The newly minted #1 Syracuse Orange take on St. John’s tonight in the Carrier Dome. An old foe, but not a formidable one in recent years. Either way, in deference to the history and long standing feud between these two teams it was time for another Q&A. This time we exchanged questions with Pico Dulce of The East Coast Bias and Johnny Jungle. They both are done excellently with Pico and both cover St. John’s and The Big East well. The answers to my questions are right here. Pico’s answers are below. Enjoy.
1. Orange::44: St. John's is better than last year, but still not where it needs to be in the Big East to hang with elite teams. What is the Red Storm's biggest issues?
East Coast Bias: The biggest of the big issues, I will touch on later. But in the immediate term, the problems for St. John's are myriad. Most glaring is a general inability to score. They have had some better moments, but a consistent offensive attack has eluded the team for the last 6-7 years. Part of that could be talent, but when you watch the Red Storm tonight, you can see that their execution is a cut below what one might expect from a Big East team. There is a lot of wing-oriented play, but the wings aren't so great that the team should avoid the post players. The Red Storm have done better with respect to turnovers than in years past, but aren't grabbing offensive boards as well, which hurts when the team misses that many shots.
Also an issue is the defense. The defense has been decent overall, but there have been some inconsistent efforts against Rutgers, for example, and against Pitt, where they seemed not to know what the Panthers were doing... though they played them earlier in the year. At their best, St. John's depends on being annoying and disrupting, but the team doesn't do any one thing well that we normally correlate with good defense - they're not tall (or they don't play their height), they don't block many shots, they don't force steals and turnovers, they don't defend without fouling.
2. Orange::44: The Red Storm had Pitt on the ropes for a while. What happened in that game that Pitt came back to win it?
ECB: Well, Pitt had control of the game the whole way through. St. John's will come out hot against good teams for 10 minutes on pure grit and determination. Then the other team will realize they actually have to play and it's not a practice session. More technically, St. John's could not execute on offense. They couldn't get the ball in to Justin Burrell, and they couldn't get clean shots off. On the other end, Panthers were getting open on the wings, they moved the ball around, and easily got deep position in the paint with the likes of Gary McGhee and Dante Taylor, sucking in the defense and creating more opportunities.
3. Orange::44: Paris Horne was outstanding for the team last year. He hasn't been nearly as dynamic this season. Why is that?
ECB: Partly because he has less time; partly because he has a lesser role; partly because the warts were beginning to show a little at the end of last year; and partly it has to be psychological. Horne was a feature guy last year and just seems to have less of "it" this year; but last year, he wasn't great at creating his own opportunities, being a better scorer off the catch in my opinion (since I don't have stats). So if there isn't a guard or wing creating for him, it's hard for him to get shots off.
But his role is different with shooter Dwight Hardy in the mix. Horne has less time to get into the flow of the game, and sometimes he is the focal point for the offense (shooting 3's in the corner), sometimes he's not, and it may be affecting his confidence, the not knowing what he will be doing possession to possession.
4. Orange::44: Would you fire Norm Roberts? If so, who would you hire, besides Jim Boeheim of course?
ECB: I wouldn't hire Jim Boeheim! The goal is to beat Jim Boeheim (and Calhoun and...)!
I would most definitely fire Norm Roberts. I could go into the many ways that this program isn't working, but I will leave that for my own blog instead of complaining on yours. As for who I would hire, it depends a little on the parameters for the school. St. John's wants to stay clean in recruiting and player retention, they probably won't break the bank, and I bet they will be obsessed with a "New York guy." Personally, I would start looking at guys who can build a program, who can get a lot out of decent-to-good players - not just unheralded players, but also not a guy who recruited stars in their area. St. John's isn't going to reel in the top-5 athletes. Maybe not even the top-25. But I envision a St. John's with a coach can evaluate and develop talent, further build relations with local coaches, and maybe craft an out of nowhere win.
It's funny - I can't say who I WOULD hire, pie in the sky type. Maybe Sean Miller. Tom Izzo. John Thompson III. Lawrence Frank. Like Pitino might say, none of those guys are walking through the door. So I'm hoping for someone capable with a decent record so far.
5. Orange::44: Finally, how does this game go down. SU kills St. John's right?
ECB: Yes. I'll be watching with no expectations, it'll be like watching your kids play and thinking, well, just don't get injured out there.
Thanks again to Pico for answering my question, and him asking to do this. Be sure to check out East Coast Bias, as well as Johnny Jungle for all the St. John’s info you can handle. I’m guessing it won’t be a lot, but they will have a great take on the game tonight, which is worth a read.