Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Five questions with Rumble in the Garden

Pico Dulce over at Rumble in the Garden contacted us to get our answers to five of his questions.  We agreed to do it, so long as he answered five of our own.

The only problem is that we never get to ask questions, so I kinda panicked when it came time to think of what to ask.  There is definitely some overlap here with the always-excellent CasualHoya interrogation, but Pico was very patient, and sent along his responses.

What is the expectation level for the team now, and how does it compare to the start of the season?
I don't know what the true expectation level for the team was early in the season; some people thought that Lavin had a magic wand and the team would be in the top of the Big East.  By "people" I mean Pitino and some insane portion of the Big East coaches who obviously value their specialized skills and seniority more than talent level.

Personally, the team is very much on the track I thought they would be - a bubble team.  (Didn't think they'd lose to Fordham and Bonaventure, though.) I thought they would score a little better, but still, not bad.

Other than two nice games at West Virginia and versus the Hoyas, the Johnnies are struggling to score in conference play [0.98 ppp].  Why?
They can't shoot.

The team has one, maybe two reliable outside shooters, but they don't look to get them shots, preferring to score in the post.  The team's wasn't bad there in the early going, but they're easy to figure out. And not only easy; they're small in the post as well. Justin Brownlee is a very good undersized power forward with touch, but he isn't always able to get good position, since everyone knows where he's going (and his shot can be blocked). Justin Burrell's touch is inconsistent; despite 4 years of basketball, he profiles as a raw rebounder with athleticism. And the other bigs are extremely bad at converting down low.

Coupled with a pair of point guards who are non-scorers and a wing in DJ Kennedy who has struggled to get his shot going... I'm impressed they've scored this well. The team's offensive strength all year has been in not turning the ball over. In the halfcourt, they're as mediocre as they were last year.

By my count, Coach Lavin had started 10 different players this year.  What's up with that?
Really? Huh!

Well, Lavin has wanted to rewards players who do well in practice - so Dele Coker and Sean Evans have gotten some starts even if mostly ceremonial, Stith has gotten a start to see what he can do, Polee and Horne sometimes switch places based on matchups... but 10!?

Speaking of Lavin, now that you've had about 2/3 of a season with him, how has the reality of Steve Lavin as head coach compared to your expectations?
I expected the on-court result - maybe slightly better, but this makes sense.

His recruiting, though, has far exceeded expectations in the first year. I honestly thought he'd struggle to fill out the roster for next year. his ability to schmooze the press is great, and the media coverage has been solid for the program - almost too much! 

There has only been one article that was a little negative - George Dohrmann's from a few weeks ago (rebuttal here); other than that, the media's been tossing roses and hosannas his way.

With a big wave of recruits coming in and a raft of players graduating, are you expecting a step backward or forward next year?  Is the fan base more focused on the seniors coming together for a run in the post-season, or already working out next season's starting line-up?
A step sideways. Maybe slightly backward, when I think logically on it.

After each loss, the fans think about next year, and after each win, they look at this year's team.  A lot of folks just want the stink of the previous 2 regimes wiped away, but me, I like watching these guys.  So do many other fans. 

Next year's team will be all freshmen with one sophomore and one junior who might not play much.  That's a recipe for a lot of mistakes - or to look as loosey-goosey as Memphis. But there is talent coming in - one player mentioned as a possible second round pick if he skips out and goes to the NBA draft from junior college, a top-30 recruit (or two, depending on your source), a lot of height... it could be a good team next year!  But again: all freshmen, and none of them are a lottery pick, top-5 recruit type.

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