March Madness: Final Four Contender in St. John's? The Women That Is!!!

Max ColtenCorrespondent IMarch 5, 2010

Let me be the first person to tell you that baseball is and always will be my first and only love in the sports world.

That being said, as a college freshman at St. John’s, I felt it was necessary for me to attend as many of my fellow classmates’ games as I could. Not to necessarily enjoy the sport being played, but to see a good competitive game that featured some classmates I know.

On November 21st, I decided to attend the St. John’s women’s basketball game against Boston University. My reason for going to the game was a combination of my own boredom, and the game was free for students.

As it turned out, St. John’s won the game decisively by a score of 80-63. Eleven players scored in the game, including five with double figure performances.

By the end of the game I realized something; this was a good team. Now I am not going to call myself a basketball guru, because I am not. I hardly would even consider myself an average fan. However, watching that team work together in only their third game of the season showed me this team was going to have a great chemistry together, and were going to do big things during the rest of the season.

As the season progressed, the team continued to win more and more games, and I continued to attend their home games because they were winning. The term front runner will come to the minds of many in that case. For those of you have read my previous article, you all know I am a die hard Mets fan. As such, to call me a front runner is inaccurate, simply because it is not like I have been rooting for the winner my whole life.

Now some will argue that the quality of play of the women is nowhere near that of the men, and I will agree with that. My purpose for this article is not to say women’s basketball is more entertaining than men’s.

However, what I am saying is that St. John’s has something special in their basketball team, and it is the team coached by Kim Barnes-Arico.

Just prior to completing their regular season with a 77-65 victory at Pittsburgh, St. John’s found out they had been ranked 16 in both the AP and Coaches Top 25 Polls. That is the highest ranking any St. John’s Women’s team has ever received. Their previous high had been number 19, which they had received just last week.

Their record of 24-5 was their best season in more than twenty years, and their 12-4 Big East record was good enough to give them the number four seed in the Big East Tournament which begins this weekend.

To be quite frank, the only reason the Red Storm are not 27-2 is because of their tendency to miss free throws. In all of their losses (excluding their losses to Georgetown and Connecticut), St. John’s missed at least ten free throw attempts, and all three games were decided by ten points or less.

Essentially, this team should have an even better record then they currently do, and for the most part have solved their problem of missing free throws. It is also worth noting that in their losses to Georgetown and Connecticut, the team shot just 36.7% and 28.2% respectively in each game.

I would like to talk a little bit about that Connecticut game, and why that game not only proved some of the students at St. John’s this team was pretty good, but why I think they will win the Big East Tournament, and will make a nice run in the NCAA Tournament.

The UConn Huskies are without doubt the best team in the NCAA, I think 69 consecutive wins proves that. They also average over 80 points a game, and have an average margin of victory over 25 points.

The final score of the St. Johns vs. Connecticut game was 66-52. The Red Storm defense held the Huskies to 14 points below their season average, and also nearly halved the average margin of victory.

St. John’s took 71 shots in the game, making just 20 of them, including just 2 of 9 three point attempts made. Now a lot of this has to be credited to the UConn defense, which I think gets overshadowed by their offensive prowess.

However, St. Johns’ two main scorers, Da’Shena Stevens and Shenneika Smith were held to a combined four for twenty five from the field. The two normally combine for an average of almost twenty nine points per game.

To a degree, that number is misleading because both have scored over twenty points in a game multiple times, and have had games where both have done so (the St. John’s win over Notre Dame being one example).

Again, the Huskies’ defense should be credited for slowing down this pair; however, the roughly twenty one points the duo did not score in that game was the difference in the game.

The St. John’s defense also showed a lot in this game, holding UConn to only 66 points, and recording eleven steals against the Huskies. This St. John’s team prides itself on defense, led by senior Joy McCorvey who for lack of a better word is a beast on the defensive end.

Joy leads the team with 27 blocks on the season, is second on the team in rebounds with 219, and is third on the team with 40 steals. Joy is 6’0, and those numbers are pretty impressive going up against teams with girls that are 6’4.

Looking back at the offense, Kelly McManmon and Nadirah McKenith are two players who also should not be ignored. McManmon, a senior, just this season became the St. Johns all-time leading three point scorer, is shooting a shade under 46% from beyond the arc this season. Kelly was held to just one bucket in that game against Connecticut.

McKenith is a freshman guard who has ridiculous ball handling skills, and is the conductor for this offense. With 142 on the season, Nadirah has almost three times as many assists as Sky Lindsay, who is number two on the team with 51. Nadirah however will shoot the ball and not just dish it out, as she is tied for fifth on the team in scoring with the previously mentioned Lindsay.

So what’s your point? This team may be pretty good, but that does not mean they can beat Connecticut in the Big East Tournament.

This is true. I have always been a staunch believer that statistics do not tell the entire story, and that is my reason for why this Monday, the University of Connecticut is going to lose to St. John’s in the Big East Semifinal.

It is true that UConn is the best team in the Big East, and is the best team in the NCAA. I am not denying that, it would be foolish to do so.

It is almost certain that Tina Charles and Maya Moore are two of the greatest female basketball players ever to dawn an UConn jersey.

However, this St. John’s team has become just that, a team. They work together to get the job done.

Now, here are my reasons for why St. John’s will win the Big East tournament, and en-route, the University of Connecticut.

One, the crowd will not be a factor to them. These ladies have not had to deal with extremely large crowds in most of their games. However, when the crowds were largest, they had arguably their best performances (even if not resulting in a win).

The loss to UConn was a game played in Connecticut, and the crowd numbered over 10,000, by far the largest crowd the Red Storm has dealt with this season.

There were nearly 3,000 fans in attendance at the then 4/4 North Carolina game, which was a game that the Red Storm probably should have won, and what would have been a huge upset as St. John’s had not even been ranked in the Top 25 at that time.

When the Red Storm visited Rutgers, a team that Coach Kim Barnes Arico had not beaten in her eight years with St. John’s, over 3,600 Scarlet Knights fans could not stop this team from winning. To be fair, there were roughly 30 of the loudest student fans St. John’s has to offer in attendance. However we were often overmatched by the Rutgers’ Pep Band chants.

Second, defense will be the key to their game. St. John’s has been a great defensive force throughout the season, and in order for them to win this tournament, they will have to be on their game, playing their tough man to man defense (led of course by Joy McCorvey).

Third, the offense is going to be there. The experience of playing Connecticut at Connecticut, playing North Carolina early in the season, and playing tough games against Notre Dame and Rutgers has proved to the young scorers of the Red Storm they can score and compete with anyone in any game.

That leads into my fourth reason, confidence. I know St. John’s is a Catholic university, but boy does this team have chutzpah. They are a good team, and they know it. These ladies know that on any given day they can beat anyone, and it is going to help them win this tournament.

Finally, this team has heart. Call me old fashioned, but I’ll take the team that wants to be there, and wants to win, over the most talented team every time. This team is on a mission, and they know that they can do this.

Regardless of what happens in this years’ Big East and NCAA Tournaments, this St. John’s team has accomplished a heck of a lot, and although next year they will be without Joy McCorvey and Kelly McManmon, the rest of the team will all most likely return, and will all arguably be in their prime as sophomores and juniors.

Although it will be difficult for the Red Storm to replace the talent and leadership of McCorvey and McManmon, there are two very capable replacements waiting in the wings ready to show what they’ve got. Those two are Amanda Burakoski and Jennifer Blanding.

Burakoski is a six foot tall freshman who I think will be the great three point shooter off the bench that McManmon was this season. Blanding stands at a towering six foot three, and is going to be the force down low that one could argue this years’ team has lacked. Overall, the future looks bright for the Red Storm.

So, I’ve thrown a lot at you about a team that most people do not think too much about.

When you think of St. John’s, you think of men’s basketball, and the great teams of years past. However, in the current day, think women’s basketball.

By this coming Tuesday, I fully expect St. John’s to be the Champions of the Big East, with their eyes on a run for a National Championship.

Will they make a serious run at the Final Four this year? Perhaps, but I’m not looking that far ahead, and neither is this team.

Right now I’m just focused on a team that the entire St. John’s community should be proud of, and will only continue to make them proud for years to come.

I can not believe I’m saying this without the Mets at the end of it but,

Let’s Go St. John’s!!!!


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