You have to be frustrated, right?
The St. John’s Red Storm (10-16, 4-10) suffered a demoralizing defeat to the Seton Hall Pirates (18-8, 7-7) on Tuesday in Newark. The Pirates’ 30-point win is its best, in terms of point differential, over the Johnnies in the history of the head-to-head series.
St. John’s, who has now lost four straight since a victory over DePaul two weeks ago, continues to put forth a thin six-man rotation out of necessity. Mike Dunlap’s players, who each had already been seeing upwards of 30 to 35 minutes per game, have been thrown into even more demanding circumstances.
The task that faces the six newcomers is beyond what should be expected. Cincinnati head coach Mick Cronin even characterized the Red Storm’s situation as "unrealistic." Countless others have called it something they've never seen before.
When a team struggles, no matter the circumstance, fans will be frustrated. It's natural. St. John's followers have become weathered to losing over the past decade and got a taste of glory a year ago when a senior-laden group finally figured it out. Now, a new cycle has begun that will require patience and understanding.
Dunlap sees why irritation is sprouting, but trusts that the fans understand the situation. More, below the fold.
St. John's entered the 2011-12 campaign with plans to win, despite the obstacles surrounding the team. As the season has progressed, more obstacles have arisen that have hindered the achievement of the preseason goals.
A stretch of 11 losses in 14 games have humbled the young freshmen and St. John's fans. In just three months, aspirations have fallen from reaching the Final Four to simply "getting better." No, it was never realistic. But the confidence was there.
"It's real tough. We want to compete and come out and win," mentioned freshmen guard Phil Greene following the blowout loss to Seton Hall. "It's hard only having six guys. It gets a little frustrating because all we want to do is win."
You have to give credit to the Red Storm's shorthanded, young group and shorthanded coaching staff. Despite being left with the thinnest rotation in college basketball and without its head coach, St. John's continues to stay positive when asked about all of its current struggles.
The team's fans, whether you were around for the 1985 Final Four or just came around when Steve Lavin was hired, are knowledgeable. Obviously, they know what they're looking at and can identify the unlimited potential. But watching a team lose three consecutive games by a combined 87 points isn't comfortable.
"The fans have to be frustrated," said Dunlap on Tuesday night. "I think our fans understand the development process, but they're frustrated."
It's been talked about over and over. Whatever seemed to have gone right a year ago has seemingly gone wrong this season. Since D.J. Kennedy's ACL injury, how many positive news stories have emerged surrounding St. John's? It's been an endless whirlwind of negativity - some avoidable, some not.
"And I totally get it," Dunlap continued. "I'll step in front, because I deserve the criticism. I learned one thing from coach Lou Holtz: when losing comes, stay visible. When winning comes, stay invisible."
It's almost to the point where Red Storm fans need to break the pain of losing to applaud the effort this group has put forward, from head to toe. Mike Dunlap has gone beyond the call of duty in every facet. What fans don't see is how composed he has been answering the endless questions from media. It's not just about standing on the sideline and trying to motivate when the lights are on. Dunlap has earned his paycheck and then some.
If the Johnnies have been affected by losing 15 games, a head coach, two teammates, and four potential teammates, they have done a fantastic job hiding it. It's almost Oscar nomination worthy. But their poker faces are beginning to be given away through their play on the court. The strain is taking its toll.
But, through all of the adversity of losing by 30 points to a Metropolitan rival, they keep pushing on. These young kids are mature enough not to dwell on losing, but rather to look forward to the opportunities that lie ahead.
"It's kind of hard [to move on from this kind of loss]," said Sir`Dominic Pointer. "But we need to bounce back because we have a big game on Saturday vs. UCLA."
"The story line can be wonderful on Saturday. We've shown that we can not only win in the Big East, but play quality basketball," Dunlap said. "What a story it would be if we can go after UCLA the way we want to go after them."
You can bet this group wants to "Do It for Lav."