It felt glorious to many fans when the St. John’s Red Storm started the season 10-2 going into Big East play. Over here in the Rumble staff “room” (if you will, in conversations with the writers), it was exciting to cover a team that might be a fringe NCAA team, the rise of a program.
It’s not even a month later since the Saint Joseph’s game, but the ship of the season has hit rocks in shallow water. Every game feels like a leak getting bigger, though the team has been competitive in all of their games (save, perhaps, the Providence opener).
The Johnnies are 0-6 in Big East play. Villanova made a game at Madison Square Garden a near-home game, complete with a late “home” call from the referees, some might say.
From the outside, watching the deflated faces of young men losing every four days can be a bit depressing. For the die-hards, it will be great to rally behind them when they win. But for many of those same die-hards and new fans, the thought has to be, “weren’t we promised something better?”
There is time for this season to turn around, sure, and there is talent on this team that can get in sync.
But the rest of the season, for us here at the Rumble, will have one eye on the future.
There are unanswered questions - how good is the coaching, as much as we can make that answer independent of players, style and depth? How talented are the players, as much as we can separate that from the coaching, style and depth? And so forth.
All the whys, the hand-wringing is tiring. And hard to solve, because we different combinations of “good coaching” and “talent” and “scheme” will yield different results. Maybe there is a coach who can pull wins from this group of eight, one who can find Alibegovic’s and Ponds’s missing three-point shots, et cetera.
We have some thoughts, of course, and that’s what’s fun about watching sports - thinking about what you might choose to do differently, how to motivate differently, to think about what is so clearly wrong.
There are flaws that make sense, given the roster - the league-worst defensive rebounding percentage (nearly 35% of opponents’ misses go back to the opponent in Big East play). And issues that might be, essentially, luck - like the team shooting 29% on three-pointers in conference play while allowing 45% shooting from opponents.
And there are aspects of the team that actually look good, by the numbers. The team stifles 2-point shooting better than any other team in the league, forces steals and other turnovers on a higher percentage of possessions than any other Big East team.
Maybe that’s what’s so frustrating - watching a squad that can credibly hang with most opponents, but flawed enough to lose to any opponent.
The team hasn’t given up; which is good, because watching or covering a team that has given up (taking bad shots, ignoring their coaches, et cetera) brings doubt to the idea of watching a team repping a school/ area can actually bring joy. Without that joy, is life even worth liv—
Let me stop right there.
Let’s take a breath, have some pie, wiggle those angry fingers before we argue in the comments, and enjoy the rest of the season as much as we can. There are failures and successes in the program, there are warning signs and it may be too early to evaluate. All of those concepts are swirled up in a dramatic ball, and we will be here to cover it.
We hope you will be here to talk about it and complain about it, too.