"My rule was I wouldn't recruit a kid if he had grass in front of his house.
That's not my world. My world was a cracked sidewalk." —Al McGuire

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Five Questions with Rumble in the Garden

Blogger friend Pico from Rumble In the Garden sat down with Cracked Sidewalks to answer some questions about the Johnnies.  His information is insightful and interesting, and will help you better understand tonight's opponent.  Both Anonymous Eagle and Cracked Sidewalks provided provided responses to his questions, so go and check those out too.  

1.    Can you catch the non-fanatic up to speed on what’s going on with Lavin and in-game coaching?

Currently, Steve Lavin continues to recover from his prostate cancer surgery. But he is traveling, doing recruiting and some media appearances. It sounds strange to some fans - and even to me, at times - but it makes sense when you think of Lavin's persona and the rigors of coaching that have driven some to burnout.
Lavin is an energetic fellow, on and off the court, known to fire off calls and texts to media members and players at crazy hours. If he only has a portion of his energy, he could use it on the court; but Mike Dunlap is an excellent coach, and already was very involved in the game coaching decisions. Additionally, this year is much more about on-court and in-game lessons, and Dunlap and Rico Hines are the members of the staff who are stronger on the development side. Lavin's not bad at coaching; but his great ability is his charisma, which is better used at replenishing the program's roster.

Lavin told the LA Times that there's a chance he won't return this season, which is a blow to the players, and to recruiting. But he is expected to return next year fully invigorated and healthy. It's not an ideal situation, but I have no reason to think he's not coming back (and I tend pessimistic).

2.     Why have the Johnnies struggled to shoot efficiently, and how confident are you in their ability to shoot well against MU’s poor defensive eFG%?

The Johnnies are young, and that's a lot of it. A number of guys have struggled to convert shots at the rim, most of the team can't shoot well from outside the arc, and a few don't convert well through contact - a little more time in the weight room, a little more time shoring up their mechanics, and there will be some solid scorers on the roster. Right now, the team is best at scoring in transition. In the open court, they are faster and quicker than many if not most teams. Of course, high level basketball is hardly ever played like a wind sprint.

Marquette could come out looking defensively stout against St. John's, who struggled at times with Cincinnati's handsy pressure - Marquette does a bit of the same high-energy flailing arm defense.


St. John's loves to run, and Marquette doesn't seem to bother anyone's assist rate... and Marquette's lack of height may make them look a little more like Providence to the Johnnies' eyes. If Marquette turns the ball over, or gives Moe Harkless and Sir'Dominic Pointer a lane in which to drive, things could get very interesting.

3.     The wheels appeared to come off for St Johns early this season, has Lavin righted the ship?

To me, the wheels never came off. There are the struggles of trying to enlist a full team in one offseason - for most coaches, that's a task that just can't be done. There was one returnee - Malik Stith - and he's no impact player in the Big East. He's kind of like DePaul's Mike Bizoukas - heady player, tough and game, but...

I expected losses. I'll be happy if they can get to a .500 record. I expected a transfer (though Lindsey's transfer doesn't really make sense for him). And not having two recruits is bad, but one was already my pick to transfer out; the other's a loss.

The ship's not much more right than it was a month ago. The young players are getting time, they're learning, and this team is trying to take the wins they can grab and developing for next year.

The one place where the ship needs some righting is in recruiting. The team needs players, and to have no one (except for an impact transfer, thanks Jamal Branch, for not joining Team Jamal/ Team Texas at Marquette!) coming is a little worrisome. But I bet they'll get players; and with 4 top-100 talents, the team doesn't necessarily need high-level guys to be competitive.

4.     Mo Harkless has emerged as a beast on the blocks and former MU target DeAngelo Harrison is pouring in the points?  Are they the leaders of this team?


D`Angelo powers the team, and I've thought since December that he has a strong chance to win rookie of the year, for his combination of high usage, the ability to get hot from outside (people are attracted by streak shooters, it seems), and an ability to make/ help out on plays all over the court.

Harkless gets his points more quietly, turns the ball over more, and struggles with his jumper. But he's pretty good near the basket and has done an incredible job rebounding for a guy his slim size.

5.     What have been the greatest signs of improvement (or not) for the Johnnies during this transition year?

The Johnnies execute their game plans solidly - they don't foul much, they've been okay at not turning the ball over, and none of the big men have been in much foul trouble, which is incredible, because they're not very big. That's the mark of a team that listens and absorbs solidly. There's speed and ability when they're in transition.

By player, there are lots of signs. Harkless can compete on the glass. Sometimes, he uncorks a move that's straight up "next level" - like a shot fake from the free throw line and a dribble later, he's at the rim. He has an array of shots that aren't falling yet, but look pretty good.

Meanwhile, Harrison can play either guard spot. And while he needs a little more consistency, he can get hot in transition off the dribble, draw fouls, catch-and-shoot from the outside, and he works hard for his shots.

God'sGift Achiuwa has some nice moments in the paint and good quickness; he doesn't leap high enough to be a beast inside, his timing's not excellent, and his handle is loose when he tries to play outside-in, but he holds his own.

Dom Pointer is offensively reluctant, but can attack the rim and has a jumper (developing). His defense is bothersome at all five positions. Amir Garrett is long and is getting used to D1 play after being ineligible until December, but he will take on ballhandlers at the top of the zone. Those guys don't give up.

Phil Greene has some quickness, though he's a little exposed right now as the point guard; I can see him becoming better/ more competent.

No comments: