2004-02-13 / Sports

Big East College Basketball Update; St. John’s in Chaos

By Brendan Brosh
Big East College Basketball Update; St. John’s in Chaos

Big East College Basketball Update; St. John’s in Chaos

Andre Barrett AP Photo/Bill KostrounAndre Barrett AP Photo/Bill Kostroun

By Brendan Brosh

The Big East conference is receiving a lot of national media attention re cently. With eight teams competing for berths in the NCAA tournament, and six conference players in contention for the prestigious Wooden award, the majority of the coverage has been positive.

The St. John’s basketball program, however, is in the midst of its biggest crisis ever. With the recent sex scandal that led to the expulsion or suspension of six players, the Red Storm faithful have every right to be angry. When a program with the history and tradition of St. John’s has only four players left on scholarship, there is something catastrophically wrong. With zero conference wins, the loss of senior point guard Willie Shaw after he violated team rules, the firing of Mike Jarvis and a lame duck coach in Kevin Clarke, it is hard to imagine how it could possibly get worse for the Red Storm. The Big East is currently plead ing with ESPN and CBS to drop the remaining nationally televised St. John’s games. University President, Fr. Donald Harrington is in favor of suspending the men’s basketball program altogether.

The defending NIT champions will see no post season this year. They may not make it into next week.

Ultimately, drastic changes are needed at St. John’s. While the players are at fault for violating team rules, some people must lose their jobs for the Red Storm to regain their reputation. It would be unfair to solely blame University President Fr. Donald Har rington, Athletic Director David Weg rzyn, Kevin Clarke or even ex-coach Mike Jarvis for the drastic decline of St. John’s Basketball. Now, however, is the time to fix the program and stop any further decline. A strict disciplinarian coach in the mold of Bobby Knight is needed to right the Red Storm ship.

Both #5 UConn & #4 Pittsburgh are in contention for a number one seed come tournament time, but the Hus kies and Panthers lost heartbreakers this week against Notre Dame and Seton Hall respectively. The Panthers and Huskies will duke it out on national television on Sunday afternoon in one of the best games of the year. Pittsburgh will be looking to avenge their first loss at the hands of the Huskies in Hartford earlier this year. Three of the Wooden candidates in Emeka Okafor and Ben Gordon of the Huskies as well as Julius Page of the Panthers will showcase their talents.

Seton Hall pulled off a major upset on Monday night, taking #4 Pitts burgh to double-overtime with a 68-67 win. The tenacious play of senior point guard and Wooden hopeful Andre Barrett inspired the Pirates in their historic victory. A likely tournament team, the Pirates now travel to Notre Dame to face the Irish on Saturday. The game will be played on ESPN at 12 Noon.

National Champions, the #25 Sy racuse Orangemen, are facing a mini-crisis of their own. With an un con vincing win against Rutgers (63-61) on Tuesday and four in-conference losses to Seton Hall, Providence, Pitts burgh and UConn, the Orangemen don’t play well against good competition. The recent antics of sophomore point guard Billy Edelin are not helping the situation. Ducking practices and going AWOL, Edelin is doing his hardest to incur the wrath of Coach Jim Boe heim. The Orangemen have dropped from #13 to #25 in the course of a few weeks. Their next game will be on Valentine’s Day against Miami.

The #21 Providence Friars look to be a great team with a 16-5 record, but upon further examination, it seems that most of their success can be at tributed to power forward and Wood en candidate Ryan Gomes. Gomes is so good that UConn coach Jim Calhoun went on an obscenity laced tirade when a newspaper reporter asked him about not recruiting Gomes several years ago. Seton Hall also became wise to the Gomes phenomenon. In their first game, which the Hall lost 63-60, the Pirates double-teamed Gomes, which allowed other players to get in volved. When they next played at the Dunkin Donuts Center in Providence, coach Louis Orr’s team gave Gomes freedom in the paint. The result, Seton Hall shutdown their other players, embarrassed Providence and Gomes accounted for more than half of the Friars scoring. Gomes is probably the most valuable player to his team in the conference, and perhaps the country.

Poor, poor Notre Dame. A great team, they face Seton Hall, Syracuse, UConn, Providence and UCLA all in row. Just prior to this stretch they played Pittsburgh and Connecticut in a matter of a few days. It’s unlikely that the Irish will win most of these games, but with such a strong schedule, they will probably be in the postseason as a last-in for the NCAA’s or in the NIT.

Rutgers, Villanova and Boston Col lege are competing for bids as well. Boston College looks the strong est to be in the postseason, while Rut gers and Villanova will likely play the role of spoiler in the Big East Tournament in mid-March.

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