This week Madison Square Garden will host the Big East College Basketball Conference tourney, which decides the teams that enter the prestigious NCAA Division I tournament. All the teams are eligible for competition. The winner of the Big East tourney receives an automatic bid. Any number of teams may go to the Big Dance.
All eyes will be on the nationally ranked teams, headed by Syracuse, which turned in a fantastic season despite the off court incidents. In addition to the upstate New York team, eyes will be focused on the predominately freshman squad that St. John’s has fielded during the past season.
As of late and down the stretch, the Red Storm seemed to find ways to close ‘it’ out and pull out the victory. Their last game before press time against highly ranked Notre Dame was just an example. After last Sunday’s action, St. John’s posted a 13-16 record, and Notre Dame’s mark was 20-9.
It was a miracle when they upset Notre Dame, 61-58, on key lay-ups by Moe Harkless and Amir Garrett down the stretch drive.
Harkless at forward and D’Angelo Harrison in the backcourt played the entire 40 minutes as the Red Storm used six players, including five freshmen, throughout the game for one reason or another.
“A lot of credit goes to St. John’s,” said Notre Dame Head Coach Mike Brey. “They (the Red Storm) made more big plays at key times (than we did). And they came out hungry (from the start). On their five freshman, they’ll only get better.”
Once again assistant coach Mike Dunlap has been doing a great job in replacing head coach Steve Lavin, who is still taking time off to recover from surgery to prostate cancer,
“He (Dunlap) has done a fabulous and unbelievable job,” Notre Dame’s head coach Mike Brey said after the game. “He has done a very good job as anybody in this league.”
“We’re growing every day,” continued Harkless, who can certainly put the ball in the hoop.
Now they are looking forward to the Big East Tournament, which should pack the stands for several games. All the games are at Madison Square Garden. Anybody can beat anybody in a given game.
“We have great fans,” noted Harrison and Harkless. “And we can surprise a lot of people if we play the way we can. The Garden is our home….”
In addition to Harkless and Harrison, Coach Dunlap also has been impressed with the play of Amir Garrett, who has been steadily improving; as are Sir Dominic Pointer, Phil Greene and the rest of the team. They are growing offensively.
“Unless these guys improve we can’t win games,” Dunlap went on. “As a staff we talk about five guys being able to score in the back stretch…With six players it’s not the smartest thing to do on defense. We have to make people (opponents) turn the ball over…I like the way we are playing defense.”
“When Garrett gets going he’s just fun to watch,” noted Harrison. “He does a lot of things to help us win games.”
For example he grabbed two defensive rebounds within five seconds late in the game against Notre Dame.
Now it’s tournament time. Anything can happen on any given day.