With Villanova heading up to Manhattan for tomorrow's game against St. John's, we had a quick chat with Norman of SB Nation's Red Storm site, Rumble in the Garden. Norman has been watching and writing about the Johnnies forever now (or at least the internet's version of forever), so there aren't many other writers who are as qualified to comment on all-things-St. John's.
We also answered some questions for Rumble, that you can read over there.
VU Hoops: First of all, Steve Lavin came to St. John's showing so much promise as a snazzy-dresser, then things got weird; suits with sneakers and those thick "Williamsburg" glasses. What's going on here? How did Lavin go from "Hollywood" to "Brooklyn Chic" so quickly?
Pico: New York's style and ways can seep in or ooze or invade even the most slick Californian. In truth, Lavin's old style owed more to the Wall Street sharks than it did to the California movie mogul, and the less-slicked hair and the Air Force ones are entirely his creation. He's still a solid dresser, but more adventurous, taking the standard style and throwing in elements to push the envelope.
VU Hoops: What was the idea behind starting a walk-on against Georgetown? What was St. John's missing when Big East play started and how will they get it back?
Pico: Walk-ons are hard-working, active players with pluck and effort! Who doesn't want more pluck and effort in their lineup? Khadim Ndiaye added a bit of pluck and effort, Lavin felt, though it turns out that the team also needed more talent. Or needed their talent to play every possession actively.
The Red Storm have, by the numbers, missed shooting and some defensive cohesion. But the truth is that the team has really lacked comfort, ball-sharing and roles. They have struggled to score coming out of the opening tip, continue to take long two-pointers in an attempt to avoid turnovers, and have struggled to adjust to good game plans - like zone defenses and teams that get back on defense.
St. John's might look much better against weaker opponents. OR they might put out the effort Lavin requires. (Or, they might be better about recovering in the zone, making the gaps/ openings smaller, and cut harder on offense.)
VU Hoops: The Johnnies' offense ranks 108th on KenPom.com, with a below-average eFG%, if Villanova plays as well as usual on defense, how will SJU get their points?
Pico: If St. John's doesn't generate turnovers and/ or long shots under pressure against the Wildcats, St. John's will struggle to get their points. That's the Johnnies' story - they need to get teams into an up-and-down game where the Red Storm can take advantage of transition mistakes and get early-offense buckets.
VU Hoops: With D'Angelo Harrison and Rysheed Jordan, among others, the Red Storm looked really good on paper before the season. What were expectations like from fans?
VU Hoops: Some fans had expectations of a sure NCAA bid. More reasonable folks thought an NCAA bid was fairly likely. Many of these same people thought the Big East would get in five teams to the tournament. Five teams seems unlikely, and the Johnnies haven't translated potential into more points than the other team enough to look like a contender for an NCAA bid.
No one thought they would be far from consideration... but the thing about bubble teams is that they generally come in the "team that's limping to the end of the season" variety or the "team that makes a late surge and you KNOW they're not really good but damn they just beat [ranked team x]" variety.
So maybe everything is going according to plan.