Tuesday, February 15, 2011

St. John's Q&A

Continuing with our pre-game Q&A series, Here's an interview with Dave Krupinski from Johnny Jungle.  You can check out his website here.  Enjoy.

1. Obviously there's a big change in the program this season with Steve Lavin taking over for Norm Roberts.  How has Lavin been received so far by players, fans, alumni, etc?

Steve Lavin has been a breathe of fresh air. He's carried the baton from Coach Norm Roberts and has done marvelous things with this team in addition to bringing in quite possibly the most highly touted recruiting class in school history. Big East Media day was only an appetizer size of media that has been sucked into every word that exits Steve Lavin's mouth. He's a rockstar after games getting after it on the radio to his old pals at ESPN on Sportscenter.

2. What has impressed you about the 2010-11 squad?  What has frustrated you?

The impressive part of this team is their selfless attitudes. It's rare to see guys who are so willing to accept a reduced role to help the team win. Guys like Paris Horne, Justin Burrell, Sean Evans, Malik Boothe have all been starters years past and all have played multiple games coming off the bench this season. This team shares the ball so well with one another and its great to see this group of seniors see some success on the court.

Perhaps the frustrating part is knowing this team had the potential for 2 seasons or so. No homer, I've seen the talents of this team and sometimes it wasn't being utilized properly. In this season something in particular is that St. John's plays to the level of their opponent far too often. They've played to the level of Duke and made them look like a D2 school and on the flip side they've played weaker opponents with inferior energy and execution.

3. How has Gene Keady's involvement affected the program this season?

Special Assistant Advisor Gene Keady is certainly a wealth of knowledge for the coaching staff. I know he provides a strong support for Coach Lavin. Who doesn't love a fresh set of eyes and especially a pair that has seen it all before?

4. How do you feel about Steve Lavin as an in-game coach?  What do you like and dislike about his style of coaching?

It's no secret Steve Lavin came in with a reputation of being more of a salesman than a coach but I've been impressed overall. In the beginning of the season he was half implementing the systems because he didn't want to overload or overhaul 9 seniors. He mixed up the rotations a lot, sometimes to my dismay, but ultimately he's found a solid mix of players and in the process made everyone comfortable and capable when their number is called.

Defensively his matchup zone and pressure defense is very tough given St. John's speed and length 1-3. This has given teams fits whether they're turning over the ball or simply being taken out of their tempo.

Offensively I've seen some positives and I've seen some negatives. There is certainly a methodical approach offensively and St. John's will deliberately burn 20 seconds off the clock before running a set. However if this set fails it leaves little to no room for error which sometimes comes to bite the Johnnies in the butt. However the offensive flow is there and the scoring and %'s are there to prove it.

He's done a great job calling timeouts and coming out of them with success which is an underrated observation by fans at times. St. John's has also come out of the locker room at halftime and delivered.

5. This squad is very experienced.  That being said, there are also top-notch recruits coming in the next couple years.  With as many as 9 guys leaving after this season, are you more worried about the departure of experience, or are you more excited about the recruits in the pipeline?

Losing 9 seniors is never an easy thing to do however the immense talent that Steve Lavin has brought in for next season is certainly making everyone excited. The new guys will go through some woes however there is a good mix of talent from scoring, defensive, and distributing. The one common bond between the recruits is all their abilities to play multiple positions and their freakish athleticism. I wouldn't be surprised to see them struggle a little bit but I also wouldn't be shocked to see them thrive in the NCAA's.

6. The main challenge of playing a zone-defense is that it can get burned by a team with a great backcourt.  St. John's seems to fit this mold, allowing opponents to shoot 37% from beyond the arc.  What do they need to do to fix this issue?

I'm not sure it is an issue. If you look deeper into the numbers you'll see that St. John's zone forces teams to live or die by the three because they protect the paint so well. They've also played one of the toughest schedules in the country so along the way you're going to face good 3 point shooting teams.

For instance St. Mary's shot 27 three point attempts and Northwestern shot 25. Both teams nearly took 1/3rd of their shots from beyond the arc.

7. Like Marquette, St. John's is vertically challenged.  How have they managed to score effectively?

Again I'm not sure St. John's is vertically challenged. Dele Coker 6'10, Sean Evans 6'8, Justin Burrell 6'8, and Justin Brownlee 6'7 is a pretty solid front court. Their effective scoring comes from a tireless effort to crash the offensive boards in addition to Justin Brownlee being one of if not thee best post scorer off the bounce in the Big East.

8. If you stopped play today, what seed would you be in the NCAA tourney?  Why?  What will make this team dangerous in March?

Well I'll defer to my friend at ESPN, Joe Lunardi. He's more of an expert than I and he says #7. If that scenario plays out I'll be ecstatic because I want to avoid 8/9 as much as possible because as we all know that means #1 in round 2.

What makes this team so dangerous in March is they'll be playing every game like its their last because it truly will be.

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