If you haven't already, make with the clicks and go read our answers to Rumble In The Garden's questions about Marquette basketball. Then bookmark their site and visit them regularly to learn all you can about St. John's.
Then, once you've done that, wander back here, and we'll let RITG's Norman Rose educate you a little bit in the ways of the Johnnies. Our questions are in bold, his answers are in..... not bold.
* * * * *
1) So... I know how Marquette lost to DePaul. You want to explain how the Johnnies got to join our little club on Sunday?
St. John's gave up a slew of threes and a putback and a pair of free throws to DePaul in the opening five minutes of the second half on Sunday - and that pretty much brought the Johnnies into a dogfight they were not able to win. (It really was a kinda ugly game. Should have been played at Wiggly Field, a dog park near DePaul's campus.)
Thing is, DePaul always looks beatable, but they came out with a game plan - hit corner threes against the St. John's zone - and once they pulled their heads out of their other body part, they executed decently. Meanwhile, St. John's struggled to share the ball. And more importantly, D`Angelo Harrison was slowed by a calf injury... so he couldn't carry the team to victory.
There were chances to win, for sure. But the Johnnies' defense couldn't get enough stops, and the offense couldn't do enough to eke out the win.
(Plug! See our Three Takeaways for more!)
2) The Red Storm opened up 11-1, including wins over Minnesota, Syracuse, a good Saint Mary's squad, and a surprisingly competent Tulane team. But conference games have just been one grease fire after another. What's different? Just increased competition level? Bad team play? Something else?
The competition IS better.
But the team is also struggling with its depth. The Red Storm need to play a high-intensity defensive style, pressuring the ball and funneling opponents into Chris Obekpa. But with six players - one of whom left the team for a short while on a leave of absence, and another who cut his hand and was out for a game - the Johnnies have been looking a tad peaked at the end of games.
It's hard to know exactly what's gone wrong, but it is important to note that the non-conference competition may not have been that good.
And inexplicably, many of those teams shot really poorly from the line. St. Mary's really just crumbled in the face of St. John's pressure (Gonzaga almost did too).
Maybe the defensive issues highlighted against Division II Franklin Pierce were more than an aberration.
3) Coach Lavin made a splash on the recruiting trail when he first took the St. John’s job. But lately he hasn’t been pulling down the blue-chippers like he did his first couple of years, most notably with SJU sitting with I think only 1 recruit to replace the 4 seniors that get significant playing time. What gives?
But indeed, one of the big stories of the year was Lavin missing out on Isaiah Briscoe. Some will say "why you bringing up old [stuff]" with Briscoe - and normally that's true in recruiting. Coaches miss out on players all the time, right?
But Lavin had chosen, after missing on some early recruits in 2014, to concentrate his recruiting efforts on 2015. Which meant that the 2014 recruiting efforts seemed, at least to the public and many behind the scenes, awfully quiet until late.
And the players Lavin acquired late may have some level of talent, but the two major pieces at forward, Keith Thomas and Adonis Delarosa, never saw the floor due to eligibility issues.
The focus was on Briscoe to jumpstart the class. But the Johnnies are still courting Cheick Diallo, a top-10 forward. Lavin also has his eyes on a couple of international prospects. I would expect him to keep a close eye on the midseason and late-season NCAA transfer "wire". Some top-150 players are being heavily courted by the Red Storm.
So he may find talent for next season. It won't be like his first recruiting class, most likely, but Lavin is good at finding a combination of talented players, late-season transfers, and slightly academically risky players that the blue bloods step back from to fill out the roster.
4) We'll combine the last three questions into one larger question: In the eyes of the St. John's fan base, is Steve Lavin on a metaphorical hot seat right now, or should he be coaching while sitting in a chair that's literally made of flames?
Hot seat, for most fans, we think. Many rightfully point out that he has elevated the level of talent. And in some ways, he's raised the marketability of St. John's, raised the team's status, given a sense of pride, even if the team hasn't touched the NCAA Tournament (or gone deep in the NIT) since 2011.
Buuuut, many people in the fanbase and the media also look askance at a program that seems to always have drama following it in the form of player eligibility, player discipline issues, and falling short of expectations.
It's hard to know how hot the seat is. No one is leaking other coaches' names to the media, the St. John's school president is new, and so far it looks like Lavin will have a chance to turn it around with his talented seniors and blue chip junior and sophomore.
5) On a scale of 1 to Fab Melo, what's your anxiety level that Rysheed Jordan will remain active for the remainder of the season? I know I saw stories that explained his recent absence as completely ordinary, but that wasn't the buzz before the news broke, and it was originally announced as "indefinite."
Sure! Yeah! It was just -- I'm not going to go into the details, but certainly, the public story doesn't at all jibe with "leave of absence" or the players' and coaches' quotes about Rysheed Jordan and when he would return.
Water under the bridge. I think he stays for the rest of the season. The issues that caused him to leave don't mesh well with his urge to possibly go pro after this season, so I think he will remain active if only for that reason.
6) Let's go big picture. How many Big East teams are going to make the NCAA tournament? I'm leaning towards six these days.
Five. I think six is a large number of teams, and it could happen, but I also feel that someone in the Providence/ Xavier/ Butler/ Georgetown band is not "for real". And also, maybe DePaul. But they're made of Strange Magic this year.
7) You're a New Yorker now living in Chicago, right? So, let's hear it from someone with serious experience: Pizza - New York style or Chicago style? Personally, I think they both have their places in the pizza spectrum, and there's something to be said about a towering pile of cheese.
Chicago style pizza is sort of an abomination. BUT I have been swayed slightly. There are versions that are fairly excellent, especially if cooked in a greasy, re-used pan that gets the Chicago crust all flavorful.
I'm a New York pizza guy, though. I never order Chicago pizza, but now I've learned to eat it with others to be polite instead of going into one of those tedious "WELL, in NEW YORK..." spiels that New Yorkers (New York Citiers, that is to say) tend to go into. At least the ones I know.
8) Prediction time! Pick a winner for Wednesday night, a final score, and name an X factor for the game.
X-Factor - Sir`Dominic Pointer simply beasts some Marquette players and the Johnnies handle business 65-60, throttling the Golden Eagles in the first half and riding the wave to victory.