Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Thank You Seniors

First, a great spot by DV with his post last week digging up all those St. John's quotes from this year. Really enjoyed that. Also a great job in that comments section. I tried to comment from my phone, which usually always works, but for some reason didn't last Friday. So I'll say what I was going to say now, addressing many of the points made in that post/comments section, and wrapping up St. John's season. At the very least, DV has to be thrilled he doesn't have to hear about it anymore. I picture him just shaking his head as Gunn and I went back and forth in the comments section yesterday.

The Gunn was right when he said last Friday that a lot of seeding has to do with fine, minute points, and that teams have to take control of having a good enough season to clearly avoid being on the wrong side of those close calls. SJU still has a legitimate gripe, but perhaps more important is how Gonzaga ends up at an 11. They had no business being seeded that low, there weren't many 7-10 seeds that I wouldn't rather have played than Gonzaga.

This really highlighted an important point about the NCAA tournament for me, and it ties in with what TimC said in his comment that day. The 13-16 seeds are typically winners of bad conferences, and typically get worked by 1-4 seeds. It takes a true "upset" to prevent this from happening, and it only does a few times per year. The 7-10 games are all good teams with similar resumes, and we anticipate that these are going to be good games. The 5/6 seeds typically have much stronger resumes than the 11/12 seeds, but the 11/12, as opposed to the 13-16, are typically the last "major" teams into the tournament. So as a 5/6, you are playing a team that you are better than on paper, but are really getting more of a 7-10 game than a 1-4 vs. 13-16 game. It looks like an "upset" on the bracket but isn't really an upset at all. These are the types of teams that are good enough to win on any given day, not just a 1 or 2 out of 10 like the 1-4 vs. 13-16 games. St. John's didn't get upset, they just got beat. This really emphasizes the importance of getting a 1-4 seed, and how much easier your road is when you do. It takes an upset to beat you in the first round as opposed to just getting beat to knock you out, and it is then just one game to get through to the Sweet 16.

On the game itself, SJU just got outplayed. Missing D.J. Kennedy hurt in a big way, as they looked like a team trying trying to find every and any rotation combination in order to fill the void he left. They looked like a team in November, not in March. Gonzaga played so well I'm not sure if Kennedy would have put SJU over the top, but he would have given them a chance.

Make no mistake about it, Gonzaga played really well. It's tough to beat any team who makes 9 3's at a 60% clip. They crushed St. John's on the boards and got to the line more frequently. SJU, despite not playing their best, didn't play terribly either. They shot the ball well themsevles, just not as well as Gonzaga. The difference in the game, even despite the huge Gonzaga rebounding edge, was that Gonzaga went on that one 12-0 run in the middle of the first half. They played virtually even before that, and they played virtually even after that. SJU made a few pushes but could never get it beynod that 8-12 point range. One made shot here or one bounce there and they get it to 5-6, and then you have a game. But Gonzaga was seemingly always able to answer and SJU made just enough mistakes to not get back into the game.

Even though SJU didn't do as much as I thought they would in the tournament (even without Kennedy), it's impossible to be dissapointed in this team. As DV said in the original post, they outperformed expectations by so much. As a result, it got to a point where anything they gave us was really just gravy. They were a fringe NCAA team at the beginning of the season that was a general question mark, and they proved themselves to be a legitimate Big East and National contender.

What's most impressive about their season, and what I appreciate the most, is the approach these 10 seniors took. St. John's has the #2 recruiting class in the country coming in next year. It would have been easy for that to be looked at as the start of this program's revival. Instead, these seniors took the responsibility upon themselves to be part of the revival as opposed to an afterthought. Considering all of the losing they had done their first three years, this shows a tremendous amount of character.

It is for this that they will be remembered, as the ones who started this proud program's revival. With all of their big wins over top teams, getting back into the national ranking, and packing The Garden again, they made St. John's relevant for the first time in a long time. I, as well as I'm sure all St. John's fans, am so thankful to this team - the coaches, players, and administrators - for doing so. They left their mark on this program, and it is as big a mark on this program as has been left in a while. It was bigger than just the wins and losses, it was about bringing a program back to prominence. So despite the dissapointing end, they should be more than proud of their accomplishments. I know I am.

3 comments:

the gm said...

Pat,

The only thing that made me shake my head regarding Tuesday's comments section was the fact that I thought we had a pertinent and compelling argument on which 4-5 is more shaky. I feel like the people who live to be contrarians could take off with that topic.

I also don't understand why you find it necessary to constantly come to Lebron's defense. Carmelo, it makes sense. Lebron, no. But I don't want to read about this when I return to the office tomorrow afternoon.

As I said, I don't dislike St. John's as a program. I'm happy to say that I have watched next to nothing in terms of college hoops this year (I'd estimate at least 300 hours less than Barack Obama), and I'm happy to say that because when I watch a lot of basketball, it probably means I'm injured. But Pat's assessment of the 5-12 games and 6-11 games have been historically accurate. This is why there's been a 5-12 upset or two pretty much every single year for eternity.

Of all of Pat's favorite teams, the one I hold the least vitriol against is St. John's. I'm actually somewhat happy for the big guy because of the steps the program has taken to being a national contender.

Patrick said...

dv -

i agree that we had a compelling conversation going about the 4-5 starters for each of these teams. just an idea here, but we have 4 posting days left until opening day (tomorrow, then next mon-weds). perhaps we could tackle yankees/red sox starting pitching preview (tomorrow, maybe with you as a contrarian, really breaking down the rotations, especially the back ends and which one is more shaky despite the sox name recognition), offense (monday), bullpen (tuesday), and then each of our picks (wednesday, and maybe we don't have to give reasons for each team this year). maybe that's too aggressive, and if it is, one of these days i think you should get after the 4-5 starters conversation. i think there is more to be said there, especially from your angle.

i appreciate the kind words about St. John's. that team means a great deal to me, more than any other team besides the yankees (with which they are on equal footing), and it is spectacular that they are on the way back. it's not surprising that you have the least dislike for them. however, i'm a pretty easy new york fan (relatively) in terms of not disliking my teams. there are three really dislikable teams in new york: the yankees (for obvious reasons), the jets (for different obvious reasons), and the mets (for less obvious but still compelling reasons). the giants, while they have there rivalries (and dislike within those rivalries), they are widely considered one of the classiest organizations (if not the classiest, due to their historical and present ownership) in all of sports, the rare team that is able to combine a history of winning with not really having a lot enemies. i won't go so far as to call the knicks a likable team, but the only reason they call any attention to themselves is because they are in new york and because they had some vicious rivalries in the 90's. they aren't a dislikable team in their league relative to the lakers, celtics, the old pistons, the current heat, and they aren't a dislikable team in their city relative to the aforementioned three. if they ever got really good, that would obviously change because of the city they play in, but we can say that of any team, have to deal with the present reality. so outside of the yankees, i don't offer a ton to dislike. it's not like i'm a yankees/jets fan who also happened to go to duke!

the gm said...

You're right, Pat. It must just be your personality.

On a somewhat-related note, I bid $100 on a framed picture of Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig fishing. My $100 was the winning bid. This is consistent with my fairness initiative. If you're two of the best baseball players of all time, no matter the uniform, a poignant moment on a boat featuring you deserves to be displayed prominently in my apartment.