"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

Friday, March 08, 2013

Know Your Opponent: Q&A with Rumble in the Garden


One of the best parts about playing St. John's is the opportunity to get reacquainted with the outstanding Pico Dulce of Rumble in the Garden. We traded Q&As with each other in order to help each other get more familiar. You can find his questions and our answers here.

Without further ado, here are our questions and his responses:

1. STJ has struggled from the field all year -- how have they adjusted to the loss of their best player?

It's very hard to say. On one hand, an easy narrative is "they're lost without D`Angelo Harrison", and at times that is truly true. His ability to actually hit a three changed the offense; he drew attention and defenses worked hard to keep the ball away from him.

On the other hand, he frankly stunk in the month of February. Shooting 26% inside the arc and 24% outside the arc, and taking 12 shots per game to do it is unimpressive, even if he added some passing and rebounding to the mix.

So the Red Storm still can't score. On the upside, the team has moved the ball around with a bit more purpose, especially since Jamal Branch and Sir`Dominic Pointer are seeing more time. But the issues that plague the team aren't tied to Harrison's presence on the floor - it's their style of offense, shot selection - a LOT of long twos (Editors note: we call those MISIBs - for Most Inefficient Shot In Basketball), few shots at the rim or outside the arc, few free throws drawn.

Losing D`Lo has also meant more time for Felix Balamou, who proves how raw he is at least once every game. That said, Balamou brings effort, extreme athleticism (wanna see a guard block a three? Wanna see a guy who could eat a whole apple as he hangs in the air? Balamou.) and getting him on the floor will hopefully hasten his development.

2. What the hell happened at ND?

The game: well, ah… well… ah… here's what I have. In the first half, the Fighting Irish were simply shook, in the mid-90s hip hop sense of the word. They shot 2/9 at the rim, 3/11 from beyond the arc,  3/9 on two-point jumpers, short arming layups and rushing shots while they looked for "the big kid" (Bob Knight voice), Chris Obekpa. Brey was worried about him before the first matchup and they were cognizant of him once again.

That may have been over coaching, because in the second half, caution was tossed to the snowy winds and they assaulted the Johnnies inside and out.

It didn't help that the Storm don't have the reliable shooting to really contest the zone, nor do they have a post presence on offense to draw attention inside.

So they were frustrated. Sir`Dominic Pointer, whose people come out to games in the area (they were in Milwaukee last year, they come to Chicago, etc) was probably the only one playing hard, trying to make plays all over the court (many players were playing rushed, playing frustrated, but Pointer was seeing plays and trying to make them in that 44-14 half). 

I don't condone fighting, and it was hotheaded, but Cameron Biedschied spent a full possession just trying to talk smack with two minutes left, and then tapped Pointer's face. I'm not saying he should have whooped the [expletive deleted]… but I understand. 

3. As a St Johns fan, what are the key things you will look for early in Saturday's game that could spell either doom or success for the Johnnies?

Defense. If St. John's can make the interior a miserable place, they're on the right track. And an outlier offensive performance from a few players wouldn't hurt. Right now, the players that I would predict to break out are sidelined, so the offense falls to the 43% shooting JaKarr Sampson (mostly on long jumpers) and the 30% (overall) shooting of Phil Greene.

4. Looks like the profile of the team is young, decent defensively, but has no offensive game. Is that a fair characterization?

I started mentioning it in 1 and 3, and yes - good defense, even great in stretches (great transition defense when it's on - trailers who can block shots). But the offense looks lost a lot, and even more so without the shot creator Harrison to run a pick and roll at the top of the key. On offense, they don't do anything well except for hold on to the ball. They have amazingly putrid halves of basketball when they can;t get out in transition.

5. Give us your opinions on the new Big EAST. On a scale from delighted to thrilled, where do you stand in general?

Can you see my butt shaking from side to side, like I'm hearing a sweet 70's groove (think Aretha Franklin's "Rock Steady")? Pretty excited. I hope Fox is solid with the online content and won't be charging 19.99/ month for access like they do for Fox Soccer2Go. And if the channels can be available via cable and DirecTV, I'll be pretty excited. As for the deal itself, what an incredible and fortunate lifeline!


Thanks Pico. Good luck on Saturday, but not too much. We've got a championship to win!

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