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Sleeping with the Enemy: The Johnnies

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It’s Big East Tournament time! In effectively a road game, the Hoyas face off against St. John’s at Madison Square Garden again, seeking their third win this season over the Red Storm. This game is also a rematch of last year’s first-round Big East Tournament 8/9 matchup, except this time the Hoyas are the 8-seed. Here for more on the Johnnies are our blog buddies at Rumble in the Garden, pulling overtime duty and doing their third one of these this season!

So... winning record in February and March plus knocking off Duke and Nova. What happened to turn this team around?

My gosh. I didn’t even realize they had a winning record in February. I really didn’t. Since they have gone 1-3 after the 4 game winning streak. What a positive way to look at the end of the season!

Oh, so what happened: Shamorie Ponds went off, but the rest of the team made better defensive plays, fewer mistakes, and played aggressively. When they team can run and get out in transition, it helps their overall flow. They shoot better from outside, make life hard on defenses.

Talk a bit about the season Shamorie Ponds has put together. If he isn’t Big East Player of the Year, will you be upset?

No. St. John’s has a losing record and is at the bottom of the standings. If a player isn’t elevating his team to at least the middle of the pack, he (or she) shouldn’t get POY unless they are incredibly far from the rest of the talent -- like if Michael Beasley was on a bottom of the pack team in college, I could see that argument.

As far as the Ponds season, it’s really good but inconsistent. If you believe that small guards are liable to be bounced around and nicked up a lot, Ponds adds to that theory. He’s missed three games, was ineffective in a few, and explosive in a lot of them.

His ability to get shots off the dribble and finish in the lane is nearly otherworldy, but his shot selection and three-point touch still needs to come along. He’s way, way better than he was in non-conference play on his threes, but he’s still a 29% shooter in conference.

He’s shown that he’s a sneaky good playmaker, too, but he also commits some turnovers of overdribbling/ bad passing.

Overall, he’s excellent, and I’d love to see him with a fuller roster next year.

Depth (or lack thereof) has been a weakness for this team. How have the Johnnies worked around that in their recent stretch of success?

Pure grit and perseverance.

Plus, the players have played a touch more under control to avoid fouls. The staff has slowed the pace at times. And the players have executed and filled in roles decently, despite the team playing six most nights.

It’s always tough for any team to beat a team three times in a season. If St John’s stops Georgetown Wednesday, what will need to go right?

These haven’t been pretty games. Georgetown shot 33% inside the arc in one and 36% inside the arc in the other. But they also haven’t been blowouts.

The Johnnies need to keep that up. The defense has been enough to win against Georgetown, but the offense has not. They need a big game from Ponds, some credible help, force some turnovers, get some points in transition.

And if St. John’s can hit a credible percentage of threes -- and shoot more thatn 35% of their shots from outside the arc -- they would win. I think they’ve been run off the line by the Hoyas, and into the teeth of a tall team. And then they’re just not offensively efficient, dancing in the same muck as the Hoyas.

How has this stretch changed the perception of the job Chris Mullin has done as coach so far?

Not too much but it sent some of the wolves to the corner. I think it showed that this team can win, and was a reminder that in most of their games, the Johnnies were close. That begs other questions but... you know, we will leave those for the offseason.

Tuesday was apparently national Oreo day so let’s talk about them. What kind of Oreo do you have? Double stuf? Peanut butter? Golden? And do you take a bite into it first or twist it open and eat separately?

I just bite the oreo. I like the chocolate covered ones, those are on point. Peanut butter? Golden? Too far, Oreo product team.

For those of us who live/work in or are traveling to NYC for the tournament, can you recommend a good bar or place to eat vaguely near MSG?

I’d go to Koreatown on 32nd street (east of 6 ave/ Broadway) and get some BaBimBap myself -- lost of places and I don’t have a go-to. A friend used to accompany me, and she had a place she liked & found authentic to what she grew up with in Korea. I never committed that place’s name to memory, but it’s on the north side of the street. I think it’s Five Senses.

People like Brother Jimmy’s BBQ, but I don’t eat BBQ in New York. Not even Brooklyn BBQ. I’ve been in the midwest, I know NY BBQ is a sham no matter what gastronomers invent.

As far as bars, there is always Foley’s (between 5th and 6th Aves on W. 33 Street) and Stout (W. 33 between 6th and 7th Aves).

If you could have a theme song that played every time you entered a room, what would it be and why?

Depends on mood.

If I’m coming in with swag, it’s Snopp Dogg’s “Doggy Dogg World.” That song has bounce, man.

If I am, for some reason, coming in for a confrontation, let’s say at a meeting, I want Sean Price’s “Boom Bye Yeah”.

If I’m looking for something more sinister, the Afghan Whigs’ “Something Hot” is a choice.

If I want a pleasant (but really big) entrance, maybe the Japandroids’ “The House That Heaven Built”.

(I feel like I just revealed one too many things about what goes on inside my head.)

Final score prediction?

F it, stepping out on the limb and saying St. John’s wins, 71-66. (Is Marcus Derrickson playing or no?)