that although Burr stopped refereeing games about 12 years ago he will no longer be getting paid for it, having announced his long overdue retirement over the summer. The Big East, college basketball, organized sports, and life in these United States will be better for his absence … Friday’s SJU opponent Wagner College is in Staten Island, which for some reason is still a borough of New York City. Notable Wagner alumni include most valuable poster We Are SJU, political analyst and legendary drunk Bob Beckel, three Miss New Jerseys (2002, 2007, 2008, weird right?) and Rich Kotite, to whom Tom Pecora should be eternally grateful lest he be forever remembered as the worst coach in New York City sports history. Little remembered fact: portentous gasbag Norman “Boomer” Esiason was the Jets QB in Kotite’s first year, 1995, when the Jets only lost 80 percent of their games. The next year the Jets – behind Neil O’Donnell and later Frank “Third” Reich – won only one game, that versus Arizona. The starting QB for Arizona that year? If you guessed Boomer Esiason, you win. Unlike Pecora. Remember that the next time you’re wasting time listening to Boomer pontificate about, well, anything … Finally, a word about Marcus Lovett, recently declared ineligible by the NCAA. Now, saying that the NCAA is a little bit corrupt is like saying that the Emperor Caligula was a little bit of a scallywag. It is in fact the worst and most corrupt organization since the Knights Templar. Consider: in the entire fetid morass of college athletics there are currently only 15 college sports programs on NCAA probation. They include the Henderson State University (d2) women’s basketball program, the Clark Atlanta University (d2) women’s tennis program, the SUNY Potsdam (d3) women’s hockey program and the Southern Miss (d1) men’s tennis program. Meanwhile basketball players at North Carolina haven’t opened a book since 2002, players at U Kentucky have a private chef, and Rick Pitino is operating a brothel. If the NCAA was serious about policing college athletics Marcus Lovett and Felix Balamou would have suited up for SJU Friday evening and Scott Drew would have been pelted with rotten fruit at halftime. But the only thing the NCAA cares about is how much money it can shove in its pockets. So Marcus Lovett will spend this season on the sidelines, in a suit and tie. No doubt that will teach him the lesson he failed to learn in high school.

Who’s Lavin Now?

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 (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

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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

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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

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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

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… 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.