Covering the St. John's University basketball program back to Big East promience. "This year it's time to win."

Thursday, December 28, 2006

News and Notes 12/28

Tonight in the second game of Holiday Festival doubleheader at the Garden, St. John’s takes on the Terriers of Boston University. The first game is Hofstra versus St. Joe’s. Each winner advances to the championship round tomorrow night. Tip is set for 8:30 with the consolation game preceding that.

The Holiday Festival is always one of my favorite sporting events of the year. It is over the Holiday break, takes place over two days, and is held at the Garden. I cannot overstate how great it feels to be back in the Garden after a long series of games held at Carnesecca Arena. Having to sit through the “entertainment”, that includes a game of Hot/Cold with a fan blindfolded over and over, and not being able to recline in our seat because there is no back to your seat, makes the trip back to Madison Square feel long overdue.

St. John’s comes off a win versus Columbia shortly before Christmas. Aaron Spears was held out due to his recent suspension, as was Daryll Hill, because of a deep bruise in his left quadriceps he sustained in the NJIT game.

The team placed decent on a night where they could not buy a basket beyond the three point arch. Leading scorer Avery Patterson was held to 6 point on 2-6 shooting, while Lamont Hamilton finally came up big when needed, scoring, a career high, 36 points on 11-13 shooting.

Hamilton was also utilized in the correct fashion, with him getting the ball down low with his back to the basket. When Hamilton gets the ball further out and has to face up to the basket he is extremely unreliable. His moves often have him committing offensive fouls or tumbling to the floor. He is not quick enough to get around defenders, so he must be used with his back to the basket.

Eugene Lawrence did commit 5 turnovers and only 7 points in 36 minutes, but did finish with 6 steals and 10 assists.

Anthony Mason Jr. had a poor game, 2-10 shooting, but was still able to manage to finish with 11 points. He is being more assertive with the ball in his hands this year and could breakout in this tournament. Surely last year on a game where Mason shot 2-10, he would not have got 11 points and had the chance to finish with 14, had he knocked down all of his free throw attempts.

The rebounding must improve, the Red Storm only out rebounded Columbia 29-28. That being said why is Ricky Torres still stuck on the bench as if his warm-ups are glued on to him?

With the team being left with only 8 scholarship players active for the game, Ricky still saw limited action (8 minutes). He can bring an offensive spark to the game and when he does, the following game he is still buried on the bench. He is shooting much better then his freshman year and needs to play more. If this continues Norm puts him in a situation where transferring could look very enticing to Torres.

Tonight, it is safe to say St. John’s should blow out BU. Their two leading scorers are freshmen guards and if Lawrence and Patterson can shut them down, they can expect a big win.

The final score is meaningless to me, as long as St. John’s comes out on top of course, as long as the rebounding improves and perhaps Lawrence can cut down on his turnover total, I will be satisfied.

In other notes, I spotted Rob Thomas and former player Mohammed Diakite at the Columbia game. Nice to see Thomas is hanging around his future teammates and will not leave St. John’s after he was given a partial qualifier by the NCAA, which will have him suiting up next January.

Some more good news for Johnny fans, Bridgton Academy in Maine was ranked the #1 prep school team in the country by Scout, led by none other then Justin Burrell, an incoming player next season. Dele Coker’s (another player coming in next year) team, South Kent rounded out the top ten. Burrell and Coker are a couple reasons why next season could turn out to be a key season in rebuilding process.

Hope everyone has a good time at the game and if your home, you can check out the games on the MSG Network or on ESPN radio.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Roller-Coaster Action @ SJU

Well, quite a bit has perspired since St. John’s led Texas at the half, in the consolation game at Madison Square Garden about a month ago.

Since that loss the teams progress has been much like a roller coaster ride, when a bad loss to Illinois State at home made fans want to vomit, and back around to the point where you feel much safer then you had a minute ago, after the Johnnies beat up on Niagara in their most recent contest held on December 9th.

In this stretch the Red Storm have mostly struggled, to the point where “Fire Norm” is a frequent phrase on message boards, and their have certainly been times when you cant help but feel that kicking Norm on the cold streets of Jamaica, Queens would be the best thing for the men’s basketball program. But that is a mood point, at least, for the time being, as the administration will absolutely not fire Norm during this season. For the time being, the team needs to salvage this season after getting off to a 6-3 start, when a 8-1 start was certainly in reach.

St. John’s needs to continue to improve off of every single effort, to be ready in time, for Big East Competition starting in the New Year. For now they have a couple games this week, versus some easy competition, at the Lou (Carnesecca Arena) that will have huge implications to how this team looks going into conference play, where post season bids are awarded.

Sorry about the long layoff, but certainly more posts to come in the next few months.

Friday, November 17, 2006

St. John's vs. Texas-Halftime

It is currently halftime in the Coaches vs. Cancer third place game and St. John's LEADS Texas 45-44. I can't remember too many times, if at all, that St. John's scored 45 points in the first half, in the last couple seasons. The key to the St. John's early success has been, without question, the outside shooting of Avery Patterson. He already has five three point baskets with a total of 19 points. Daryll Hill is off to a nice start as well, with 7 points, while getting penatraition on a consistent basis.

Hill, Hamilton, and Mason are going to have to pick up the scoring slack more in the second half, unless Patterson can contiune to have a monster game. On defense they can't do much besides limit Kevin Durant to shooting threes' as he did in the first half. Hopefully, he slows down in the second half, as he did last night versus Michgan State when he was held scoreless after the break.

At this point, it doesn't seem that Texas has a ton of offensive depth, so if St. John's can buckle down on Durant and AJ Abrams, they have a reasonable chance to pull off the upset in front of, what looks like a tiny Garden crowd.

Go St. John's.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Coaches vs. Cancer Tip-off

St. John’s gets set to take out Maryland in just a few hours at the Garden. This tournament is a great test for the team earlier on in the season to see just where their at, particularly whether they are a NCAA tournament team or an NIT team.

Since it is still so early in the season, this tournament shouldn’t have a negative effect on the team, even if they lose both games. If they win one, or two they will certainly get votes in the polls and each victory looks good on their resume when selection Sunday rolls around in March.

Well, I don’t have much time to talk as I’m headed off to the game, so see you there. You can check the game out on ESPN2 at 7 pm. I’ll be back with a recap and preview to tomorrow’s nights game.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Countdown to Maryland Game:Three Days

Tickets for St. John’s home games at Madison Square Garden (excluding the coaches vs. cancer and holiday festival tournament) went on sale today at noon. By 3 p.m. the best seat you could buy for a few of the games were all the way up in the 300s sections. I have no clue how so many tickets were sold beforehand. Surely, there were not many season-ticket holders that got first dibs on the tickets to fill up the majority of the stadium. It is good news for St. John’s that their games are finally selling at the Garden and bad news for me, as it looks as if I will sit in the student section for a few games where I would have liked to have courtside seats. (The student section is behind the basket.)

Coach Norm Roberts has set out to get more exposure to his team and will continue his efforts in the next few days before the match up with Maryland on Thursday.

St. John’s men’s basketball coach Norm Roberts will hit the New York radio airwaves once again this week, on both Tuesday and Wednesday. Roberts will appear on the Michael Kay Show on Tuesday afternoon for an interview between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. on 1050-AM ESPN Radio, and then do double-duty on Wednesday with appearances on 1050-AM ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith Show at 1 p.m., and Mike and the Mad Dog on Sports Radio 66 The Fan at 3 p.m.

Read more about it here.

St. John’s play in this years’ coaches vs. cancer tournament may, arguably, already be deemed as a success with the exposure the team will get playing on national TV versus a big time ACC school, while other teams are just tuning up for the bigger, more important games over the winter. This team also needs to get attention early to set up what could be potential big games versus Uconn, Syracuse, and Duke all at the Garden.

Fans can gear up for the game by wearing one of these t-shirts to the game on Thursday.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Opening Weekend Thoughts

Over the weekend, St. John’s emerged as the victor in their regional tournament as a part of the Coaches vs. Cancer tournament, after beating North Florida on Friday and Navy on Saturday. St. John’s advances to the semifinals, held at Madison Square Garden, and will play Maryland at 7 p.m. on Thursday night.

St. John’s successfully unveiled their new talent in a big way over the weekend, when Avery Patterson went bananas in the North Florida game and hit a school record, eight three point baskets. He also had four threes, the following night and was named MVP of the regional tournament.

This team is certainly much improved from last year with newcomers Larry Wright, Avery Patterson, and Qa'rraan Calhoun all receiving a good amount of playing time. Freshmen Derwin Kitchen was held out of the games, due to academic reasons and could be re-instated next semester.

Patterson obviously made the biggest impact of the freshmen, and should continue to all year long. With his outside touch and ability to get off the quick shot, he could turn out to be the Storm’s leading scorer.

I would like him to look for paths to the basket a bit more, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

A player like Patterson, is extremely refreshing to see come into Queens, because his shooting is exactly what this team needs and he does it effectively, something I can’t say about Ricky Torres, who was brought into do the same thing last year.

Overall, I felt the team played pretty well in their two games. The depth makes a huge difference and was on display with a balanced scoring attack in each game. The added depth also had Daryll Hill coming in from off the bench.

This I am not happy about. While I knew this team would have much better depth then in years past, I though this year the team should ride Hamilton and Hill as far as they can. They are the basis of the team and have the most individual talent. So Hill coming off the bench was a very bad sign to me. A team with two dominant players is often much better off then a team made up of a bunch of “nice” players that are above-average but not dominant.

It is one thing if Daryll is not back to one hundred percent after his knee surgery last season, but for him to not start when Anthony Mason is in the lineup is absurd. This is a guy that was the leading returning scorer coming into last year in the entire Big East conference. He used to take games over with his ability to score the ball a couple seasons ago and now, because of a few new players, he is seeing limited playing time.

While it doesn’t make much of a difference when they are playing North Florida or Navy, it is still imperative that Daryll “Showtime” Hill is in the lineup. (And even in the Navy game the team was down 21-12 before a run sparked by Hill, enabled the team to blowout the Midshipmen). This new talent is nice, but it isn’t nearly enough where the team’s former captain, should lose his job. These new players would be great successes if they would turn out to be a player such as Hill is today.

Think of the Miami Heat. Shortly after a lost in the Eastern Conference Finals, the team went out and got some added talent in the off-season. Just because the team brought in some new guys did anyone think that Dwayne Wade should lose his job as starting point guard. The guys they brought in were faced with the challenge of blending in with Wade, just as the new players on St. John’s should have to blend in with Daryll Hill. Wade’s scoring average actually increased even with more offense options.

I would love Hill to go back to the old Showtime,(which isn’t going to happen with quotes from this article) because he is still the best player on the team and should play that way. It is very unselfish the way he’s played the last couple years, but this team that is knows that offense is hard to come by would end up much better with Daryll scoring 25 a game, like he is capable of doing.

New Site, Same Blog

This blog is a continuance of I couldn't get to post titles in the last blog so I switched over to this site. I'll be posting here from now on.