Where's Lou Carnasecca? Chris Mullin? Digger Phelps?
St. John's isn't supposed to beat Notre Dame. Not in this century, at least. Is this one of those signs we're looking for, either that the top teams in the Big East aren't all they're cracked up to be or that the league is so superdeep that anybody can get knocked off by anybody on any given night if they're not careful?
Maybe. But I don't know. I saw some weaknesses in Notre Dame that portend trouble, if you ask me. (Which you didn't, but you are reading my blog, which is kind of the same thing.)
The easy story here is that St. John's (particularly Paris Horne) was able to defend and limit Notre Dame's three-point shooting. So while Luke Harangody had his usual monster game down low, he was about all they had, scoring-wise.
So it was an off day for the Irish in terms of scoring, which is something I don't, personally, think they can afford. Their strength is their offense. They're scoring more than 82 points per game so far this year, and especially when they are hitting from the outside, they can score with anybody outside of Chapel Hill.
But if they don't score the way they can, there's not much on which they can fall back.
They are not a good defensive team, and that's a shame, because they could be. They have the athletes they need to play good defense -- it's just that they don't seem to pay any attention to it. They don't seem to have any problem with the opposing team taking a shot. They don't harrass or try to force the issue on defense, the way Pitt and Georgetown and Connecticut and the other top teams in the conference do. It seems almost as if they get their shot on offense and, make it or not, head back down the court as if they can't wait to get back on offense. It's not that they're not good enough to play defense -- it's almost as if they just don't care.
If that ain't a major Achilles' heel, then I don't know what it. ND is super-talented and capable of winning any game it plays, but the defensive flaws (combined with some very poor free-throw shooting) probably mean it's capable of losing any game it plays, too. Yesterday's is the prime example.
These top teams in the Big East can't afford losses to the four or five teams at the bottom and expect to win. St. John's is one of those teams, and that should have been a win for the Irish. Instead, it's a mistake loss -- the first of the season for any of the conference's contenders
UConn's loss is to Georgetown. Georgetown's is to Pitt. Villanova's is to Marquette. These aren't mistake losses. These are acceptable losses -- losses to teams that are better, as good or almost as good. Remember, come March, this a conference that's hoping to get 10 teams into the NCAA tournament. If that's going to happen, the resumes are going to have to be fairly spotless across the board.
As of now, Notre Dame's has a spot. And the way they got it makes you wonder if there might be a couple more spots to come.