With an upcoming game tomorrow night at 7:30 at Allstate Arena against Big East opponents and fellow Vincentians St. John’s, Under the El spoke with Pico from Rumble in the Garden to find out more about this new looks St. John’s Team:
Be sure to check out Rumble in the Garden before the game tomorrow to get an in depth analysis for the first match up with the Red Storm. A few recent stories I want to highlight including a mid-conference statistical breakdown of the entire Big East and, along with Blue Demon Nation, we answered 5 questions about DePaul.
With an unexpected rotation from when the season began, how do you feel the current group of players have adjusted to the most recent changes – the subtraction of Nurideen Lindsey and the addition Amir Garrett?
Rumble: The players were working through the adjustment process already, but the loss of Nurideen seemed to be helpful. The remaining players fit. Amir Garrett doesn't need the ball to be successful; Nurideen did, and that kept shot-making opportunities out of the hands of D`Angelo Harrison and Moe Harkless. And while Lindsey's been replaced by a less offensively talented player in Phil Greene, the drop off is almost minimal; Greene allows others' usage rates to grow and is actually looking to pass. He's effective outside of five feet from the rim, whichmeans defenders have to pick him up sooner.
Garrett has provided a lot of energy and a willingness to bother passes and ballhandlers. As he improves, he'll be one of those players who makes a lot of impact that's not covered on the stat sheet.
As Coach Lavin continues to recover from prostate cancer, is there any noticeable difference between Lavin and Associate Head Coach Mike Dunlap in regards to coaching style, game planning or interaction with players?
Rumble: Not really. Dunlap was a large lart of the game planning and style of the team. Where there is a possible difference is in between games, and how the players are discussed. Mike Dunlap is a very serious, cerebral coach, whereas Lavin keeps players loose, and taps into a lot of the "heart" of the players, despite having strong opinions about instituting a fast-paced, transition-oriented style. Dunlap seems to get along well with the remaining players; Lindsey and Dunlap were said to not get along well, and that is the one casualty of not having Lavin... though that divorce might have happened anyway.
Moe Harkless, a Queens native, has been playing terrific lately including a 30 point, 13 rebound performance last game against then No. 8 Duke. There has even been the dreaded one-and-done talk. Has anything changed in Harkless' game to account for the improved performance and what will he need to improve if he is to make it to the next level?
Rumble: Harkless has gotten more confident and aggressive. He's attacking off of the dribble, trying to assault the offensive glass, and seems to have developed a better touch. His teammates are finding him more as well, and he makes good cuts to the basket. He's become a touch more decisive and he gets shots off without turning over the ball.
In terms of getting to the next level, he has got to improve his shooting from outside the arc and his consistency. This three-game stretch is nice, but NBA scouts will have a lot more confidence in him if he can maintain this level of activity and effectiveness.
DePaul typically forces teams to speed up, but watching St. John's this year it's evident they have the athletes to compete. What is St. John's bigger weakness, wearing out their short rotation or forcing them to play a half court game?
Rumble: The half court game, by a long shot. St. John's played a fast-paced game against Villanova about 10 days ago, and only had one player foul out. The players are good at marshalling their energy, the staff is good at managing their minutes, and the training staff has kept them healthy and uninjured. (They do bi-weekly yoga as well to keep them loose.)
But in the half-court, especially against a big team, it's hard for players to generate shots. Most of the roster aren't good shooters, so against a set offense, there are few places where they can get good, makeable shots. But they are athletes. When they run, the wings Sir`Dominic Pointer and Amir Garrett are unleashed.
Do you see a win? How could it happen?
Rumble: I see a win. Sad but true. DePaul has some players, but they don't do the things that would bother the Red Storm: a) slow the pace b) defend with tall players and c) shoot the hell out of the ball. Added with DePaul's permissive defense, I think that if St. John's comes to play with 3/4 of the effort they brought against Duke and West Virginia, they roll in this one. St. John's does an okay job of stopping opposing teams' penetration, and they defended penetration well in fast-paced games against Villanova and Providence.
As long as the Johnnies don't lose control of their game, I think they take this one.
Tomorrow night will undoubtedly be an important game for both teams trying to turn the corner. It’ll be interesting to see how both coaches game plan considering the similar styles of play, strengths, and weaknesses.