After a one-day hiatus, YOUR Marquette Golden Eagles return to the Bradley Center to face the suddenly-frisky Red Storm of St. John's. To get you ready for the 8:00 p.m. contest, we traded questions with SBN's tremendous St. John's blog, Rumble In The Garden. RITG is the newest horse in SBN's stable of Big East blogs, but Pico is no spring chicken (have I mixed enough farm metaphors yet?) when it comes to blogging: he's been running the excellent East Coast Bias site for years, and, if Pico's work isn't part of your daily reading, you should remedy that issue post-haste.
Our answers to Pico's questions are here.
Storm a-comin' -- let's go!
Anonymous Eagle: Can you try to figure out which St. John's team is coming to Milwaukee on Tuesday: the one who lost to Fordham, or the one who thumped Duke? I need to know how much antacid to pack before I leave my house.
Rumble in the Garden: I hear it's the one that thumped Duke. Fordham was an awfully long time ago, and the staff was trying to install an aggressive attack... and at that game, boy they were aggressive. So aggressive they didn't play very good defense and took bad, quick shots. I look at how Fordham is continuing a tradition of losing, and I wonder more and more how that really happened. Craziness.
AE: How's the first year of the Lav Experience been? What'd you think of the hire before the season? Have your feelings changed at all as the year's played out?
RITG: The Lavin experience has been pretty solid. I think many folks don't realize that they're going to be popping antacids (as you will be, apparently!) in the coming years. Lavin, I think, loves to teach and tinker. Some coaches hit on what they want to do/ can do with their team early in the season. Many - if not most - don't, and Lavin is in that second camp.
But then he talks about it in a stream of consciousness manner that could make a person think that he's making things up on the fly. I don't think he is. I think Bob Huggins, for example, has been just trying different things to get an acceptable performance out of his team; I think Rick Pitino does it every year.
Before the season I was cautiously optimistic and spent some time delving into the data (links - a couple of long posts on Lavin's negatives and and past and given the mediocrity that had come before... I tried to stay positive with the previous coaching staff, but they had proven that they were never going to produce a real winner.
I might have expected a little less volatility, but this is around or slightly more than what I expected this year.
AE: The most pleasant surprise for St. John's this year has been _____. The biggest disappointment has been _______.
RITG: The most pleasant surprise has been the spacing and passing. Previous Red Storm teams dribbled, and dribbled, and dribbled - but they weren't great ballhandlers. The dribble is much slower than the crisp pass, but the pass is riskier. Still, the Red Storm are having solid success with passing the ball from place to place, moving the ball more quickly. It's nice to watch when it works.
The biggest disappointment might be the way the defense hasn't improved, it's just changed. The previous teams defended slightly better from the field (not enough to make them "good"). The current squad looks to the turnover to power their defense. I have a real aversion to open shots. I grew up with Knicks basketball, and later there was St. John's defense - the physical, East Coast brutality masquerading as hoops. I don't want THAT to happen anymore, but I love seeing things like Majerus' better defenses, or Chris Lowery's defense at Southern Illinois when they went to the Sweet Sixteen in 2007.
AE: Has St. John's used a zone at all this year? What's the Johnnies preferred style of defense?
If you hate zone, don't watch tomorrow's game. You know that "All I Do Is Win" song? Replace "win" with "zone" and you know the Red Storm defense. It's mostly a matchup zone, with attempts to trap ballhandlers. There can be some man to man, depending on the opponent and how often the team gets scored on from the perimeter.
And there will be full court pressure.
AE: Who gets the shot in a close-and-late situation if St. John's is down two? How about if they're down 3?
RITG: Down two, it'll be either Dwight Hardy or Justin Brownlee. Pretty much the same answer if they're down 3. Paris Horne could be lurking on the perimeter; Malik Boothe is craftier than he gets credit for.
AE: Any lingering resentment over the change of the nickname to Red Storm? At Marquette, it seems like there's a sizable contingent of fans who will never recognize the change to Golden Eagles. Has there been a similar experience for St. John's?
RITG: Much like with Marquette, there is some whining (or whinging if you like using that word) about the name change. In Marquette's case, "Warriors" seems pretty innocuous. St. John's could get away with "Redmen," maybe if it wasn't already an offensive name for Native Americans, and if that wasn't compounded with the logo St. John's used with a big-nosed, buck-toothed Native American caricature dribbling a basketball.
I get the nostalgia, but I also get that we live in different times.