Finally, a chance at a winnable game again in Chicago against DePaul
They understand that we didn't play the way we're capable of playing, and we didn't do the things that we needed to do to give us a chance to win the basketball game.
- Norm Roberts, after 87-58 loss to Syracuse
Dear St. John's Red Storm fans: You think you know awful.
You think you know futility.
You think you know failure.
You do not. I think the DePaul Blue Demons are the single worst team in major college basketball this year at 8-20 overall, 0-15 in the Big East. But Real Time RPI and Ken Pomeroy's Pythagorean Winning Percentage disagree with me, stating that Indiana is definitely a worse basketball team, and Georgia is about as bad.
I have seen this team live. I even paid money to see their exhibition game against Lewis. And what I came away with was - DePaul is bad. Really bad. And not bad meaning good or bad like Michael Jackson. I overheard a member of the athletic department tell a basketball recruit the "well, we're a young team..." excuse, and I knew it would be a really long season.
How woe-filled is Jerry Wainwright's club?
In conference, DePaul has an offensive efficiency of 92.6. For the uninitiated, that is how many points they would score per 100 possessions; you can express this number as .92 points per possession, meaning that the Blue Demons score less than once every other time down the court.
They have a defensive efficiency of 117.5. That is about equal to the efficiency of the most efficient team in conference, Pittsburgh; every single team has a chance at a career night against the Blue Demons. Now, they don't all go off and score like bunnies; Villanova was held to 104 points/ 100; Cincinnati was held to 102; and Providence stunk up their own home court with an efficiency of 96/100 possessions.
Together, That Means...
For the less statistically inclined, let's say the Blue Demons are allowing the highest field goal percentage in conference, and shoot the third-from-lowest percentage. They clear the fewest of their opponents misses and can't rebound any of their own misses, meaning the other team just feasts on the boards.
Sounds like an easy Allstate Arena win...
Until you look at St. John's more closely. The intrepid band of sophomores are actually in the middle of the pack in the league in defensive efficiency thanks to some good rebounding (and ugly turnover-filled ball), but the defensive field goal percentage is a percentage point lower than DePaul's, coming in at 15th in the Big East. The offensive efficiency is lower than DePaul's, as is the field goal percentage. St. John's does get to the line far more often, and is good at offensive rebounding, but... damn.
St. John's is coming off of a bad loss at Syracuse, where the home court became the visitor's arena, the Syracuse guards abused their Red Storm counterparts, Malik Boothe got used like toilet paper, and the fans were reminded that a win against a mediocre Seton Hall team is nothing to get all excited about.
St. John's continued an incredible ability to lose by more than 10 points - only the Duke loss was by less, and the earlier Seton Hall loss was by 10 points exactly. The DePaul game comes at the end of yet another long season; St. John's has Georgetown at Madison Square Garden and then a trip back to the Great Lakes(-ish) region to play at Notre Dame.
I get to find my way to Rosemont to see tomorrow's game; hopefully I will come back with pictures and a smile on my face from a Red Storm victory. You know, one of those "my team is bad but at least we're not THEM." But DePaul isn't talentless; they played Villanova hard the other night. A weak St. John's effort could snowball into a seriously embarrassing loss...
Dar Tucker is the highlight of the backcourt... until you look at how he plays. The go-for-self baller from Saginaw, MI - home of our dear departed Larry Wright - is a collection of all the bad things that can happen when a talented gunner on a losing team shoots whenever he feels like it... some of his games warrant a coach coming over to him to let him know he's just killing the team flow.
But he's the only one who can create his own shot. Tucker's only hitting 23% of his threes; yet he's not shy about taking them. Surprisingly, he passes decently and doesn't turn the ball over much, though he seems to love to drive into the middle of the lane from the left side repeatedly. His defense can be indifferent, but so is the rest of the team's.
Tucker is joined by solid three-point shooter Will Walker. Solid? He's actually great, hitting 43.6% of his outside shots in conference. He is small, but he is the player that really needs to be held in check. Against Villanova, it was his shots under pressure that kept the Blue Demons close.
With Jabari Currie's season/ college career-ending injury, the point guard duties are passed to freshman starter Jeremiah Kelly and redshirt freshman Mike Bizoukas. Kelly doesn't shoot much, but half of his shots are 3-pointers... which he hits at 21%. For another team, that would be problematic, but hey, no one else can shoot well either. His assist and turnover percentages are solid for a freshman (2.7/1 assist to turnover ratio). Mike Bizoukas... well, he nearly never shoots, and he hits 24% of all of his shots, and 2-10 of his 3-pointers. His time has diminished to single digits per game, which is helpful - his turnover numbers are woeful, probably owing to his desire to get in the lane with his dribble that's not that good.
Mac Koshwal is very, very good when DePaul can get him the ball. But with the guards mentioned above, those times can be few and far between. Villanova fronted the post on him, and he got few touches after halftime. Koshwal's pretty awesome on the offensive boards, but was better last year (with a much better cast around him). He has added a little passing to his repertoire, and his on-ball defense is very good; he doesn't block many shots.
Matija Poscic joins him up front. He is 6'10", from Croatia, and sometimes you forget he's there. He can put the ball in the basket up close, gets some defensive rebounds, but apparently doesn't know that a player can rebound on the offensive end as well. Secretly, freshman Krys Faber might not be half-bad; he chose DePaul over St. John's and a couple of other schools. He doesn't get many minutes, but seems to have a nose for positioning and touch around the hoop.
Freshman Devin Hill is 6'9" and provides depth at the wing, but when he shoots, he tends to miss. Good athlete, though. Mario Stula is also a wing. He's supposed to be a shooter, and takes most of his attempts from distance, but hits 22% of his 3-pointers. Kene Obi is 7'2" and keeps the bench anchored.
5 Points -or- Keys to the Game
It's An Hour Earlier In Chicago. The Red Storm have to come out playing their smart basketball. Any opponent can get an advantage on a team that isn't ready for an 11AM central time start; and St. John's is generally weak on the road. They have to work to avoid and early slump or lackadaisical play, like Villanova had in their first half. St. John's isn't good enough to not play hard for 40 minutes, whether they're tired or not. This is DePaul's best chance for their first conference win, so they will come out looking for Will Walker, Dar Tucker will be aggressive and strong, and they will put their maximum effort in. St. John's must respond in kind, playing team ball and attacking the basket on offense (especially with Justin Burrell and the other forwards) and getting back on defense.
Glass All Full. St. John's has to consistently win the battles on the glass, rebounding well at both ends to keep DePaul to one shot and to give themselves more chances. Dele Coker could see some time banging in this game; heck, Tomas Jasiulionis could get a few good minutes.
Drive to the Basket. Though DePaul generally doesn't foul a lot, they are not particularly good perimeter defenders. Paris Horne, Boothe, and DJ Kennedy need to snake into the lane, look for the pass or the shot. Make their forwards move, and make Dar Tucker defend.
The Walker Principle. Dar Tucker is going to take shots; he needs to be defended. Mac Koshwal should be fronted, but he will get his shots. But the x-factor is Will Walker. He can get hot and really put the Blue Demons in a position to win. Paris Horne and whoever else needs to stay on Walker and stifle him.
Don't Be the First. DePaul has not won in calendar year 2009. Do not be the first and only victim. St. John's has to make a point to protect the ball - few unforced turnovers, fumbled passes into traps, overly fast and aggressive 94 foot dribbling by Sean Evans at the other basket against defenders, or any of those other ways they manage to turn the ball over in every game.