While the NBA's away, how about St. John's hoops?

Basketball in MSG still exists, and SB Nation has an excellent blog for it. Here is a guest post from the proprietor of said blog. -Seth

Good afternoon, all. I'm Pico on SB Nation's St. John's blog, Rumble in the Garden, chronicling the Red Storm's attempts to return to prominence in the college hoops world. We cover Red Storm basketball news, recruiting, with forays into baseball and soccer; I prefer stats to speculation, and we try to be open-minded and intelligent about the game as best we can.

Osborn has been a reader of the site; and he and I discussed my reaching out to you all Posting and Toasting, in need of fast breaks and and-1s with the NBA in Full Lockout Mode. I've seen the #nonba hashtag, I've followed the labor talk from reporters, and I too will miss the Knicks on the court (especially Landry Fields. I love that guy); these are sad days for hoops fans.

So I'm here, guest posting and guest toasting, if you will, to talk about St. John's and our site, Rumble in the Garden.

The site is new at the Rumble URL - we've only been there since January - but the blog is a continuation of my work at a site called The East Coast Bias, which I'd written for 4+ years.

The Rumble isn't just me. We have a pair of talented writers, some future contributors, and are slowly growing as a reader community. But we'd love to add more smart, passionate and engaged hoops fans, more people, more active commenters, more people with questions about the college game.

But this week, that other team that spends time in Madison Square Garden gets back onto the floor above Penn Station to try and bring that Rumble back to Manhattan.

That other team, St. John's, is piloted by the wholly quotable, erudite, and likeable second year coach Steve Lavin. He used to coach at UCLA until they ran him out with LA pitchforks (which are enhanced with silicone and sunshine). Sometimes, they call him the Blagojevich of College Hoops, despite his former UCLA players' love of him. Even Baron Davis has come by St. John's to visit and help Lav recruit a point guard - the same Baron Davis who was famously quoted as saying, "we should have a banner up there: the only team to make the tournament without a coach."

Now, he's landed in New York with his semi-celebrity wife (she's a bit-part TV actress) and a great energy. The students have taken well to him, renaming the student section "Lavinwood."

Steve Lavin in Air Force Ones

He wears Air Force Ones with a suit for comfort (photo at right: Getty Images, Chris Trotman). He's not quite Walt Clyde Frazier, but the quotable Lavin's quips and synonyms are lovingly honored by our Lavin Lines page (which is still being built out and will be regularly updated).

Steve Lavin's major skill is recruiting, and during his first season, the Lav recruited what was considered the third-best recruiting class in the nation, despite lacking some beef and having no instant-impact players like Kentucky.

Not only are the recruited players talented, but they have incredible names. They're listed below with links to their preseason profiles on Rumble in the Garden; the guesses to what they would do are from junior college stats when available and guess based on video I'd seen on players in games (though often All-Star games, which don't feature defense):

There were three other great names - Amir Garrett, Jakarr Sampson, and Norvel Pelle - but all three were found ineligible by the NCAA. They didn't have the right grades in the right courses, and the NCAA thought the Johnnies were trying to manipulate the system. There was a chance they could be eligible in December, but right now it's looking like none of the three are coming back to the Red Storm fold.

You may count the number of recruits/ new players and ask, how many players are there on a college roster again?

There should be thirteen. But the past few years of roster mismanagement, transfers, and a group of players in the same graduating class has left St. John's with one returnee. One. And he (Malik Stith) barely played last year.

Suffice to say, this is an interesting year and a team with a learning curve. They have two big men. Four players are logging 32+ out of 40 minutes. Right now, they can't shoot very well outside of 5 feet. The defense is a work in progress (but prone to bursts of steals and fast break buckets). And what you see today from the squad won't be what you see in February.

The young Johnnies were highly ranked as a class for a reason. You can see the potential oozing out of Moe Harkless and Achiuwa and Lindsey - they are fast and agile. Each has issues with his game to improve on, but all three have talents... possibly NBA-translatable talents.

Tomorrow, St. John's faces off against Arizona in the 2K Sports Classic benefiting Coaches vs. Cancer. We have a quick preview of the Coaches vs Cancer Tournament, and will be doing game preview notes by tomorrow morning.

The Garden games are the semifinals of a tournament... whose opening rounds don't count toward advancement. A little silly, I know, but it's part of the college game. Why? Because a few years ago, some school called Gardner-Webb beat Kentucky, and made it to the semifinals in New York. That's a ticketing disaster; Kentucky rolls deep with fans and not having them means lint in the pockets.

Paris Horne vs DukeBut that uncertainty is one of the joys of the college game. One day, even the most talented kids have an off night and lay a turd on the court, taking an L they really, really shouldn't have.

And sometimes, a team that was written off pulls out a win they shouldn't have. Last year, St. John's was the definition of the latter category in late January/ February, with wins over Duke, Connecticut, and Pittsburgh, all top-10 ranked squads at the time who received high seeds in the NCAA Tournament.

I know. It's not the same as Knicks basketball. There's no organ music hyping up the crowd. Spike and Woody and the rest don't make every St. John's basketball game. But the Red Storm, like the Knicks, are part of the fabric of New York City.

Come check us out at Rumble in the Garden, and if you want to spread the word to other blogs and message boards you know, we ain't gonna hate ya. We welcome good hoops conversation as the team develops into a force in the Big East, and need to spread the word about the site.

If you have questions or comments, find me at the Rumble or email!

Follow the Rumble on Facebook + Follow on Twitter: Rumble in the Garden (stories + game tweets only) | Pico | Tim | Quinn 

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