Saturday, February 19, 2011



What else can you say about the Pitt/St John's game that just concluded an hour ago on a Dwight Hardy baseline drive?

Hardy put Pittsburgh's Gil Brown in the spin-cycle on a beautiful hesitation/look back move before finishing at the rim for the 60-59 St. John's win.

What else can you say about Pitt's Travon Woodall, who despite taking on the annual role of "let's bash player x" on this year's team, somehow continues to hit huge shots like the three-pointer he drained to put Pitt up 59-58 with 11 seconds left on the clock?

What else can you say about Pittsburgh not having any timeouts left with 1.8 seconds left and the length of the court staring them in the face down one?

I mean wow, wow, and yeah...freaking wow!

Whenever I exchange text messages with St. John's coach Steve Lavin, his message is always the same regarding his surging basketball team.

It always about making progress in their journey -- and inevitably or is it fittingly? -- includes the words baby steps.

Well, when Dwight Hardy -- he of the seven-game blitz that's put him solidly in discussion for Big East Player of the Year along with UConn's Kemba Walker, Pitt's Ashton Gibbs and Notre Dame's Ben Hansbrough -- baby-stepped his way along the baseline for this incredible win I think it's safe to say that Lavin's crew raced right past puberty, shook hands with adolescence, and were welcomed into adulthood...all by the time the final buzzer sounded.

That journey to adulthood has been a brisk one for the Red Storm, but they've definitely come of age while bringing the city that never sleeps right along with them. Let's take a look at the maturity process and just how it happened.

They Beat Duke 93-78.

Beat UConn 89-72.

Won at Cincinnati and Marquette -- "business trip," said Lavin.

And now beat #4 Pitt 60-59 in a game that had the 1980's Big East glory days written all over it (and Coach Carnesecca at mid-court giving his blessing).

Hardy's gone for 26, 15, 32, 33, 18, 28 and 19 in his last seven games (all wins except for the 32 that happened during a complete hosing at UCLA).

St. John's, with the same team that could never win big games before this season, has now won a slew of them.

Lavin said afterward he believes Hardy is the runaway winner in the Player of the Year competition.

I'm not so sure about that but he's definitely in the first group of names involved in the discussion.

You have to love the way Lavin is pushing for a kid who's helped make his initial season in Queens a dream come true after that kid endured a lot of heartache in the previous ones.

Hardy very well might be the Player of the Year...we'll see how the last few games go.

With a 17-9 record --9-5 in the Big East-- an RPI of 16 before the win over Pitt, plus a phenomenal strength of schedule, I think it's time to declare these Johnnies as all grown up.

Hardy very well might be the Player of the Year (we'll see how the last few games go plus the Big East Tournament before we at NBE hand out any hardware).

However, with the numbers mentioned above in mind I don't think there's any question -- not after today -- about who the 2010-11 Big East Coach of the Year is.

That's Steve Lavin.

Hands down.

And it's not really close.



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