Saturday, October 25, 2008

Mason Makes Storm No Laughing Matter

St. John’s is my sleeper this year. No, maybe the Johnnies aren’t a team that will make the NCAA Tournament, but they’ll be better than everyone is predicting.

Sure, Rutgers coach Fred Hill has brought in an elite recruiting class and Seton Hall coach Bobby Gonzalez has given Seton Hall more attention than St. John's.
But Norm Roberts and his Red Storm have a couple of things going for them this year that neither of the other local teams have.

Roberts has the best player in the New York City-New Jersey area in senior forward Anthony Mason Jr. and has the area’s best post player, sophomore Justin Burrell. Yes, Mason is better right now than RU’s Corey Chandler, Anthony Farmer and Mike Rosario and better than SHU’s Eugene Harvey and Jeremy Hazell. Mason was banged up all of last year and still averaged 14 points a game. He is a very dynamic player who can score in many ways. He’s probably one of the top 10 players in the league, and no one talks about him. Seton Hall fans should remember that he single handedly beat the Pirates last year in a crucial game.

And Burrell has a repertoire of proven post moves that neither of the RU or the Hall post players have — Echenique definitely has the moves, but is a freshman.

If Norm Roberts has a healthy Mason and an improved Burrell he has a great core to work with. He also had a very young team last year, and D.J. Kennedy showed he can be a solid Big East player.

And everyone can bash Roberts, but the fact is that he won two more league games than Hill last year with an injured Mason for most of the year and seven freshman playing. And I don’t think Seton Hall can keep up with St. John’s with a roster only eight players deep.

So, even though I’m not predicting an NCAA berth for the Red Storm, they will be a tough team to face. They will not be the laughing stock in the league like many are assuming.

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