St. Johns Struggling with New Head Coach Chris Mullin
Wayne Root: St. John's Struggling with New Head Coach Chris Mullin
As we start our transition from football coverage to basketball coverage here in the New Year, you can assume that I'll be paying very close attention to what's happening in New York hoops. You longtime readers know I grew up in New York as a true S.O.B. (son of a butcher!). Root's roots in the Big Apple REALLY pay off in the winter because the area is such a hotbed for college basketball. Plus, the Knicks are doing some interesting things this year in the NBA.
I'm going to start this area of analysis off in 2016 with a look at St. John's. The Red Storm made headlines in the offseason by hiring Chris Mullin to be the head coach. He's one of the most famous athletes in the school's history. It was hoped he could turn around the program's recent slide
*His fame was magnified by a prominent role as a TV analyst on ESPN for basketball
*He had gained some front office experience in the NBA. You may have seen a video on Grantland (before it went under) where he was part of the Sacramento braintrust heading into the draft. (Unfortunately the team decided on Nik Stauskas!)
That was enough for the St. John's administration to give him a shot. It was assumed he could recruit on a "I know how to get you to the NBA" platform.
There were many skeptics about this decision. There was a lot I liked about Mullin as a player. But, how many former star players have been success stories in college hoops? How many former players with NO COACHING EXPERIENCE have thrived when thrown into the deep end within a major conference? This seemed more like a desperation Hail Mary designed to create publicity rather than a reasonable solution to solve a problem.
Thus far, early season results have made the skeptics look pretty smart. Let's run through what's happened so far. Here are the first six games out of the gate...
St. John's (-5.5) beat Wagner 66-57 (covered the spread)
St. John's (NL) beat Maryland-Baltimore County 73-53
St. John's -6.5 beat Rutgers 61-59
St. John's +14.5 lost to Vanderbilt 92-55
St. John's +20 lost to Indiana 83-73 (covered the spread)
St. John's -11.5 beat Chaminade 100-93
Those last three were from the tournament out in Maui. St. John's at least recovered from the obliteration by Vanderbilt with a cover vs. Indiana, and then a win over the doormat host school. That's 0-3 against the betting market on the islands...but some hope for the team moving forward. To this point the team is 4-2 straight up, and 2-3 against the spread. Beating Wagner and Rutgers was at least good for local recruiting.
St. John's +6.5 lost to Fordham 73-57
St. John's -7.5 beat St. Francis of NY 63-56
St. John's -9 beat Niagara 48-44
St. John's +10 upset Syracuse 84-72 (third cover of the season)
That upset of Syracuse sure was a shocker. And, a sign that all isn't right with the Big Orange this year! Wins over St. Francis and Niagara were least important regionally. A poor 3-6 mark against the pointspread may not have been as bad as it seemed in the big picture.
Of course, one of the headaches of handicapping college basketball is the inconsistency of mediocre or worse teams. On some days, the shots will fall and it looks like some problems have been fixed. Look at what happened to St. John's right after that upset of Syracuse...
St. John's -8.5 lost to Incarnate Word 73-51
St. John's -15 lost to NJIT 83-74
Disaster! Mullin lost to Incarnate Word and the New Jersey Institute of Technology! Sure, if you know hoops you know those seeming non-entities have some talent. Still...a real team would have learned its lesson from the Incarnate Word upset and taken care of business against NJIT. That's probably going to go down as the most embarrassing two-game stretch for any major conference team this season. You beat Syracuse and cover by 22 points, but then lose to Incarnate Word and NJIT while missing the spread by a combined 54.5 points. Great coaching!
In betting terms, St. John's was now 3-8 against the spread...clearly one of the most overrated teams in the country (the betting markets are the best determination of how you're "rated.")
That brings us to the three most recent games leading up to where we are today...
St. John's +13.5 lost to South Carolina 75-61
St. John's +8 lost to Creighton 80-70
St. John's +17.5 lost to Providence 83-65
Three more losses and non-covers, though the line is obviously "catching down" to their new level of play. That's two half-point non-covers and all three within a bucket. Still, St. John's is now 1-9 against the spread their last 10 games!
Big East play has begun. It looks fairly certain that St. John's will be down at the bottom of the league. Computer ratings from Jeff Sagarin of USA Today and Ken Pomeroy of Kenpom.com both have them a lot worse than DePaul, sitting in dead last at the moment. Things could be about to get ugly in terms of straight up losses.
Has the market finally figured things out? The lines are getting closer. And, maybe Mullin will make some adjustments that catch everyone napping. You regulars know I specialize in live underdogs. I'll be watching this closely to see if any value is created by a turnaround. But, I'm fully aware that former players with limited coaching experience are LEAST likely to figure out how to turn things around! It's not like Mullin can go out there and start draining jumpers himself.
Chris Mullin was probably a horrible hire for St. John's. But, YOU can make a SMART hire by hooking up with THE KING OF LAS VEGAS!
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Back with you midweek to talk more sports betting. A lot to look forward to this weekend with the Wildcard games in the NFL. When the schedule is THIS busy, you know it's time for you to go to W.A.R. alongside WAYNE ALLYN ROOT!
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