It just so happens that rob's attempt to make us the third biggest provider of Tribe Hoops content on the internet has apparently paid off, as St. John's blogger Pico Dulce came calling, asking us five questions about the game. He can be found over at the SB Nation Red Storm blog Rumble in the Garden (@RumbleSBN), and also on the ole twitter at @ECoastBias. rob did a tremendous job answering Pico's questions about the game here, and I strong urge you to read that first.
Again, go read rob's handiwork. If you do not, rob will be all salty that I did not publicize his hard work, presumably done while he was forced to watch his kids ride the Disney TeaCups. I told you to buy lifts, dude. You should've listened.
Anyway, in return, I tried to chip in and ask Pico five (or so) questions about St. John's that our loyal bakers' dozen of readers would want to know before tipoff tonight. I need to thank Marls here, as his scouting work of the Red Storm aiding me greatly in creating these "Jiminy Glick"-esque questions. Read up, enjoy, and meet us in the comments for a full day of Tribe and CAA Hoops excitement. Or something.
1. Your coach, Steve Lavin, had surgery in early October. Will he be returning for the opener? If not, will the human combover know as Gene Keady be taking his stead on the bench? How does that affect the ballclub, if at all?
Now, for all we know, Coach Lavin could pop back on court for Monday’s game, hale and hearty, filled with literary references and trios of synonyms to get his point across. The information people are tight lipped in that Parcellsian way about Lavin’s recovery. And we don’t know when he’s coming back. Lav has been in contact with the staff and the players, and Associate Head Coach Mike Dunlap, who has been a HC on the Division II level and in Australia, has been operating as the head man. And in truth, Lavin is often described as the idea man and Dunlap as the man who puts it into motion. Not that Lavin is a completely poor x’s and o’s coach, but Dunlap is more of the technician. What the team lacks is that personality and charisma that Lavin has - he’s a very good relationship manager. Hard to say how that’ll affect the team, though; these guys haven’t played an official game yet, so would they be better with Lavin? Maybe, maybe not. I expect them to spend the non-conference season giving St. John’s fans heartburn and becoming a lot more cohesive by the middle/ end of January.
2. The Red Storm appear to have an even younger team than the Tribe, especially since three of your best guys (in my research) seem to be out for the Fall semester. How big of a deal is this? How different will this team be when conference play begins?
It’s a big deal. The Red Storm expected to be young, even with Jakarr Sampson, Norvel Pelle and Amir Garrett in the fold. And the team was going to be thin in the paint. But Pelle and Sampson could play down low, and Amir Garrett is the kind of versatile baller who is fine with banging on defense down low. All three tried to get eligible over the summer, filling in core courses that they didn’t have qualifying grades in... and the NCAA didn’t accept those grades. It’s a big deal. The Red Storm have 7 scholarship players, a walk-on who was put on scholarship, and a tall freshman walk-on. There were supposed to be other walk-ons, but they haven’t shown up on the roster. In exhibition play, it hasn’t been a big deal. But an injury or other issue with God’sGift Achiuwa or Moe Harkless would leave the Johnnies... I don’t know what the hell that would look like. It would be short, that’s what. Amir Garrett should make it back for the second semester, providing a utility player. Norvel Pelle may come back, he may not, he may come in 2012, he may go to San Diego State, he may be working on the greatest mural the world has ever known. It’s hard to tell (but he does have strong interest in art). JaKarr Sampson is enjoying being recruited again, and i don’t see him returning. But the Red Storm will still be painfully thin of roster, painfully young, and the young players will have their stamina tested. (This is what happens when you let the former coach stock up on players who graduate in the same year.)
3. Speaking of conference play, you went 12-6 in the Big East last year, tying for third with Syracuse and Louisville. This surprised many (me included). Can that success be duplicated? Did you not sneak up on some opponents last year who will be amped to face you this year?
Last year’s team was entirely, entirely different. The Red Storm snuck up on some opponents - especially after the non-conference losses to crappy teams from the Bronx and some place called Olean or Olestra or something like that. But hey, Louisville coach Rick Pitino thought St. John’s deserved a first-place vote! And other coaches knew the Red Storm had underutilized talent. 12-6 was a complete surprise. And that’s probably not gonna happen again. The thin roster, the inexperience, the youth - it’s not a good combination. Teams can win with youth, but it’s usually youth that should have gone in the NBA draft instead of spending a freshman year pretending they know the way to the Campus Center for Kids Who Want To Learn To Read Good (And Do Other Stuff Good Too). St. John’s may have a player like that, but it’s unlikely to yield funky dividends this year. And I’m sure Duke will want to put a real whipping on the Storm.
4. Given the roster scarcity in the Fall semester, did you perhaps attend open tryouts? Even if you did not, is there a “Rudy” in the mix we should be looking for as the year plays out?
So... yeah.... there was a Rudy story or five in the making, chronicled on the Rumble and in other places. But it seems that some of those players either didn’t make the cut, or were found ineligible by the NCAA. Sam Sealy is tall, and he’ll get some minutes at some point. And Jamal White is now on scholarship, but is a former walk-on; he may just get some minutes. But no one as adorable and plucky as Sean Astin. It was Sean Astin in that movie, right?
5. What scares you most about your official season opener with a team not many know, or care, to know about, the William and Mary Tribe?
I’d say height, but the Tribe seem to not use their height very well. I think the idea of a team that may run a deliberate offense and shoots the leather off the ball could be problematic; the Storm play a zone and - I’ll finish this answer under bonus question #1.
- Holy hell, your defense is atrocious. Can they ever hope to stop anybody?
Yeah, that defense was shreddable last year and is shreddable this year. The defensive plan is to use pressure to force bad/ hurried outside shots, create flurries of runs where the Johnnies’ athleticism can dominate, and get crucial stops. In between, though, teams can get some good outside looks. And part of that, this year, is that the Red Storm are just getting used to the zone, getting comfortable in it. They are athletic, and with a couple of good defensive players, the Red Storm can stop people for stretches - enough to win some games.
- You have the best “name” team I’ve ever seen. Pick your favorite name. There can be no losers.
Adding a “Sir” to any name adds a level of respect and WTF-ness that I cannot look away from, so Sir’Dominic Pointer’s my guy. The wifey and I have a faux baby name that starts with Sir; and we’ve had it since before I’d heard of Mr. Pointer. Who has other awesome nicknames, like Ziggy.
- You guys hate free throws, eh?
Yes. They’re taken so far away from the basket. Layups and dunks are much, much more Stormy (where “Stormy” is like Smurfy, but less cute and more Queens).
- How great is it to have a “home” arena for college sport that allows you to enjoy an adult beverage?
BURRRRRP. I actually can’t remember if they serve alcohol for St. John’s games; I’ve been to so few MSG games, and I’m never drinking (or already tipsy) when I go.