Sunday, January 30, 2011

An explanation of St. John's win and what it means

St. John's beat Duke 93-78 this afternoon in the Garden.

Seriously. They did. What makes it all the more surprising is that for much of the second half, the Johnnies were up by more than 20 for just about the entire second half. This wasn't just a win for St. John's. It was a beatdown. A mollywhopping. A poleaxing.

So what happened?

St. John's press forced Duke into way too many turnovers. The Blue Devils couldn't hit a shot from three. The Johnnies got to the rim at will and dominated Duke in the paint. Essentially, the Johnnies had a favorable personnel matchup and played damn near a perfect game while Duke played about as poorly as a team with two all-americans on their roster is capable of playing.

It was a perfect storm.

And the game was over by the half.

What does the win mean for St. John's?

Its huge.

Back when the Johnnies started a string of eight games against top 25 teams in Kenpom's rankings with a win then No. 9 Georgetown at Madison Square Garden to move to 3-0 in the Big East, we said that we would reevaluate St. John's when that stretch of over. The final tally -- 3-5 with wins over the Hoyas, Notre Dame, and Duke, all at home. Throw in a win at West Virginia, and the Red Storm have stockpiled some pretty impressive wins.

They also have some ugly losses, namely to Fordham and St. Bonaventure.

This win doesn't solidify a tournament bid. The Johnnies, like every other team on the bubble, still have quite a bit of work to do. But picking up a win like this out of conference this late in the year does wonders not only for St. John's, but for the Big East in general, in the computer rankings.

What does it mean for Duke?

It affirms a number of suspicions that we have all had for quite some time.

There is no question that Duke is one of the top ten teams in the country, but they look far from unbeatable, like many speculated early in the season. I still maintain that Duke's biggest issue is their lack of interior strength, but with every passing game Kyrie Irving's absence becomes more and more glaring.

Not only did the Blue Devil's stud freshman create easy scoring opportunities for his teammates, particularly the Plumlees and Ryan Kelly inside, he made Duke's back court that much more versatile. Nolan Smith is a great player, but he's not necessarily a true point guard; he's more of a scorer that happens to be able to handle the ball and create.

Seth Curry and Andre Dawkins are both very good at what they do, but they don't do much more than catch-and-shoot. With Irving and Smith on the floor together, Coach K had two perimeter players that were capable of doing everything you as of a guard. Now they have one.

Without Irving, this offense becomes much less dynamic.

The question now becomes where Duke will get seeded in the tournament. They don't have any impressive wins -- Kansas State and Michigan State are far less impressive than they were when the games were played. Same thing with Butler. Marquette and Maryland aren't top 25 teams. In fact, Duke doesn't have one win over a team that is currently ranked. That's not exactly the kind of resume you expect to see from a No. 1 seed.

What does it mean for the ACC and the Big East?

Nothing that we didn't already know. The Big East is really good. The ACC is pretty bad.

But wins like this happen all the time. Seton Hall beat Syracuse by 22 in the Carrier Dome. Drexel, a middle of the pack CAA team, beat Louisville, who sits a game out of first in the Big East. Fordham, who is at the bottom of the Atlantic 10, beat this same St. John's team. No one is claiming that those wins mean anything more than, well, those wins.

If you take anything out of this win, think about what it means for St. John's playing in the Garden. They have some impressive home wins and are now attracting bigger and bigger crowds.

This is the same arena where the Big East Tournament is played.

Sleeper, anyone?

1 comment:

joe said...

nothing i love better than duke getting a good mollywhopping