Instead of purchasing a plane ticket, it looks like I’ll be buying a Metrocard instead. My plane ride was supposed to take me to a destination in the continental United States that would play host to the first and second rounds of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. Visions of pounding away on my laptop computer while munching that ever-present vacuum-packed, impossible-to-open bag of peanuts danced in my delighted imagination. Did you hear that some airlines are even employing massage therapists on some flights for their passengers? OK, maybe I’m getting carried away here, but the possibility was there. Either way I was going to be at the NCAA Tournament. Or so I thought.
As it stands now, the Red Storm is getting an invite from the National Invitation Tournament, or to some, the Not Important Tournament. The envelope is all but signed, sealed and delivered. Nevertheless, if St. John’s continues its horrific play of late, Head Coach Mike Jarvis and Co. can expect it from the postmaster some time after they lose in the Big East Conference Tournament. With a record of 12-9, the Red Storm needs a record of more than .500 to even be eligible for the NITs, which isn’t a sure thing for them with its brutal late-season schedule.
The semifinals and finals of the NIT are held at Madison Square Garden, SJU’s “other” home court. The beginning rounds are held at campus sites and if St. John’s makes it, it’s not a sure thing it would be hosting the first three rounds depending on its record. If the Red Storm graduates to the semi’s, then the F train to 34th Street comes a-calling.
The only way St. John’s can make the NCAAs is to win its conference tournament or to run the table and win its last seven games. I am going to be the first to say that is not going to happen. This season, the team is pathetically mediocre. In other words it just is not good. With games left against Miami, Providence, Duke, Georgetown, Villanova, Boston College and Syracuse, the Red Storm is facing a precipitous climb.
St. John’s has proved it can beat anybody, but has also shown it can lose to anybody. Unfortunately, the latter has more often than not been the case. This team has proved it cannot win on the road, cannot penetrate on zone defenses and has no will to win. These are three glaring problems, but there are more.
The selection committee won’t look favorably on losses to Fordham, Hofstra, George Washington or Virginia Tech. Four heart-wrenching losses to inferior teams will not get you into the NCAAs when you have few quality wins to offset such setbacks. What bothers me even more than losses, is the fact this team has absolutely no desire and its lack of preparation shows. The whole “freshmen excuse” makes me sick. We all know three freshmen started the majority of the games. We also know Jarvis’ recruiting class was one of the highest ranked in the nation. So far, few have proven they can compete on a consistent basis. This team makes a giant stride forward only to regress the next game. It feels like the “one step forward, two steps back” scenario.
The Red Storm’s last two losses to Providence and Notre Dame have bugged me the most. In both games St. John’s was up at the half, and it lost both. In the second half of both contests, it seemed totally unprepared and discombobulated on both ends of the floor. The whole team looked like a deer caught in the headlights of a fast-moving vehicle that was its opponents. Sure, use the “freshmen excuse” all you want, but both these losses and a majority of the others can be blamed on coaching.
I know I will catch heat for this column, but I speak the truth. For a man we pay close to a million Benjamins, Jarvis has on many occasions been outclassed and outcoached. This is horrendous. With a team that has been on the bubble for making the NCAAs for a few weeks now, the team exhibits no consistency and has no fire in its eyes. That is 100 percent the coaching staff’s fault. Jarvis is supposed to be a great motivator, but he has not proven it this season. How in the world can you not motivate a team to make the NCAAs?
For a supposed “elite” team to make the NITs is a nightmare for recruiting. Elite teams rarely have to endure a rebuilding year and St. John’s has had too many in recent years to be elite.
I wanted to remember this season as a success after I travelled to an exotic city in America for the NCAA Tournament, eating fine cuisine and enjoying life. For right now I’ll have to be content with the possibility of riding the subway and buying a hotdog from a street cart.