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St. John's Postgame Blog Talk

That was a rough going for the Red Storm.
For deeper analysis of these games lately Orange::44 has reached out to fellow bloggers, specifically bloggers that focus on specific teams, to get the real scoop. Today we chat with Pico Dulce, operator of The East Coast Bias, a fine St. John’s blog, and a contributor of Johnny Jungle. Earlier today he posted my answers to some of his questions, and in turn I asked him a few, mostly focusing on what exactly is going on with the program and where they go from here. It certainly isn't the 80's anymore. Enjoy the anatomy of a Johnny as Pico pulls no punches.

1. Orange::44: What do you see as St. John's biggest problem in not winning games?

Pico: Wow. Where do I start? Well, I'll start from the tangible back to the heart of it. I'm going to focus on conference numbers, because St. John's played an incredible weak out of conference schedule including NJIT, TWO MEAC schools, some single digit win teams like Eastern Michigan, some low-level locals... the non-conference strength of schedule is one of the lowest in the country, and that's with Cornell, Boston College, Duke, Miami, and Virginia Tech. The games this team has won are almost counterfeit.

The team's defense is terrible from beyond the arc and mediocre inside the arc; the one saving grace is that they don't foul excessively... they just lose their man. And Dele Coker blocks some shots when he can stay on the floor. The offense is... well you saw that. It's disorganized, fundamentally unsound in things like spacing, running fast breaks and the like. The team has no shooters. The point guard situation is poor, and the coach has staked himself to a sophomore point guard who could never shoot and now is having trouble defending and passing, the things he used to do well.

The talent is lacking a bit, but I think a lot of it is on coaching. The roster construction (addressed in question 2), the lack of promise (addressed in question 3), the talent level, all of those are issues a coaching staff could address if they developed players well. And the current staff's ability to develop players is really in question. In 5 years, the same basic staff has seen many player defections - including three outside shooters the team recruited who then either failed or were perceived to fail for their lack of defense. The same staff has done little to develop their more highly rated players. The jump shooting is not good. The post play is more hustle than skill. And the defense - once a vicious, grinding testament to effort and hustle and pluck - has holes like aerated soil.

I really believe that if everything is wrong 5 years into a coaching job, with the guys the coach brought in... it's on the coach. 14 of this year's 15 losses are by 10 or more points (the comeback at Duke was the only one that was not a solid margin of victory for the other team). That's just uncompetitive in the way that DePaul, South Florida, and Rutgers are.

2. Orange::44: How do you see the future of St. John's basketball going?

Pico: All the 20 remaining St. John's fans are waiting and seeing on what will happen with Coach Roberts. The public quotes seem to indicate that he will be the coach next year, but for all we know, it's a hedge while they think about what they're doing or a hedge to wait and see in Roberts can bring in Lance Stephenson. So the future could be 1. Lance comes to St. John's for a year, the team has a winning record and maybe an NIT or low NCAA berth if he's really that good (and if they can find playing time for Mason/ Stephenson/ Omari Lawrence/ Paris Horne/ Quincy Roberts/ DJ Kennedy/ Dwight Hardy at the 2 and 3 spots), or 2. Norm stays on though he didn't get Lance, or 3. A new coach comes.

Future is up in the air. But as the team is currently constituted, the future is not bright; Coach's teams have always had a problem with not turning the ball over and not generating turnovers, and with terrible shooting (seriously, look at their shooting numbers - they're terrible). I can't see why top talent would come and save this team except out of altruism. And the scheme isn't generating points... so the future? Dark.

And to add to that is roster construction. If every player stays on next year, and JUCO Dwight Hardy comes on, the team will have 9 players graduating in 2011. Unless this team is ranked in the next two years, I don't see how they are going to find 9 capable Big East players to fill the roster when they couldn't get 7 impact players out of the last big recruiting class. Honestly, if they get a new coach, I hope a few players move on to other schools. If the same coach is in place, I think a few players will choose to transfer.

3. Orange::44: How do you see the team finishing the year?

Pico: I think they'll beat DePaul, and if they can draw Seton Hall, they might just make it to the second round of the Big East tournament... more likely they're done on that first day.

4. Orange::44: What impressed and unimpressed you the most about Syracuse?

Pico: It's hard to take a lot from a blowout game like that. But I like how Syracuse was able to clog the paint and run with the ball; Jonny Flynn's talent, especially, stood out to me. The skill of the big men Jackson and Onuaku was also impressive - they gathered themselves and made the close shots in a way St. John's bigs simply do not.

As far as unimpressed - Paul Harris is unimpressive; as is the team's concentration. If I were a fan, I would be worried. When Marquette was stomping the Red Storm out like a used cigarette, they focused on continuing to crush their spirits in the second half. Syracuse let up in intensity, in my opinion.

5. Orange::44: Final thoughts on the game?

Pico: I'm trying not to think about it too much. Ugly, ugly, ugly. Adds to the hopeless feeling of St. John's... I guess for Syracuse it was kind of like playing LeMoyne College or something low-level like that. (Editor’s Note: Syracuse beat LeMoyne in the first game of the season 85-51, so pretty darn close my friend.)

Thanks to Pico for answering the questions. Be sure to check out The East Coast Bias for quality St. John’s and east coast basketball coverage, and check out my answers to his questions as well.

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