Want to know how bad college basketball is in New York?
Fans here are happy with incremental improvements with St. John’s and Rutgers, so standards are so low that they are happy with the little things. That’s sad. We should be above this, especially in a city that demands championships.
Just because the St. John’s Red Storm has a .500 record of 16-16 after an 88-77 victory over the Georgetown Hoyas in the Big East Tournament Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden, it does not mean St. John’s is back and making progress. Sorry. We have seen the Johnnies have similar teams like that over the years just to disappoint, so forgive me for being cynical about this year’s St. John’s team. 5-14 by New York’s team in Big East play shouldn’t get anyone excited.
Everyone can talk about St. John’s beating the Duke Blue Devils and Villanova Wildcats as the turning point where progress is made, but they only went 4-3 since then. That’s not good enough to be considered “progress”. Progress should be about winning six of seven or seven of eight after beating Duke and Villanova.
Even the win against mediocre Georgetown does nothing. That’s a team St. John’s should beat. If they didn’t, we would wonder what direction this program is going. So to get excited about this win is silly.
St. John’s will play the Xavier Musketeers Thursday afternoon in the second round of the tournament. A win there would mean maybe they have something going. Xavier has played well all season by going 27-4 overall this season while going 15-3 in Big East play, which is why they are the No. 1 seed in the Big East Tournament and why they will be one of the teams considered to go to the Final Four. They have been the creme de la creme of the conference along with Villanova, so that’s something to shoot for.
Ever better, how about winning the Big East Tournament? If they win the tournament, they would be in the NCAA tournament as they get a large at-bid. Now that’s something we all can be excited for.
Maybe it’s too much to ask since Villanova may be too good for St. John’s, but it’s not too much to ask to play in the Big East Tournament championship game. By getting there, third-year St. John’s basketball head coach Chris Mullin can actually convince recruits, his players and fans that he has the program going in the right direction.
No one knows what to make of Mullin after his three years here. To say St. John’s improved from last year’s 14-19 is not saying much. For one thing, 16-16 and 14-19 doesn’t mean the program made that much of an improvement. Second of all, St. John’s won two more Big East conference games (seven) last year than they won this year (five). That shouldn’t get anyone in town excited about a program which has struggled to gain traction since they lost in the Elite Eight in 1999.
The former St. John’s star-turned-coach hasn’t proven to be a motivator or a good Xs and Os coach that most good college basketball coaches in the country are. Too often, St. John’s has looked unprepared to play, and more often than not, they looked overmatched against elite teams. Outside of Shamorie Ponds, which player has developed into a good one under Mullin’s guidance?
Mullin was an interesting hire from the outset. He never coached a day in his life prior to taking the St. John’s job. He never experienced going through the recruiting wars. His only credibility came when he worked with the players while working as member of the Golden State Warriors player development, not to mention he played for the university in the program’s halcyon days. St. John’s could have hired coaches like Dan Hurley, Bobby Hurley or any coaches that coaches a successful mid-major program.
At least, Mullin hasn’t embarrassed himself by acting like a cartoon character or brought guys who has no interest in going to school for education. Still, that can only go far.
Next year has to be the year the program goes to the NIT or NCAA tournament. They have to show this team is making inroads to respectability.
If St. John’s wants to make strides now, they still have the Big East Tournament as a platform to make their case.
Only getting to the Big East championship game can make this season a success.
Editor’s note: This article was written before and published during St. John’s game against Xavier on Thursday, which began at noon.