Syracuse hosts old Big East rival St. John’s on Saturday afternoon at the Carrier Dome. To get us prepped, we sat down with our friend Joseph Nardone over at FanSided’s Storm the Paint to get a scouting report for the upcoming game.
1. Tell us about Storm the Paint.
Storm The Paint was started in 2013 via some bad decisions by other people (only half-kidding). Basically, STP was started because I had nowhere else to go. I had been blogging/writing/scribbling/typing for a few years, even had a full-time gig for a short bit, but I was a writer without a place to write. Sure, I was floating around being the always beloved nomadic blogger, but I didn’t have a home.
Long story short (kind of), I joined FanSided to run their Florida State site. However, while I follow college football my real passion is college basketball. Not to mention that — until I ran FanSided’s FSU site — I didn’t follow the university’s programs very closely, which is one of my biggest pet peeves of people who attempt to cover sports — faking the funk, or not really following what they are supposed to be covering.
Eventually I talked one of my (real life) friends, who FanSided also happened to be after for awhile, into joining the FSU site. He’s an actual Florida State fan and I knew he was more than capable to be running that site. So, I basically asked the people at FanSided to let me go from running that site. After discussing the possibilities of me running other sites I asked them if they could just let me run the St. John’s site, which it turns out they didn’t have. Luckily for me, though, they thought I was decent enough at barely forming sentences to build me one.
I ran it for a few months with really solid success before I was asked to run FanSided’s general college basketball blog. It was a great opportunity, however it left STP dormant for over a year. When real life work started to interefere with running a site that needs 24/7 attention I stepped down from FanSided altogether. Some time passed and I was again approached to run STP again. Now that I feel like I have found a few hours in my day I feel like STP will get to a place of being somewhat relevant again. So, that is how STP became a thing, then went dormant, and is now a thing again.
The idea of STP though has always been about being another, but not a different, option for fans of St. John’s. There’s already a slew of really good Big East and St. John’s sites (Rumble In The Garden, Big East Coast Bias, HERE! etc) out there. I am just hoping my insights, bad attempts at humor, snark and the different types of ways that I attempt to cover the team (being the most pessimistic St. John’s writer in the world) is entertaining and insightful enough to get folks to read and enjoy their visit.
As of this moment — really, from pretty early on in the site’s original conception — we have a really loyal readership. Not a huge one, mind you, but enough to buy a few penny candies here and there.
2. What are the expectations for the 2014-15 St. John’s team?
It is tough. Going into the season I had pretty low expectations. I am the opposite of most St. John’s fans. They regularly get really hyped in the offseason for one reason or another, then get depressed as the Johnnies under-perform. I just stay consistently negative. That is not my intentional design or to the fault of St. John’s, it is more of my personality as a person who likes teams who tend not to be great (I follow DePaul hoops too much as well. That can’t help).
With that being said, I do think St. John’s has looked pretty good to the start the season. Even with the loss against Gonzaga things are looking up. However, the Red Storm have a huge issue with their bench depth, which is a nice way to say they have none. Outside of Jamal Branch (over 20 mpg), no other player sees more than 9 minutes per night. While many say the team has a “seven-man rotation” it is really more like six, because counting Christian Jones’ 8.5 minutes a game as being the seventh man on the roster just feels funny to me. Nevertheless, six or seven man rotations are not swell. It will eventually, and possiblyvery often, put them in positions to fail.
Realistic expectations are an NCAA Tournament bid, though. If some players start to become eligible quickly, they don’t play down to the level of their softer opponents and live up to the abilities they do actually have, they might even finish second in the Big East.
Then again, this is St. John’s. They were hyped last year before the season started to only falter. So, um, yeah. I wouldn’t be surprised to see them headlining the NIT Postseason Tournament again.
I hope that sounded as much as the noncommittal expectation as I hoped.
3. Who are the key players on this team?
All of them. All of them in their rotation that is. I mean that. There’s literally only six current competent players who sees time on their team. Again, Christian Jones being a big guy who is forced to play minutes because they have no other bigs does not mean he’s competent. I’m not saying he stinks either, but if Steve Lavin thought he were good enough to play he would be, because they have no bench.
But to be more specific for you; Rysheed Jordan is finally living up to his freshman hype billing. Last season was a pretty big disappointment if you were a person who thought he would be as good as everyone said. So far this season, though, he has been marvelous. He is still super athletic (although, oddly enough, his shot gets blocked far too often for a freak athlete), yet he can now hit jumpers with a more regular consistency.
D’Angelo Harrison is still the volume-shooting, wearing his heart on his sleeve, scoring machine that came to the program four years ago. This is a really important year for him. Not because of some weird, uneducated idea that he might have a pro career, but because he has a legacy at stake with St. John’s. No other player on this roster really does. Not yet, at least. All things considered, even with a few other players starting to become more household names, the Red Storm will likely go as far as Harrison takes them. Granted, he will need Jordan and others to continue their better than expected play.
Chris Obekpa is one of, if not the, best shot blockers in the country. He has also became fake famous for wearing really short shorts. Obekpa has also improved a lot offensively. His shooting percentage numbers don’t really show it, but compared to last year and his inability to do a legitimate post move at the time, Obekpa might was well be the reincarnation of Kevin McHale — or something — this season.
To round out the rest of this nasty seven man rotation are guys like Phil Greene IV, Sir’Dominic Pointer and Jamal Branch. Greene IV is a bit inconsistent, but can do it all — especially when he is on. Branch is their only legitimate bench player at this point. He’s a calming force to the offense when needed. Not spectacular, but steady. Pointer is the player I get frustrated the most with. I’m apparently the only one who thinks that, though. He’s a good athlete, a solid defender, but he drives to the basket with his head down and takes far too many jumpers for a guy who can’t make shots from more than seven feet away. Again, most people love this guy. I am certainly in the minority. However, specifically highlighted in the Gonzaga game, when St. John’s puts Pointer in the center of the floor, around the high post, not only does he excel but so too does the whole team. While he isn’t even close to being the best player on St. John’s, his ability to become more self-aware of his abilities and inabilities as a player will be a huge key going forward. The Red Storm should do really fine if he just STOPS TAKING JUMP SHOTS.
4. Predictions for the game?
There will be blood. Lots of Battle For New York Blood. To be honest, I would hate to come on a Syracuse site and say some weird, nonsensical stuff about how much St. John’s will topple the Orange by. Then again, I’ve spent most of our talk doing nonsensical ramblings. My prediction(s)? Steve Lavin will wear sneakers with a suit, Jim Boeheim will say something horrid about the new Big East, but certainly not give the ACC credit, and a basketball will be hurled toward the general directions of two basketball hoops — a lot. St. John’s 68, Syracuse 75.