2013 NTCF NBA Mock Draft

It’s hard to believe that it’s that time of year again and even more surreal that the Celtics will be drafting players who will not be playing for Doc Rivers. Boston has been at the center of trade rumors galore, specifically surrounding Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. It could be time for the C’s to enter full-blown rebuild mode with Rajon Rondo, Jeff Green and Avery Bradley at the core.

ImageWith that said, here’s a look at who could go where in the latest edition on the NBA’s “incoming class.” As always Scottie and I picked every other selection to figure out who will be wearing what color jersey come Friday morning.

(Also, as always… I get the first pick! @BIG3Sports always gets honors hahaha.)

1. Cleveland – Nerlens Noel – F/C – Kentucky

Rumors continue to swirl that the Cavaliers could be taking Maryland big man Alex Len, while there are still others that expect the Cavs to trade the pick. I’m sticking with Noel, Imagewho without the injury would be a shoe-in here. A defensive game-changer in the post, he should pair well with the backcourt of Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters.

2. Orlando – Victor Oladipo – G  – Indiana

With the trade winds kicking up that Aaron Afflalo could be moved to the Clippers for Eric Bledsoe, it opens up a spot at the two guard. Oladipo is my favorite player in this draft and that’s for his defense alone, especially after meeting him at the Sweet 16 this year. He could grow into a tremendous player for years to come. Ben McLemore could also get a look here, while another team could trade up for a shot at Alex Len or Nerlens Noel, depending on who’s still on the board.

3. Washington – Otto Porter, Jr. – SF – Georgetown

The Hoya product is one of the most well-rounded prospects this year and is hands-down the best small forward in the draft. A chance to stay home would be a perfect fit for the Wizards who have a big need at the 3.

4. Charlotte – Alex Len – C – Maryland

Len has been shooting up draft boards and could be the No. 1 pick overall.  Michael Jordan may want to take Ben McLemore here, who is the best shooter in the draft, but the Bobcats need help down low big time and can’t pass on Len or even Anthony Bennett.

5. Phoenix – Ben McLemore – SG – Kansas

I saw McLemore play in late December in Allen Fieldhouse and was not overly impressed. ImageHe often looked disinterested and rarely took over. However, he puts up the purest shot of anyone this season and has the ability to make top 10 plays driving to the rim. On a team loaded with seniors its not surprising that he was not the focal point. He could be the best of the best of 2013 when look back a we few years from now.

6. New Orleans – Anthony Bennett – F – UNLV

The Pelicans have said they will take the best player on the board at pick No. 6, which is Bennett. He has injury questions and is said to be overweight, but should be able to shed the pounds and make a formidable one-two duo with last year’s No. 1 pick Anthony Davis.

7. Sacramento – Michael Carter-Williams – PG – Syracuse

A 6-foot-6 point guard with the best floor vision in the class. Not a bad pick for a team that just needs to keep stockpiling talent. He would be able to work in slowly, playing behind Isaiah Thomas and with rumors of Jimmer Fredette to Indiana, it could be a good situation for the young Syracuse guard.

8. Detroit – Trey Burke – PG – Michigan

Another player with a chance to stay home. The National Player of the Year has some serious talent but is undersized. With Brandon Knight proving to be a better 2 than 1 guard, Burke could eventually pair with the former Kentucky prospect and make a dynamic 1-2 punch in the backcourt.

9. Minnesota – C.J. McCollum – G – Lehigh

Even though he comes the Patriot League and was injured for most of the season, he was second in the nation in scoring at almost 24 points per game when he went down, and led ImageLehigh to an upset of Duke in 2012. McCollum can play either guard spot and shoot it well, but can immediately come in and defend.

10. Portland – Cody Zeller – F/C – Indiana

Indiana becomes the first team with two players off the board as the seven-footer goes to a team in desperate need of size to pair with LaMarcus Aldridge. Zeller can really run the floor and while he does not do some things well, he plays hard and is a student of the game. He could see minutes right away with last year’s draft pick Meyers Leonard still learning the NBA game.

11. Philadelphia – Steven Adams – C – Pittsburgh

Another team in need of size, especially with the status of Andrew Bynum completely up in the air. Adams is a tank, but a raw and unrefined one. With seasoning, he could become a starting center in the League for years to come.

12. Oklahoma City – Kelly Olynyk – F/C – Gonzaga

Make it three-straight centers. Olynyk could immediately help the Thunder on the low block with a bevy of low-post moves. There are some questions if he is strong enough or can defend at an NBA level, but the offensive production makes him worth the risk at the end of the lottery.

13. Dallas – Shabazz Muhammad – SF – UCLA

Dallas is actively trying to trade the pick to clear cap space and make a run at Dwight Howard so taking the best player on the board may make sense. Muhammad has a lot of question marks around his character, but remember; this kid can play. With the right coach and the right situation he could flourish.

14.  Utah – Shane Larkin – PG – Miami

It is amazingly obvious that the Jazz need a point guard. Larkin ran a heck of an offense for the U this year and though undersized, he has proved to be an active sparkplug with Imagetons of energy. If not Larkin, Utah could take German point guard prospect Dennis Schroeder.

15. Milwaukee – Kentavious Caldwell-Pope – SG – Georgia

The Bucks will be without Monta Ellis next year and while they truly need a small forward, taking the SEC player of the year to try and replace Ellis may not be a bad idea. Caldwell-Pope did not shoot overly well last season, but was asked to do entirely too much on a bad Bulldog team.

16. Boston – Lucas Nogueira – C – Brazil

The Celtics could go in a number of directions. They need size, a backup point guard and more talent in general. If they are truly in full-rebuild mode they could take a project center like Nogueira. He could develop into a dynamic force down low, but will take a few years to get there.

17. Atlanta – Sergey Karasev – SF – Moscow

Karasev has been shooting up draft boards as of late in a small-forward depleted draft class. Josh Smith may be on the outs and Karasev could step into some serious minutes for the Hawks.

18. Atlanta – Mason Plumlee – C – Duke

Plumlee looked good at Duke, but scouts fear he does not have a high upside. Even if he can replicate what he did for Coach K, he could prove to be a strong pivot for ATL, allowing Al Horford to move to his natural power forward position.

19. Cleveland – Reggie Bullock – SF – North Carolina

Another team in need of a small forward as they have even been linked to Paul Pierce. They should be in take the best player available mode, but could move up or deal the pick. Right now Chad Ford has them taking Bullock… that’s good enough for me.

20. Chicago – Tony Snell – SF – New Mexico

The Bulls need help on the wing even with the emergence of Jimmy Butler. Snell, Crabbe, Goodwin, Ledo or Franklin could also be in play here.

21. Utah – Rudy Gobert – F/C – France

Gobert is physical freak at 7-2, with a 7-9 wingspan, but is wildly small in frame and needs Imageto put on serious weight. He could turn out to be a serious player in the right situation, but needs at least three years to start to contribute on an NBA roster.

22. Brooklyn – Giannis Adetokunbo – SF – Greece

His people are playing him up as a point guard and he needs the ball in his hands to be truly effective but at 22 he could be a great pick for the Nets. Foreign players are always a risk, but this is one that could pay off.

23. Indiana – Dennis Schroeder – PG – Germany

It is highly unlikely that Schroeder will still be available here, but it would be a good fit for the Pacers who need a backup point guard after D.J. Augastin proved to be ineffective in the playoffs this year.

24. New York – Ricardo Ledo – SG/SF – Providence

PC fans are familiar for Ledo, but only because he did not play for them this year. He has a ton of talent, but could not make the grades. Had he played this season he may be much higher up on this board. He could be a steal for whoever takes him late in this draft.

25. Los Angeles Clippers – Gorgui Dieng – C – Louisville

Dieng looked to be a defensive force for the Cardinals in the NCAA Tournament with a developing low-post game. A team could reach for him around 15-20, but if he slips, don’t expect him to get past the Clippers who could need some muscle around Blake Griffin, especially if they trade DeAndre Jordan.

26. Minnesota – Jeff Withey – C – Kansas

Withey was a player who really stood out when I watched the JayHawks in person back in December. He runs the floor ok for a big man and can finish at the rim, but his defense is what sets him apart. He is no overly built, but uses his body well. With an offensive minded coach, he could develop a decent low-post game and can easily step in for Pekovic right now.

27. Denver – Jamal Franklin – SG – San Diego State

Another player I anticipate going earlier in the draft, he did it all at SDSU. Exteremly athletic if not a tad wirey, he would fit well with a Denver team that is full of athletes and likes to get up and down.

28. San Antonio – Nate Wolters – PG – South Dakota State

The Spurs are always an interesting team to pick for and even though they have Gary NealImage behind Tony Parker, Wolters could be a good fit (although they still may be able to get him in the second round). The Jack Rabbits were a popular upset pick over Michigan in the first round of the NCAA Tourney because of the 6-5 point guards ability to shoot.

29. Oklahoma City – Tony Mitchell – F – North Dakota

A physical specimen in the mold of the “Manimal” Kenneth Faried, he has fallen down the board to questions about his character. He may have not played against the toughest competition, but has shown the ability to play the game. A solid pick this late in the draft.

30. Phoenix – Tim Hardaway, Jr. – SG – Michigan

Your dad was Tim Hardaway. You should be a first round pick.

Patriots First Round NFL Draft Options

UPDATE

* After trading down to 52, six players from original first round predictions are still available: FS Jonathan Cyprien, WR Justin Hunter, DL, Jesse Williams, WR Robert Woods, WR Terrence Williams & CB Jamar Taylor. *

*Patriots have 19 selections before they are on the clock, but could use extra picks from Vikings to move up and take a player early in the second round *

In about three hours the New England Patriots will be on the clock. Even though head coach Bill Belichick and the war room actually traded up last year, drafting defensive impact players Chandler Jones and Dont’a Hightower, there is a sense of a return to normalcy this season as the Pats will likely be up to their old tricks, trading down to accrue more selections, especially this season as their normal glut of selections is quite bare by Patriots standards.

However, lets surmise that New England actually stays put at No. 29. They will have several players to choose as the board is currently laid out and a player or two that could slide to the Pats and force them to pull the trigger on a player as opposed to a deal that would get them a future first or second round pick or extra second or third (and don’t count out another late round sixth or seventh for good measure).

It’s obvious that the Patriots have a need at wide receiver but adding depth at the cornerback, defensive line, linebacker, safety and offensive live spots is also prevalent.

If New England stays put (which we all know is highly unlikely) here is a list of players that could be joining the Patriots in just over 200 minutes.

Image

WR – Cordarelle Patterson – Tennessee

  • The perfect match of need and talent late in the first round. If he’s there, Patriots will definitely have to look at it, but there have been questions about his ability to grasp a complex playbook after a low wonderlic score.

CB – Xavier Rhodes – Florida State

  • Rhodes would need a big slide to reach the Pats, but New England would definitely pull the trigger if he was still there.

DL – Datone Jones – UCLA

  • A big body that fills a need in depth on the line.

CB – Desmond Trufant – Washington

  • The likely pick at corner should the Patriots stand pat and choose to go with secondary selection.

FS – Jonathan Cyprien – FIU

  • Another player that is not expected to be available at 29, but an immediate impact player in the secondary.

WR – Justin Huner – Tennesse

  • The player opposite Cordarelle Patterson, but a good player in his own right and the possible pick if the Patriots decide they need a wide receiver.

FS – Matt Elam – Florida

  • There have been plenty of knocks on Elam through the draft process, which means he’ll be available, but likely still there in the early second round as well.

DT – Jesse Williams – Alabama

  • An imposing force on the front line that would be an intriguing combo with Vince Wilfork. Could be the pick for the Pats.

WR – Robert Woods – USC

  • After the departures of Welker & Lloyd, the Patriots have been linked to just about every available wide receiver.

WR – Terrance Williams – Baylor

  • See! Williams took a back seat to Josh Gordon last year and lost Griffin this season but is still a solid player.

CB – Jamar Taylor – Boise State

  • Again, may be gone by 29 just like Rhodes & Cyprien, but would be a welcome addition to the secondary corps.

CB – DJ Hayden – Houston

  • I just said Taylor would be gone, and there is no chance Hayden is still there when the Pats pick… but hey, crazier things have happened.

WR – DeAndre Hopkins – Clemson

  • St. Louis was linked to Hopkins in the early going after losing Amendola, but buzz has cooled as of late. Could slip to Pats.

DE – Bjoern Werner – Patriots

  • The thought of this guy and Ninkovich on the ends with Chandler Jones running people down from all angles is scary. Might not be a bad idea for the Patriots to look at.

BIG EAST Basketball Dedication

BIG EAST Basketball Dedication: What Would You Do to Prove You’re the Biggest Fan?

Check out the Photo Gallery

Over four months ago I found out that I would be on an all-expenses paid trip to a St. John’s Red Storm men’s basketball game at Madison Square Garden as part of Volvo’s “Biggest Fan of the BIG EAST” contest. As I am a two-time graduate of St. John’s(’07 undergrad and ’09 postgrad), both times in sports management, to say I am a Johnnies die-hard fan would

Started my journey in Providence, R.I., right near the state capital.

be an understatement. While in Queens, I worked as a student worker and then a graduate assistant as I completed my bachelors and masters degree, so even though I have probably seen close to 125 Red Storm games, I have probably only seen five as just another fan in attendance.

I had planned for a great weekend with my best friend in New York City, but as a Sports Information Director, many know that the best-laid plans do not always come to fruition. I currently work as an SID for Brown University and our women’s hockey just happened to do something they had not done since 2006. They made playoffs for the first time in six years under their first-year head coach. This threw a slight monkey wrench into my plan.

Instead of heading down to NYC on Friday afternoon and enjoying two leisurely nights in the “Greatest City in the World” while fitting in a St. John’s game at the “Mecca of College

The payoff of a 9-hour trek? The greatest city in the world!

Basketball,” I found that I was heading to Ithaca, N.Y. for a three-game series of ECAC Women’s hockey.

Luckily, I wouldn’t let a little thing like 200 miles stop me from competing in this contest, especially when a chance to see the Red Storm and the “Fresh Five” live in action was involved. For those of you who don’t know, St. John’s is starting five freshmen for the first time in program history since the “Wonder Five” in 1927 and have a chance to make one of the biggest impact since C-Webb, Jalen Rose, Juwan Howard, Jimmy King and Ray Jackson formed the “Fab Five” at Michigan.

As fate would have it, another SID from my department would also be heading to Cornell that weekend. With the gears turning at full speed, I devised a plan for her to stay in Ithaca, as I would head down to the City after Friday’s game had commenced. This way, I could actually make St. John’s all-important showdown with No. 18/20 Notre Dame. But, this also meant more work for me.

Thursday, February 23, 2012: Thanks to kind folks at Steingold Volvo in Pawtucket, R.I., they allowed me to pick up my Volvo S60 a day early as instead of driving straight down Route 95 from Providence to New York, I went up to I-90 through Massachusetts and into “the sticks.” Six hours later and I was in Ithaca, N.Y., home to Cornell University.

So let’s recap so far. No New York City. No St. John’s Basketball. No Co-Pilot/Wingman. Six-hour drive. And in the middle-of-no-where. On the plus-side, at this point I believe I had

Stream Spotify through your MacBook into your Volvo speakers? Yes, Please!

made a symbiotic connection with the S60 as it now responded to my every move, nearly driving itself, warning of traffic and cars near me, alerting of directions I needed to take, taking control of my iPod, syncing with my cell phone through blue tooth and riding like a dream (note; that whole last sentence was not actually due to a symbiotic relationship, but was what this Volvo does in real life. Amazing.).

Friday, February 24, 2012: Gameday. No not that gameday. The Brown women’s hockey team plays its first playoff game in nearly six years. Unfortunately, it came against nationally-ranked Cornell Big Red, which boasted six Olympians, I repeat, six Olympians, and was number one  overall seed in the ECAC Hockey playoffs on top of being the number three team in the country. Despite the odds, and facing a 3-0 deficit in the second period, Brown fought their way back into the game, scoring two goals in the second and nearly tying it up in the third, before Cornell was able to regroup and net the clinching goal mid-way through the third to seal a 4-2 victory. Despite the loss, the Bears proved they could stay with the nation’s best, just a year removed from winning just two games and totaling over 20 losses.

I was extremely happy for the team I had covered all season long, and even though I knew I would be heading down to Manhattan that evening, I was sad that I would not be able to see

I made it to the Garden!

them play the next day. Although I did cheer up a tad, snuggling into the two-toned leather seats of the S60 as I made the four hour trek from Ithaca to NYC.

Thanks to the Volvo’s built-in navigation system I made it down into the city and to my hotel (which right across the street from Madison Square Garden) in just about four hours, just as the car/computer/new best friend told me it would take.

One important tidbit I left out from today’s recap was that today was in fact my birthday. It definitely was not how I had anticipated spending it, but looking back, I wouldn’t change a thing (aside from possibly a Brown win).

Later that evening I was able to meet up with a bunch a friends from college including my little brother from my fraternity (who is actually two year older than me and married; don’t ask) and several others in a night that was true blast from the past as we went over to Stout NYC, one of the main hangouts for any St. John’s Basketball fan, as it is just down the street

Woooo! Happy BDay to me. Thanks MSG.

from the Garden. After a fantastic night of catching up and soaking in the auroa of the city, I headed back to the hotel with excitement building for a big game tomorrow afternoon between St. John’s and Notre Dame.

Saturday, February 25, 2012: Gameday. Yes, that gameday. I woke up and made the trek to Dunkin Donut’s (any self-respecting Rhode Islander needs their large iced coffee to start the day) before making the long trip over to the Garden. Ok, the Dunkin was more or less in the lobby of the hotel and MSG was across the street but after “catching up with my frat brothers” the night before, it felt like it took a lot longer.

It was fantastic to see all the improvements they made to the Garden since I had last been there, completely renovating the concourse and replacing all of the seating in the lower and mid-bowl sections of the arena. I actually entered MSG an half hour early, just walk around and soak it all in.

I look goooooood.

Volvo set me up with near $100 tickets for the Red Storm game, but me being me, decided I could get a little closer when the usher wasn’t looking and ended up sitting six rows back from the bench.

St. John’s came out to take an early lead and held the advantage into half time. I’m not about to say that I was the extra push that they needed, or perhaps it was the bow ties (In honor of “On the Line” for prostate cancer awareness week) in addition to the usual air force ones, but the Red Storm looked great against the 18th-ranked team in the country. Their defense clamped down on the usually hot-shooting, deep-range Irish and STJ matched them step-for-step.

Well if you haven’t heard or seen yet, my halftime was much different than the usual fan’s or even what I used to do as a student worker or graduate assistant. The video below will do a much better job of explaining.

The Red Storm actually spent most of the 2011-12 season in 16th and last place in the BIG EAST in 3-point shooting but on Saturday at Madison Square Garden they held Notre Dame to its worst game of the season from beyond the arc and it equaled a 61-58 upset over the No. 18-team in the country, the Johnnies first win of the season in 11 games against a ranked team.

As if just being their for a game like that was not enough, I got to spend the rest of the afternoon with friends and coworkers from St. John’s… at least until 5 p.m.

At that time I was forced to leave the restaurant that me and 15 of my friends had gathered at to head back to the hotel to change into my work clothes as with part of deal with my Brown

UPSET CITY!

counterpart, I had to cover a Columbia women’s basketball game that night. I went from the hotel to the train to Columbia’s campus to sit courtside as the Brown Bears took on the 3-21 Columbia Lions on senior day. I guarantee you that no other contestant worked on the same day as their alma mater trip, but I did the day before, day of and day after. #SIDProblems.

Finally, once I had finished my write-up of Brown’s win and posted it to BrownBears.com (shameless plug), I was able to head back to the hotel, change again and finally head cross-town to meet up with my friends who had been patiently waiting since 5 p.m. for me.

Soon after we got a call to meet up with some people in Tribeca, as often happens when you are in the City. Not soon after we are in a club, listening to an 80’s cover band (which was

Hope there wasn't a mileage limit.

wearing far too much spandex) and before we knew it the Giants’ Selvish Capers and the Jets Ropati Pitoitua were up on stage, with Selvish displaying his World Championship ring to everyone (slight barf as a Patriots fan). This is just about what I expected when we did our “predict your Volvo Alma Mater trip,” minus the whole Giants champion thing.

Sunday, February 26, 2012: So after a day that includes a Top-20 upset by your alma-mater, dressing up as you team’s mascot in front of over 11,000 people, catching up with some of your oldest friends, working as a media relations director for a women’s collegiate basketball game, seeing one of the greatest 80’s cover bands ever (shoutout to Rubix Cube) and then having drinks with a (ugh) Super Bowl Champion, what is the best way to spend the next day? The only answer is a three-hour drive in a brand new Volvo S60.

Sorry Providence College and Alumni Hall, when I'm in town, it's all about STJ!

So in the end, thanks to a day full of meetings on Monday, I had a total of SIX days with the Volvo S60 and traveled over 830 miles. If that isn’t dedication, I don’t know what it is. So in total, it was six states (RI, MA, NY, NJ, PA, CT) in just two 24 hours and one trip I will not soon forget.

As always, please continue to vote for me and St. John’s in the MyBigEastVolvo.com poll and be sure to follow me on Twitter @BIG3Sports. Also, check out my fan page on Facebook.

For more info on all things St. John’s, visit RedStormSports.com.

What A Wild Four Months: Volvo’s “Biggest Fan of the BIG EAST”

It’s hard to believe that its been over four months since Volvo’s “Biggest Fan of the BIG EAST Contest” started at BIG EAST Basketball Media Day back on October 17th, but it is even more inconceivable that the competition is actually almost over (Yes, the end of the regular season is this coming weekend and the conference championship starts on Tuesday, March 6th).

So as tough as it may be, this is the final blog post of the competition, and challenges the 16 contestants to recap our entire Volvo Biggest Fan of the Big East Journey.

I am still in shock that this whole experience is coming to end, especially after being the last competitor to take my Alma Mater weekend visit. For those of you who don’t know, each member of this contest was brought back to their respective universities for a game and were given a Volvo S60 to test drive for the weekend.

The car was amazing. Period. A friend of mine recently asked me, “well is there anything that you wish that it had in it, or didn’t do, or was missing?” I sat there for about a minute and then responded, “No.”

I actually went on to tell him there was one thing that I thought it was missing. You know that switch on your rear-view mirror you can flip when a car is getting to close to you at night and it takes down on the glare? The S60 does not have one. It took me a second to figure out, but the Volvo actually automatically does it for you when a car behind you gets too close. Yes, this car has everything. From voice-activated commands, to little lights on the inside of your car near your side-view mirrors that go off when other cars are in your blind spot.

So after a phenomenal weekend with the S60 that allowed me to see St. John’s and the “Fresh 5” (yes, the Johnnies start five rookies) knock off the nationally-ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Madison Square Garden this past Saturday, it actually hit me that I have a chance to win this car. I repeat. I am one of just 16 people in the running to win a car.

I honestly let myself think of how winning would change things for the first time this past weekend, and looking forward to June, when my job at Brown University concludes and I must start the process of searching for my next employment opportunity, how much having something like a Volvo S60 would mean to me is nearly immeasurable. Especially being without a vehicle right now (I am just lucky enough to be close enough to work that I can walk everyday).

First off, I want to thank EVERYONE that has voted and continue to vote for me in the poll on MyBIGEASTVolvo.com. To know that not only am I in the lead, but have nearly half the vote let’s me know how much my friends and family support me and how dedicated the St. John’s Red Storm and BIG EAST Basketball fan bases are (as you will see below, I have my own level of dedication).

Next, I want to thank my Dad. I know he is responsible for getting a ton of votes for me. And I know that if I do win he will be a large part of that (Even though he has stated several times that if I were lucky enough to win, he would rather see me sell the car and pay off a large chunk of my student loans. A smart and rational idea, but one I know I would have trouble doing after going through so much over the past four months of this incredible experience).

This whole thing all started after Volvo found me through Twitter (shameless plug to follow @BIG3Sports). I quickly jumped at the chance to be part of the competition and I was soon flown out to New York City to attend BIG EAST Basketball Media Day, where I met the other competitors and got to spend the day with all of the conference coaches, selected players, numerous media members and league employees. I even got to have lunch with Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim.

That alone was worth being a part of this contest (Although it would have been better if it were Steve Lavin. Thoughts and prayers with him as he continues to recover from prostate cancer surgery).

After media day we began in on our blog posts. Seven in total up to this point, and it has been fun and exciting to wait and find out how each one was received and graded. Unfortunatley I have not won one yet, but I was lucky enough to receive four stars (only the winner gets the fifth star) on every post.

Be sure to check out all of my pervious posts if you haven’t yet:

1. BIG EAST Ultimate Dream Team

2. New York, New York. Preview of a Whirlwind Trip Back to STJ

3. Top BIG EAST Matchups of 2012

4. Ultimate Volvo S60: BIG EAST Edition

5. We Are… St. John’s! Red Storm at it’s Finest

6. A Johnnies Guide to the Galaxy

7. Best of the BIG EAST at Madison Square Garden

One of the other fun parts of this experience has been the relationships built with the contestants. And when I say relationships, I mean smack talk. Game days were always a  good time as we all truly believed it was our team that would be victorious. Some days were good (like when St. John’s downed Cincinnati at the buzzer on Moe Harkless’ tip-in) and some less so (cough, Georgetown, cough).

In the end (and yes I realize that everyone is still battling for a Volvo S60) the reason we are all involved in this whole ordeal is all about basketball. The 16 of us are BIG EAST Basketball die-hards and that will never change. We each had a chance to get closer than ever before to the teams that we love and for that I say thank you to Volvo and The BIG EAST Conference.

As always, please continue to vote for me and St. John’s in the MyBigEastVolvo.com poll and be sure to follow me on Twitter @BIG3Sports. Also, check out my fan page on Facebook.

For more info on all things St. John’s, visit RedStormSports.com.

Best of the BIG EAST at Madison Square Garden

It’s hard to believe that there are only three weeks left in the BIG EAST basketball regular-season schedule, but we are quickly leading up to one of the most exciting times of the year… The BIG EAST Championship at Madison Square Garden! If you have never had a chance to catch at least a game in person, if not the entire tournament, it is something I strongly suggest you bucket list. MSG is known as the “Mecca of College Basketball” for a reason, and the annual league championship is one of the main ones.

Because of all the phenomenal moments, teams, players and experiences the BIG EAST has seen since 1982, the conference has launched #GARDEN30, which celebrates the top 10 moments, teams and players in past the 30 years.

In conjunction with this effort, Volvo’s “Biggest Fan of the BIG EAST” Contest has shaped challenge No. 7 (yes, there is only one more post after this one) to find what our top moments, players and teams are.

{Side Note: In just two weeks, Volvo and the BIG EAST are going to give me (yes, the same guy who used work the door at Last Call, could be found every Wednesday night during Grad School at Iguana’s and worked every St. John’s basketball game) the keys to a brand new Volvo S60 to test drive for the weekend. Not only are they letting me take it from Providence to New York, they are putting me in the Affinia, across the street from the Garden, and giving me two tickets to the St. John’s – Notre Dame game that afternoon. As my Birthday is on the 24th, I’d say Volvo and the BIG EAST are DEFINITELY getting the title of best birthday present this year. Be sure to check out this blog, Twitter & Facebook for updates from my trip.}

So without further ado, because finding a Top 30 is no easy feat: The @BIG3Sports #Garden30! (and yes, as always, I am St. John’s biased)

Top 10 Moments

It may have actually been easier to sift through the top 10 moments of of last year’s BIG EAST Championship than try and decide on the top top 10 of past 30 years. It seems like every year the BIG EAST dominates SportsCenter for five days as there is at least one team that pulls off the upset or pulls off the win in some incredible fashion.

Kemba Walker’s dominance last season is still fresh in all our minds and has shades of Syracuse’s Gerry McNamara when he went on a similar run. And who could forget the six overtime game between those same two teams? But of course, the number one spot has to go to the original championship winners at the Garden, and what do you know, they just happen to be from St. John’s!

10. Ollie Taylor hits two-straight buzzer-beaters to spark Seton Hall to 1991 title.

9. Ray Allen’s game-winning jumper for Connecticut in 1996.

8. Pittsburgh & UConn’s double-overtime thriller in 2002.

7. West Virginia’s Da’Sean Butler helps Mountaineers to first title in 2010.

6. Syracuse point guard Gerry McNamara owns the Garden in 2006.

5. Georgetown’s Patrick Ewing leads Georgetown to back-to-back titles in 1984 & 1985

4. St. John’s Walter Berry blocks Syracuse’s Pearl Washington at the buzzer in 1986 Final.

3. Syracuse and UConn go to six overtimes in 2009. (And if you have never been to SixOvertimes.com, check it out immediately!)

2. Kemba Walker keys UConn to five wins in five days in 2011.

1. Chris Mullin leads St. John’s to win in first-ever tournament in Madison Square Garden in 1983

Top 10 Players

Again, this would have been much easier had this been from say the past decade or even the past season, but instead 30 years of players need to be wheedled down to just 10 spots. Carmelo didn’t make the list because he only played one season, but boy did he have an impact.

The names Walker and McNamara make an appearcnce again, along with two guards who had quite the rivalry in Allen Iverson and Ray Allen, but in the end the one, and one-A spots have to go to two of the most talented and dominant players the league has ever seen in Patrick Ewing and Chris Mullin. (Hey, what do you know, another Johnnie at No. 1)

10. Alonzo Mourning – Georgetown

9. Gerry McNamara – Syracuse

8. Walter Berry – St. John’s

7. Kemba Walker – Connecticut

6. Kerry Kittles – Villanova

5. Pearl Washington – Syracuse

4. Ray Allen – Connecticut

3. Allen Iverson – Georgetown

2. Patrick Ewing – Georgetown

1. Chris Mullin – St. John’s

Top 10 Teams

To choose the top 10 teams may be a little easier as only about 40 have a true case for the top 10 spots, but to cut it down was still extremely difficult. Several teams boasted National Championships on top of BIG EAST titles, while other just bonded at the right times. In the end it was the 80’s powerhouses of St. John’s and Georgetown that took the top spots as well as the Huskies led by Kemba Walker, who took his team on the “run of all runs.”

10. 1993 Seton Hall

9. 2009 Louisville

8.  2004 Connecticut

7. 1999 Connecticut

6. 2010 West Virginia

5. 1989 Georgetown

4. 2006 Syracuse

3. 2011 Connecticut

2. 1985 Georgetown

1. 1983 St. John’s

Please continue to vote for my and St. John’s in the MyBigEastVolvo.com Polls and be sure to follow my on Twitter @BIG3Sports. Also, check out my fan page on Facebook.

For more info on all things St. John’s, visit RedStormSports.com.

A Johnnies Guide to the Galaxy

Where do you go if you are in need of watching the St. John’s basketball game and can’t get to a game?

After spending six years at St. John’s (it’s ok I got both my undergraduate and graduate degrees), plus three years since and numerous years prior, to list the places I have watched a St. John’s game would be tough to do in one post. So when Volvo and the

BIG EAST Conference tasked me with this latest blog post, my mind started to race. Especially since this is the first year that every St. John’s game was on TV (Nicely done Fratto). So with blog post No. 6 of Volvo’s “Biggest Fan of the BIG EAST Conference” requiring me to write about “what are my favorite places to watch the Red Storm when I can’t be there,” I have decided to use six years of Fresh Meadows knowledge plus my college athletics experience to run down the Johnnies Guide to the Galaxy: A list of the best places to watch St. John’s Basketball.

Let’s start where it all began. 8000 Utopia Parkway, Jamaica, N.Y. (For those of you not in the know, that is the main campus of St. John’s) Quick shoutout to all of my Hollis Hall and Donovan peeps

. Now obviously if there was a game on campus at Carnesecca Arena or in the city at the world’s most famous arena and the mecca of college basketball, Madison Square Garden, we would be there

, but what about those pesky road games?

Shall we start with freshman year and move forward? Yea, I think that’s a good idea.

The easiest way to watch the game was to obviously stay in the dorms. Whether it was huddling around the 27-inch non-flatscreen in the common room (hey it was 2003, it was the best we had) or squeezing seven people into a bedroom to watch on someone’s 34-inch (ooo, ahhhhh), we were just excited to root on the Johnnies. Once we frosh worked up the courage to venture off campus, we found one of our favorite watering holes… Traditions. Ask any St. John’s student who lived on campus in the past decade and they will tell you it all started at Trads.

Sophomore year brought about another revelation: Last Call. Just a few minutes walk from campus, what has now become a Verizon store, was once one of the most popular St. John’s hangouts in my four years as an undergrad. My fraternity (SIGMA CHI BETA!) was always in there with a few others we were friendly with, as well as the sororities (wink, wink), to enjoy a cold beer and watch the Johnnies try and take down another BIG EAST foe. I even ended up working there my senior year as a doorman.

As we continued to branch out we found other St. John’s staples like the Sly Fox Inn and Iguanas Cantina, which to this day are still some of the best places to stop by and watch a game. Plus a smokehouse burger and a hoegarten, or a margarita and a burrito is never a bad thing to have with a good game.

As we got older (and legal) we found one of the greatest things about St. John’s is its proximity to New York City. We would often venture in, taking the Q46 bus to the E (thank God for the express) or F train into the “greatest city in the world.” The usual spots were the ones located closest to MSG, specifically Stout and F.A.T.S. (short for Fat Annie’s Truck Stop)

Once we graduated (and some of us though it would be a good idea to stick around for another two years for grad school) we finally upgraded to that flatscreen we had all been hoping for. And since we all were in the two-year plan for our master’s degree and had blown most of our money on said flatscreen, it became a usual hangout (yes, yes, boo-hoo, poor college student having the time of his life).

Now you would think once we had finished grad school, gotten real jobs and supposedly grown up a little bit, we might have upgraded to a nicer viewing atmosphere. In a way I guess I did. Two months ago when I went to visit my brother who is now a junior at St. John’s we headed straight to one of Fresh Meadows newer establishments known for it’s wings and er… service.

As much as we all do like to kick back and a restaurant, enjoy a nice draft beer with some buffalo wings, it isn’t always cost effective. That being said, the way I now watch the majority of my St. John’s games is on the very laptop I type this blog post. ESPN3 has become the go-to for any Red Storm game and is accesible anywhere you are (whether you should be working, or actually at work).

Thus completes this Hitchkickers.. uh, Johnnies Guide to the Galaxy (limited to my humble experiences).

Please continue to vote for my and St. John’s in the MyBigEastVolvo.com Polls and be sure to follow my on Twitter @BIG3Sports. Also, check out my fan page on Facebook.

For more info on all things St. John’s, visit RedStormSports.com.

O, and I know this from last year, but I just have to share this video proclaiming Coach Keady as the “Buddha of St. John’s Basketball.” Absolutely perfect. Coach Keady is the man!

We Are… St. John’s! Red Storm at it’s Finest

It’s that time you have all been waiting for… it’s Volvo’s Biggest Fan of the BIG EAST challenge post time! For the fifth topic of this season long contest, Volvo has tasked the 16 contestants with identifying the best traditions for our alma maters.

First off, St. John’s is one of the few BIG EAST schools to be lucky enough to have two home venues: Carnesecca Arena and Madison Square Garden. The history behind both the arena formerly know as “Alumni Hall” and the “World’s Most Famous Arena” or the “Mecca of College Basketball” is undeniable. The on-campus Queens venue had to be renamed because of the accomplishments that former head coach and STJ “Legacy” Lou Carnesecca led the program to, while the annual BIG EAST Championship is held at the Red Storm’s “other” home venue.

Now my experience at St. John’s is an interesting one. I may have attended just three games as an actual fan because of my major and interest in working in athletics as both a Sports Management major at STJ and working for the athletic department since my first day on campus, I rarely experienced a game from a fans point of view. Not that it took away from my love of St. John’s basketball at all. I began working for the Red/White Club, which put on dinners prior to each home game for alumni. From my perspective, I was able to see every home game for free. I was not able to be in the student section, but I was there, taking it all in.

My traditions became heading to the arena an hour early to set up for some of the most dedicated alumni that St. John’s has ever had. Some of the most memerable moments that I can remember are former head coaches Mike Jarvis and Norm Roberts coming into the dinners pregame to talk to the alumni about that evenings game and what the team would focus on. In-game, I was able to get closer to the court than most undergrads could dream of. I was often given a press pass, where I would stand in the Garden tunnel and be near-mesmerized as opposing players such as Emeka Okafor and Ben Gordon would walk by or legendary coaches like Jim Boeheim or Rick Pitino would ask me to please move as they made their way to the their respective locker rooms.

Now while my undergraduate and post-grad experience may be much different than most, it should not take away from some of the great traditions (new and old) that St. John’s has.

One of the new traditions at St. John’s is the annual “Black-Out Game.” Fans receive black STJ Basketball t-shirts while the Red Storm come out in their alternate black uniforms, which have become a huge hit for players and fans alike.

One of the greatest things about going to a St. John’s game is a chance to meet living legends. Two games that I will always remember were the times where I got to talk to Coach Carnesecca prior to the start of the matchup. Coach would often walk through the lobby talking to any and everyone, always with a kind word and an excellent story as you stood awe-struck in front of him.

Thanks to “Lou’s” unforgettable style, one other new staple of any St. John’s season is “Ugly Sweater Night.” Every year, around the holiday season, fans and even the mascot are encouraged to wear their most hideous sweaters, not only to celebrate Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanza and the like, but to celebrate the career of one of college basketball’s most memorable coaches, Lou Carnesecca.

Now St. John’s is not just about its former coaches, it is about its current coach. Steve Lavin has brought his own fashion flair, substance and coaching style to the Red Storm. Most notably his signature look of Air Force Ones and the tie-less suit. Want to look like you own the collegiate basketball scene? Get yourself a fresh white pair and make sure you leave your older brother’s tie at home (No need to tell anyone you don’t own a tie or know how to tie it anyways).

Since St. John’s underwent an amazing renovation at Carnesecca Arena which put the student section directly on top of opposing free-throw shooters, students have enjoyed being a giant factor in the game. One other thing that the student section has brought in is the invention of “Lavinwood.” Being from UCLA while having a larger-than-life presence the letters L-A-V-I-N-W-O-O-D are often prominently displayed at either Carnesecca or MSG.

While some of the new traditions at St. John’s have become a staple, one tradition that will not go away any time soon is the Red Storm’s (or previously the Red Men’s) signature chant: We Are… St. John’s.

Whether STJ is trying to get trying to get back in the game or are up by 20, the student section as well as all of St. John’s die-hard fans know that as soon as they hear “we are,” the proper response will always be… ST. JOHN’S!

As always please continue to vote for me at MyBigEastVolvo.com, follow me on Twitter.com at handle @BIG3Sports and like the Facebook.com/Gambo4VolvoBiggestFan.