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Pre-Duel Pleasantries: St. Johns

Crossing the line to talk to Rumble in the Garden

NCAA Basketball: CSU Northridge at St. John Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

Before Xavier tips off with St. Johns, we sat down with our good friend Norman Rose, over at Rumble in the Garden. To get you ready for the game, he told us all about how this season is going for St. Johns as well as his opinion on Rogue One. Let’s see what he had to say.

1.) Welcome back to the Cintas Center! How much of a yoyo has this season felt for you all?

You know, there are seasons with surprise losses and then there are seasons where in one week, the fans feel hope and the next, the utter despair of watching an Eddie Jordan-like coaching effort. And certainly, there are threads between the games - that old saw about youth learning to win, the fundamental interior weakness in the team... but there is also the WTF factor of losing to Delaware State, a team that has one D-I victory. The one over St. John's.

Three straight wins - with one over a top-25 team and one over Syracuse - makes the future look rosy, but the past looks like coming through a

2.) This Shamorie Ponds guy looks really good. Tell me about what makes him so good, and will he be a one and done?

No, Shamorie Ponds will not be one and done. He's six feet tall. Tyler Ulis - who was admittedly even shorter - was a more highly-regarded prospect who was great at an NBA factory and he was a second round pick (who isn't killing it on the NBA level yet).

And here's the thing. Shamorie Ponds is a very good outside shooter, smooth and mostly unflappable. He can get his shot off with some very skilled dribble moves, he can pass a bit, he's defensively active enough to snag some steals.

But he's also very slim. And Big East teams so far have stifled his best weapon, his outside shooting. Ponds is 5/19 in Big East play. That might be a blip or a better measure of how he stands up vs other prospects. In fact, Ponds has shot over 34% against three well-regarded opponents - Minnesota, Syracuse and VCU.

he's still got a ways to go now that he's the opposing team's focal point defensively.

3.) The Big East is savage this year, just like every year. Where do you see St. John's finishing?

Eighth. Like I did in the beginning of the year. I think.

I feel in no way comfortable with that prediction; St. John's could very easily lose every single game from here on out and end up in tenth. St. John's could be a couple of games under .500 and finish sixth. Part of the difficulty is that St. John's has serious flaws - interior play on both ends being a major one - but the team can sometimes work around that and outshoot those problems.

Then sometimes Creighton happens and St. John's becomes the victim of some guy's NBA draft reel.

4.) Now that January is here in full steam we have to know, are you a snow guy or no?

I'll tell you a story about snow. When I lived in the Midwest, in the Chicagoland area, I drove the the New Year's Eve St. John's/ Xavier game at Cintas - during the 2013-2014 season. It was a nice drive, where I may or may not have hit triple digits on some boring highway between Indiana and Ohio on my way in. The sun was shining, I made good time. I sat next to Bill Raftery and Gus Johnson but didn't interrupt their game prep.

The basketball game was solid, with the Musketeers really jacked up for their first Big East league game. Xavier maintained control with an 11-0 run, and in the postgame, fed some meat to the visiting NY scribes, talking about the Red Storm's impatience ["being more disciplined definitely helped us," Isaiah Philmore said, filling in the NY Daily News' closing line].

I bring all this up because there was a snowstorm moving east. I high tailed it out and made good time, but in the northern reaches of Indiana, I received confirmation that Indiana doesn't give a hot damn about shoveling snow. The forecast had said snow for days, but not a speck of salt could be seen, nor could any early shoveling efforts. I slipped and skidded on major highways until I crossed over Hammond, IN back to the sweet civilization that is Chicago and Illinois. Knock it all you want - it's easy with the dysfunction and even with the taxes. But trips like that adventure remind me of the importance of paying enough taxes to fund actual services.

Please note that this adventure was possibly the third time I'd been caught in "Indiana doesn't shovel" driving - the others just didn't involve a Xavier game!

Now where I live, I like snow. Good for sledding, great when it's easy to shovel, nice as the white caps to the mountains. And unless I am driving through Indiana, I don't fear it.

5.) Have you seen Rogue One?

Is that a movie?

Kidding. No I haven't in fact, the only Star Wars movies I have seen are the three from the 70s. And the Ewoks movies from the 80s. Is this "Rogue One" good?

6.) Score prediction for this game?

St. John's pulls it out, 72-70!

Ah, that won't happen. Tough environment, good team, long wings. 83-69, Xavier.

Thanks again Norman, and let’s hope for a good game today.