Posts Tagged ‘Villanova’

With the liquidation of the Big East in 2013 with charter members Syracuse, Pittsburgh, and other universities bolting for greener pastures in another conference many presumed the Big East brand was mortally wounded. Many national pundits were more than willing to provide the eulogy for the once great conference has boasted about how a conference that had superstars such as Patrick Ewing and Chris Mullin was not the powerhouse it once was. Yet the results of the 2016 NCAA tournament beg to differ.

First the Big East conference was able to have five teams make the NCAA tournament which is half of the conference. The five tournament participants are two more bids than what the SEC received which happens to have a total of fourteen teams. The Big East was also successful as a whole in the first round as the conference went 4-1 in the first round with only Seton Hall being ousted. Yet in the second round only Villanova was able to advance to the Sweet 16.

Villanova which conquered previous critiques as in the last two seasons Nova was unable to advance past the first weekend. The Wildcats were able to break through their own personal roadblocks and became the sole team carrying the banner of the Big East. And Villanova represented the Big East tremendously by dominating Miami 92-69 in the Sweet 16 and conquering basketball blue blood Kansas 64-59. Many of those that were proclaiming the passing of the Big East need to realize that a Big East team is two wins away from a national title.

Syracuse’s success also has validated the Big East in two different ways. First Syracuse head Basketball coach Jim Boeheim was asked to compare the strength of the ACC to the Big East. Boeheim did not answer which could be inferred to mean that one of the founding fathers of the Big East will not degrade the past just to gain some publicity for his new conference.

Second is a December game between Syracuse and St. Johns at Madison Square Garden. In that contest the Red Storm obtained a convincing 84-72 win over their arch rival. And for first year coach Chris Mullin that victory was their one shining moment and it just gets brighter with every Syracuse win in this tournament.

A week ago St John’s fans were basking in the euphoria of handily defeating former Big East arch-rival Syracuse at the World Most Famous Arena. After a tumultuous 48 hours where the Red Storm lost to Incarnate Word and NJIT at Carnesecca Arena feelings of trepidation started to develop. Not only did two programs that do not have grandiose name recognition but the daunting Big East schedule has not started yet. A loss to #25 South Carolina at Mohegan Sun did not ease any feelings of angst either. While it might look bleak for this season at this moment for the Johnnies there are four comforting thoughts that should help ease the stress for the Red Storm faithful.

1. There will be upsets pulled off by St. John’s this season.

When you are picked to finish dead last in your conference it is more likely than not that the Red Storm will be underdogs in most if not all their Big East games this year. It should also be noted that every basketball game starts out with the score being 0-0. No matter how good Villanova or Xavier are this year when they match-up with the Red Storm neither team will start out with a 20 point lead. As illustrated in the Syracuse game there will be games where everything clicks for St. John’s. While it might be hard to predict when this will happen, keep faith because it will happen.

2. The team will improve as the season progresses.

With the high turnover from last year’s roster nine new players enrolled at St. John’s and just like everyone is saying, it will take time for the team to gel and improve. Current issues the team has are turnovers and defending the three-point shot. While the turnover issue could be corrected if Marcus Lovett is deemed eligible and is able to be an efficient point guard but the Red Storm should still devise a corrective action to have better offensive possessions. With defending the three-point shooting Mullin should show footage of the Red Storm upset over Duke at Madison Square Garden in 2011. What Dwight Hardy and company did to the Dukies was having ferocious close-outs and turned the jump shooters to drivers. On that day the Blue Devils shot an uncharacteristic 3-21 (14.2%) from deep which enabled the Red Storm to pick up the momentous upset.

3. The last 10 games of the season will show growth

Up to several years ago the NCAA selection committee would look at how a team’s win-loss record in their last 10 games to determine if the team should make it to the NCAA tournament and where they should be seeded. To determine how far the Red Storm developed this season Red Storm fans should do the same. It is a cliché but there reaches a point in the season when freshmen are not freshmen anymore. The freshmen have gone into hostile territory and have played under bright lights in front of national TV audiences. By gaining this key experience the new players will not be afraid and should have hopefully improved on their weaknesses and be able to play much better as an individual and as a unit.

4. Anticipate the 2016-2017 season.

While it is projected to be a challenging year for St. John’s many of the key components will be returning in 2016. From redshirt junior Christian Jones to forward Kassoum Yakwe all are expected to return. More help is on the way in the form of much heralded guard Shamorie Ponds who has already committed to matriculate at St. John’s and Mullin and his staff are expected to gain more key prospects before the start of the 2016-17 season. And when the final net is cut down in April all the bumps and bruises from this season will just symbolize lessons learned. The lessons learned this season could help lead the Red Storm towards their ascent in the Big East and potentially turning into a national power.