St. John’s Future Bright Behind Kassoum Yakwe

Posted by Justin Kundrat on February 23rd, 2016

Nobody, not even St. John’s fans, has watched the Johnnies play this season while possessing expectations of a season that would end in a postseason tournament appearance for them. Given those modest hopes, few are now looking at first-year head coach Chris Mullin or the performance of his youth-laden squad assembled last summer with any sort of disappointment. Instead, there is a common sense of understanding. Everybody around the program knows the results of this season are meaningless from a win-loss standpoint. The greater significance lies in the development of its core group of players, almost all of whom are freshmen enduring their first season of Big East basketball.

Chris Mullin Has St. John's Heading In The Right Direction (Photo: Steven Ryan, Newsday)

Chris Mullin Has St. John’s Heading In The Right Direction (Photo: Steven Ryan, Newsday)

Freshmen rarely, if ever, excel in conference play. So with present expectations having long ago been traded away for future dreams, it was both surprising and encouraging that the Red Storm played Villanova on its home floor as closely as any Big East team has (St. John’s ended up losing by ten), and more recently, were an untimely foul call away from derailing Seton Hall’s NCAA tournament plans.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Propelled by Fresh Faces, the Chris Mullin Era Has Arrived at St. John’s

Posted by Justin Kundrat on December 15th, 2015

Few expected a winning season for a St. John’s team that experienced a complete roster upheaval. Not only was fifth-year head coach Steve Lavin shown the door, but all six players on a team that only played a six-man rotation to begin with departed the program. There was no apparent end in sight for the dark and gloomy forecasts that riddled the program. It went on for so long that fans, coaches and players alike were not wondering when, but if, St. John’s would ever return to its status as “New York’s team.” Alas, the arrival of Chris Mullin provided a struggling program with a flicker of hope. And that hope may be arriving sooner than expected. It started as an uphill battle for a program that hasn’t sniffed a continued degree of success since Mullin himself played in the 80’s. So after St. John’s suffered a blowout loss to Vanderbilt, struggled to hold off Division II Chaminade, and then lost by 16 at Fordham, few expressed much surprise. After all, this was a team full of misfits. Some were only at the university for a one-year stay as graduate students whereas others had been recruited to play for Lavin and were now forced to adapt to new leadership.

Slowly but surely, it seems the Red Storm are taking well to Chris Mullin's leadership. (Tania Savayan/The Journal News)

Slowly but surely, it seems the Red Storm are taking well to Chris Mullin’s leadership. (Tania Savayan/The Journal News)

Considering the limited degree of time and resources, Mullin’s roster construction in a matter of months has been a truly admirable effort. He took a completely unfamiliar group of players, put them on the floor together, and let the chemistry work itself out. “We’re young, we’re inexperienced, we’re all new guys, speaking a different language, but when you play together and you play well, it’s a positive reinforcement.” Mullin’s two graduate transfers Durand Johnson (Pitt) and Ron Mvouika (Missouri State) have stepped in as immediate contributors and provided invaluable leadership to the host of newcomers. Meanwhile, sparingly used returnees Christian Jones and Amar Alibegovic have worked to fill in the gaps while the freshmen, his freshmen, develop. Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

A Column of Enchantment: Season is Near, Donald Trump and Unicorns…

Posted by Joseph Nardone on November 10th, 2015

The college basketball season is a few days away from starting. On Friday a full slate of games will begin, with ESPN‘s marathon of hoops kicking off shortly after, all of which will start the season off with a bang. It will also be buried under the wasteland that is football. Not that there’s anything wrong with men literally ruining their bodies for our entertainment, yet I do wish we would pay a little more attention in the realm of shooty hoops when the season starts. Every game, especially if your program is not an annual world-beater, means something at the end of the day. I mean, this isn’t Major League Baseball or anything.

Oh Yes, It's Back...

Oh Yes, It’s Back…

With the season quickly approaching there are going to be many bandwagon supporters of the sport. I wrestle with which one is worst: ambassadors of the sport who turn a blind eye to anything possibly wrong with it, or those who ignore it for 10-ish months of the year, then pretend they like it when the season starts, disappear a week later, finally culminating with their “undying love” of the sport showing again come March. There should be some sort of survey one must take which rates your college basketball love.

Example: Do you love crowds?

  • A) Yes
  • B) No
  • C) Lobsters

If you answered “A”, then you are a true college basketball fan. You are also admitting you like a sport as much for the atmosphere as you do the quality of the play on the court — as the latter isn’t nearly the same quality as the NBA’s, but accepting it never will be only makes one enjoy the sport.  If you answered “No”, well, you are probably a communist. Anyone who answered “Lobsters” is certainly reading the right column. Honestly, A Column of Enchantment is your go to source for lobster news, opinion, and insight.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Big East Season Preview: The Outsiders (#7-#10)

Posted by Justin Kundrat on November 9th, 2015

Forecasting a team’s performance is no easy task, and to do it before a single game has been played is the equivalent of heaving half-court shots while wearing a blindfold. Nevertheless, here we are, just a work week away from the season tipping off and trying to determine which teams are worth buying into. Cases can be made for most any team to outperform its expectations, but at the end of the day, forecasting involves assessing the most likely scenarios and then re-evaluating those over the course of the season. Below are four Big East teams that will be starting the season at the bottom of the conference totem pole with a brief discussion of what they can do to alter that perception.

Chris Mullin has his work cut out for him this season. (AP)

Chris Mullin has his work cut out for him this season. (Photo: AP)

10. St. John’s

Poor, poor St. John’s. The only people that pity the team more than the fans are the players themselves. Following a 32-point turnover-fest to Division II St. Thomas Aquinas in a recent exhibition game, the collective faith of everyone involved with the program has dimmed. After all, this is a team returning just three sparingly used players from last season’s squad and throwing them into the mix with a handful of freshmen and transfers. The future might indeed turn out to be bright and Italian sensation Federico Mussini will do his best to challenge the negative prevailing sentiment, but expectations have been tempered. Best case? Mussini reins in the offense, freshman point guard Marcus LoVett quickly acclimates to the collegiate level, and Chris Mullin seamlessly integrates transfers Durand Johnson and Darien Williams in steering the Johnnies to the NIT. The more likely scenario is a ninth or 10th place Big East finish, but fans need to look past this season and take joy in a bigger picture that looks significantly better than the present.  Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

What to Watch For: Key Big East Preseason Storylines

Posted by Justin Kundrat on October 26th, 2015

College basketball is just around the corner. Finally. It seems like ages ago since we last discussed Big East basketball. Maybe that’s because the league had no deep NCAA Tournament runs outside of a Sweet Sixteen appearance from Xavier; or perhaps the droll of mid-summer baseball wasn’t enough to hold us over. Not to worry though, the hibernation period is over. For those who have distanced themselves from offseason news about the Big East for the last six months, here’s your handy primer. There are several key storylines worth monitoring as we approach the start of the regular season.

The Return of the… Freshmen?

(Ralph Thompson/maxpreps)

Jalen Brunson is the one to watch this season. (Ralph Thompson/maxpreps)

Three key players headline the list of Big East recruits this season, and all come at opportune times for their respective teams. The first is Jalen Brunson, recipient of the preseason Big East Freshman of the Year award and a star on the USA FIBA U-19 team over the summer. Brunson is a budding star and arguably the best point guard in his class, setting high expectations that he can provide an immediate scoring punch and carve out a starting role in Villanova’s loaded backcourt. Henry Ellenson, a 6’10″ forward who chose Marquette over the likes of Kentucky and Michigan State, will assume an immediate starting role in the Golden Eagles’ frontcourt alongside returning junior Luke Fischer. Ellenson is a big-bodied forward whose style more closely resembles a Brad Miller/Dirk Nowitzki type than a traditional back-to-the-basket player. And while Brunson might be the bigger household name following his summer breakout, Ellenson should have the larger impact on a resurgent Marquette team that desperately needs his size. Last is Georgetown recruit Jesse Govan, a 6’10″, 260-pound center who truly plays like one. His presence around the rim is game-changing on the defensive end, and as a result, the freshman should see immediate playing time following the departures of Joshua Smith and Mikael Hopkins. Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

A Column of Enchantment: Are We Still Alive During the Offseason?

Posted by Joseph Nardone on April 16th, 2015

Last week I tried to give everyone advice as how they should deal with the college basketball offseason. Hopefully you listened. Sans, you know, the part about pitting your children against each other in a fistfight for lukewarm milk. You could probably have done without that. Still, the season has been over for what seems like forever now. Have you adjusted properly? Did you, or did you not, kill anyone because you are really struggling to find ways to entertain yourself? I know. It is tough. We should keep trying to get through this together. At least we have the rest of the (much saner than I) Rush the Court staff to keep us informed of all the offseason maneuvers.

Some of Us at Moe's Are Already in Sleep Mode (credit: Simpsons/FOX)

Some of Us at Moe’s Are Already in Sleep Mode (credit: Simpsons/FOX)

There is something new to talk about this week, though. It continues on our path of dealing with the offseason blues. For me, at least, it is something I probably think about far too often as it is, but figured I’d incorporate you little Johnny McPoopsticks in on the conversation. I want to know if you people are all real. Like, as in actual real human beings, or if you have been put on this planet solely for my amusement. Maybe I should explain a wee bit further.

———————–

Have you guys ever seen that Simpsons episode where Homer leaves Moe’s and Moe tells the other two customers that “He’s gone. Time to shut off.” and they all go in some sleep-like state? Yeah. About that. I think that is how all of you are. For real life. I don’t think every single person that reads this is actually a real person. Think about it for a second. Do you think I am a real entity? That every Wednesday I type on my laptop for you to read A Column of Enchantment on Thursdays? Or, more likely, I am just some digital code or work of (your) God put here to entertain you. I mean, you have never met me. You have no idea what I do when I am not typing on my laptop for your pleasure. For all you know, as soon as you read this I go into hibernation until the following week or fly back to my home planet of 0923498234 (We are advanced. We use numbers because math is the universal language).

More so: There is no way all you people can exist. Seriously. There are billions upon billions of people supposedly living on our planet. I have met, maybe, like a few thousand of you. Even a large portion of those people are just bodies walking by me. They might have empty craniums, possibly robot-like, and are only there for my eyeballs to see in an attempt to trick me into thinking there are other fully functioning members of society. And I don’t buy it for a single second.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

A Column of Enchantment: The Final Chapter of the Steve Lavin Story

Posted by Joseph Nardone on April 2nd, 2015

(Ed. Note: The first chapter of the Lavin story can be located here. Also, quotes may or may not be verbatim. Or accurate.)

The dark clouds have parted over the St. John’s campus. Despite much speculation regarding a possible extension, the Red Storm athletic department has parted ways with head coach Steve Lavin. Different reports have stated that Lavin was looking for more money and an extension, but that doesn’t matter now — the Johnnies have gone in another direction. One which they hope will bring much shine back to the program. That direction is going to be led by the greatest player in the history of their program, Chris Mullin. Still, Lavin has one last (short) adventure left in his story.

As he parts, Steve Lavin leaves Chris Mullin with some words of wisdom ... kinda. (ESPN)

As he parts, Steve Lavin leaves Chris Mullin with some words of wisdom … kinda. (ESPN)

———————-

Lavin is cleaning out his office. Unlike most other college basketball coaches, though, his office isn’t filled with film, game plans, or any other type of traditional coach’s office fillers. Instead it has a desk filled with restaurant menus, a calendar on the wall with the dates filled in with reservation times, and a coffee cup filled with a weird, green looking juice. This was Lavin’s home. Not anymore, though, as he has to leave it clean for the person who is taking his job. As he is cleaning out his office he makes a decision to be a good man. Lavin, as he often does, decides that he should leave Mullin a note that has some positive reinforcement in it. As with all things Lavin, though, the note becomes less of a good look memo and more of a watch your back warning.

Dear Chris Mullin,

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Big East M5: 01.03.13 Edition

Posted by Dan Lyons on January 3rd, 2013

bigeast_morning5(2)

  1. With Syracuse’s 78-53 takedown of Rutgers at the Carrier Dome last night, Jim Boeheim took sole ownership of second place on the Division I all-time wins list with 903 victories, passing Bob Knight. These first few months of the season have been eventful for Boeheim, whose ascent up this list has been the focus of tremendous media attention and occasional scrutiny this season. In weighing in on Boeheim’s ranking among the greatest coaches of all-time, Rob Dauster notes the affect that a single Keith Smart jumper has had on Boeheim’s perception. If that shot doesn’t fall, Boeheim is two wins ahead of Knight, has the same number of national titles (two) as the man who many consider the greatest game coach of all-time, and many writers have a lot less material come March.
  2. USF and UCF have played twice this season, splitting two contests that foreshadow what may develop into a nice rivalry for whatever the future of the Big East holds. Tampa Bay Online‘s Joey Johnston argues that the rivalry between the two schools could become a staple for the new look Big East, or whichever conference the two schools find themselves attached to in the future. Johnston believes that the natural rivalry and the high number of television sets in the I-4 corridor makes the two schools very attractive. Let the lobbying begin.
  3. Buzz Williams48-hour suspension from the Marquette basketball team has now ended, and the fiery coach will rejoin the team in preparation for Georgetown. Williams’ suspension stemmed from assistant coach Scott Monarch giving apparel and rides to a Golden Eagles recruit. Monarch, a close friend of Williams, was summarily fired. Williams was not found to have had any knowledge of the violations, but he took the school-sanctioned leave as the program is ultimately his responsibility. Marquette defeated UConn in overtime during Williams’ absence from the team.
  4. Pittsburgh‘s two losses to Michigan and Cincinnati had a very similar feel to them, and Pittsburgh Post-Gazette‘s Ray Fittipaldo outlines three major factors that hurt the Panthers in both games: a lack of rebounding in the second half, especially from the center position; struggles against talented, aggressive guards on the perimeter; and, opposing teams limiting the Panthers’ transition game.  If Pitt can’t solve these issues soon, the team will have major struggles in league play. Syracuse has a strong interior presence, Louisville has excellent high-energy guard play, and Georgetown will absolutely look to control the game’s tempo, just to name three teams who will look to take advantage of these weaknesses.
  5. Syracuse.com‘s Mike Waters was asked about his all-time Big East team in his weekly mailbag. This is a fun exercise that I’m sure will come up on many sites and blogs this year, especially around Big East Tournament time. Waters weighs in on a number of Big East greats before settling on a strong starting five consisting of Sherman Douglas, Ray Allen, Chris Mullin, Derrick Coleman, and Patrick Ewing.  When a conference could have a second team of Allen Iverson, Kerry Kittles, Carmelo Anthony, Donyell Marshall, and Alonzo Mourning, you know that they’ve been doing something right for a very long time.
Share this story

The Dream Team 20 Years Later: Reflecting On Their College Careers

Posted by EJacoby on June 13th, 2012

On Wednesday night, NBA TV will air “The Dream Team,” a brand new documentary that relives the 1992 Men’s Basketball USA Olympic Team that’s better known by that same name. This summer marks the 20th anniversary of the team, the inspiration behind documenting the players, and their legendary run through the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. The national team of 12 players included 11 future Hall of Famers and some of the greatest players in basketball history all in one locker room. The forgotten member of the team is Christian Laettner, the lone collegian at the time to make the squad, who was coming off of one of the greatest NCAA basketball careers of all-time as a two-time National Champion for Duke. Looking back, how did the other 11 players fare in their amateur careers? Was their collective NBA and international success predicated by dominance in college? On the day the documentary airs, we reflect on the Dream Team from a college perspective.

Michael Jordan hit the game-winning shot in the 1982 National Championship game for North Carolina 10 years before he joined the Dream Team (AP Photo)

As it turns out, the team wasn’t just a collection of all-time great professionals. Exactly half the players on the roster also qualify as some of the greatest collegiate players ever. Six players on the Dream Team were included on ESPN’s list of the 25 greatest players in college basketball history, the highest of whom was Larry Bird at #9. Bird averaged 30.3 points per game in his career at Indiana State, and in his senior National Player of the Year season he led the Sycamores to a 33-1 record and a loss in the National Title game to Michigan State and Magic Johnson. Johnson is another one of the greatest collegians on the list (#15), averaging 17.1 points, 7.6 rebounds, and 7.9 assists per game in two seasons for the Spartans that became a preview of the stat-sheet stuffing machine he would become in the NBA.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Big East Mount Rushmore

Posted by Patrick Prendergast on February 22nd, 2012

With all due respect to the legions of legendary players the Big East has produced in its storied history, the Big East has always been a coach’s league.  This makes perfect sense given that the conference was conceived by, and molded through the eyes of a coach.  It was the vision of that coach which propelled the Big East and college basketball to new heights beginning in the early 1980s.  The Mount Rushmore of the Big East resides in its foundation and backbone.  In many ways these are the four fathers of the conference.  They all made long-term and lasting contributions to the league, and their statures grew in-kind with that of the conference as a result.  These four men are your pillars.

Dave Gavitt:  It is impossible to conceive any reference to the success or history of the Big East without Dave Gavitt at the forefront.  A true visionary who gave life to the Big East Conference when he founded it in 1979, Gavitt relinquished a successful coaching career at Providence where he led the Friars to the 1973 NCAA Final Four to devote his attention to building the league as its first commissioner.  It is hard to imagine where smaller Catholic schools like Georgetown, St. John’s, Providence , Boston College and Villanova would be today without Gavitt’s influence.  He believed that there was an audience for college basketball, a belief that probably saved the relevance of college basketball in the northeast and one that transcended his league, leading to the national television attention and marketing of the sport as we currently know it.

Jim Calhoun: The long time Connecticut head coach epitomizes the tenets of the Big East.  A New England-born no-nonsense guy and tireless worker who always appears ready for a challenge, Calhoun was hired by Connecticut in 1986. He has led the Huskies to three National Championships, including last season’s historic double where Connecticut came out of nowhere from a ninth-place regular season conference finish to win both the Big East and NCAA Tournaments.  The Huskies have made 22 NCAA tournament appearances and four Final Fours under Calhoun’s watch.  Further, in this age where football and football money are deemed king, it is important to note that Connecticut has major Division I college football today as a result of the success Calhoun and Connecticut had on the basketball court and not vice versa.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story