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Bulls Recon: Rumble in the Garden Talks St. Johns Basketball

Welcome to the last edition of Bulls Recon of the regular season. For today's version of Bulls Recon, we welcome in the newest Big East blog on SBNation Rumble In The Garden managed by the best name in blogging, Pico Dulce. In today's BR, we talk about the resurgence of the Red Storm, a possible Notre Dame vs. St. Johns Big East final, and of course Big East Expansion.


1. Be honest, did you expect the team to be THIS good? Coach Lavin has to be in the running for National Coach of the Year, right?

I think Lavin should get mentioned for national coach of the year, but I don't think he'll get it; he's new, he has all those seniors, and Matt Painter has impressed folks with his non-Hummel winning. I am sure there are others, but I bet Lavin won't get the votes for coach of the year.

And no, I didn't think St. John's would be this good, not at all. Before the season, I held out hope that Lavin would improve the team - the way they played in the past needed changing. I thought St. John's would be a little lower than where they are, down where Cincinnati and Marquette are, fighting for a berth. This is pretty spectacular, and the fact that the team can finally win at home is impressive.

2. What should we expect from the Johnnies on offense and defense?

Anger and pain.

Or: Dwight Hardy is the big scoring name, and you'll see him coming off of screens to make plays. You will see Justin Brownlee moving around to take shots like a small forward. You'll see spot-up shooting from Paris Horne and speed from Dwayne Polee.

But mostly, you will see  defensive intensity. The Red Storm's whole effort starts with pressure defense. They would like to force turnovers, but are fine just forcing bad shots from the defense. There will be traps in corners, full court defense, a 2-3 matchup zone, and D.J. Kennedy will be picking off passes.

3. Justin Burrell came in with a hard intentional foul in the waning moments against Seton Hall. What is his status for the game?

He'll be playing against South Florida; no indication not. It was flagrant but not enough to get him suspended.

4. What are your thought on Big East expansion? Do you think the conference should stay where they are at, or do you think that football needs to add a couple more teams?

I think expansion is a little silly, because there are few teams that anyone would want in the Big East available.  Maybe Central Florida, TCU is a good get... who else? The carcass of Memphis? Temple? Delaware/ Richmond/ U Mass? Buffalo? I just don't know that there are teams out there to be added that would make for compelling competition and would get the best players in the east to stay in conference.

Also - and I say this without data - aren't there many, many more players in the south and midwest?  Is there a conference worth of high-level players in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic and eastern Midwest, anyway?

I understand, though. The conference has to get bigger. It would also help if the teams got better; the Big East football is like SEC West basketball - a couple of competent teams from time to time but mostly, a "look away" conference. 

Except for South Florida, of course.

5. With 9 seniors on the roster, there are a ton of available scholarships. Who are you guys bringing in for next season?

Next year, St. John's is bringing in what has been ranked as a top-3 class by ESPN and Rivals (and Scout, I believe).

There's a lot to be said about this class, and I will be detailing some of this over the summer, but St. John's is bringing in talent and versatility - certainly more than what's on the roster.  But the class doesn't have any elite, one-and-done kind of players. And I appreciate it, but I think fans and outside onlookers will bury Steve Lavin's coaching next year when they struggle to stay over .500 and miss the NCAAs.

It's going to take a lot of teaching and confidence boosting to keep the players getting better every game and to keep the fans on board. People hear top-3 recruiting class and they think "top 25, guaranteed," when that's incredibly untrue. Kentucky is one of the few teams that can maintain high levels of play with freshmen - because they get at least one elite player in each class. St. John's guys are in the two-and-done level, the 4-year-college star level. And there haven't been many teams that have been this young on the top levels of the NCAA.

I am spending a lot of time on this question, but I'll finish. As for the players themselves:

pg/sg - Nurideen Lindsey, a sophomore JUCO guard who came close to Wilt Chamberlain's scoring record in Philly before taking some time off of basketball (and giving up a schollie to LaSalle); he's emerged on NBA radars.

pg/ sg - Philip Greene, a player originally from Chicago who is playing at IMG in Florida.

sg/ cg - D'Angelo Harrison, a guard from Texas who is known as a big-time scorer (but possibly a volume shooter).

sf - Amir Garrett, a forward from California who plays at Findlay Prep; he's shown a desire to play defense and some grit.

sg?/ sf - Sir'Dominic Pointer, a supposedly versatile forward who is supposedly physically ready and plays defense; he's known to be a heck of an athlete, plays in North Carolina at Quality Education Prep, but is from Michigan.

sf/ pf - JaKarr Sampson, a long combo forward who played at LeBron James' HS (St. Vincent/ St. Mary's) but moved on to Brewster Academy. he has a wealth of ability, hops, and a dribble; someone compared him to Scottie Pippen.

sf - Maurice Harkless, a skinny, long, efficient forward with a jump shot; I keep reading that he's a great athlete, but I see good on video. He's from Queens and was one of Lavin's first big gets.

pf - Dwight Miekle, a forward at Quality Education Academy with Pointer, he's slim and about 6'7, 6'8, maybe 6'9. His game is supposedly a small forwards' game and not a lot has been written about him.

pf - Norvel Pelle, a forward/ center with a wealth of athletic talent, length, and shot-blocking ability. 

There is one more scholarship, at least, left.

6. We were talking during the Pitt game, and came to the conclusion that if St. Johns and Notre Dame met in the final, MSG might explode. What do you think courtside seats would go for in that game?

I think a few velvet robes, middle-age-era gold coins, and a contribution to the Church of Dolan would get a person courtside seats to the game. 

Actually, you could - I was going to make a joke about swiping tickets from drunks too sauced to MAKE the final, but that was going to go to really insulting places.

7. Where should we get a bite to eat if we're around campus?

I hear the Sly Fox Inn is the place to be on Union Turnpike; I didn't actually go to St. John's, so I couldn't say! 

8. Finally, how much will you beat us by?

Pomeroy says 13. I think 9; St. John's plays poorly at Carnesecca. At least, this year they have.


Well let's hope we can keep up that trend. Thanks again to Pico for helping us out on short notice. Head over to RitG for my answers to his questions, and make sure you follow Pico on Twitter.

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