By Vin Parise
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In honor of all the Top 10 wins that #25 ranked St. John’s has won this season, here is a Top 10 ‘quick thoughts list’ on metropolitan basketball-
1. St. John’s really is one of the best stories in all of college hoops. We went from wondering whether Lavin would get the most out of these seniors, to the Red Storm being a bubble team and now look where we are! St. John’s is not only a tourney team, but can be a 4 or 5 seed if they finish well. Who would have thought that we’d be talking about the Johnnies getting a potential double bye in the Big East tournament!
2. The Iona Gaels are hot at the right time. Iona has won 5 in a row and beat Manhattan and Liberty by a combined 67 points last week. The Gaels now have games remaining against St. Peter’s and Fairfield. If Iona can beat Fairfield at home to even up the season series at 1-1, there would be even more buzz heading into the MAAC tournament in Bridgeport. And if you haven’t noticed, point guard Scott Machado is leading the country in assists.
3. Don’t sleep on LIU in Brooklyn out of the NEC. Jim Ferry’s Blackbirds have won 8 games in a row and own the regular season title. LIU is 9th in the country in scoring and 2nd in rebounding. Credit LIU for being patient as in his 9th season, Ferry has built this program the right way, 22-5 overall and 14-2 in NEC play.
4. Rutgers is 13-13 overall and 4-10 in Big East play, but this season has truly laid the foundation for how Mike Rice wants to play. The Scarlet Knights share the ball on offense, play in your face defense and have the RAC back to being one of the toughest places to play.
5. Seton Hall’s season could have been completely different if injuries and issues didn’t plague the past year for the Pirates. Yet, despite all of this, Kevin Willard has gotten this team to scrap and fight in every Big East game. Seton Hall lost several heart breakers at the end of games after gaining momentum with a win at Syracuse a few weeks ago. Congrats to Jeremy Hazell on becoming the Big East’s all time 3 point field goals leader.
6. I’ve liked this Hofstra team all season long. Besides the fact that Charles Jenkins is the best player in the metro area – the Pride are tied for 2nd in the CAA which is easily the best mid-major conference in the country. Yes, Hofstra did get destroyed in their bracketbuster game against Wright State, but you win mid-major conference tourneys with star players – and Jenkins is a star.
7. Can’t say enough about the job John Dunne has done at St. Peter’s the past 5 years. Everyone said the Peacocks would never be relevant again after Kiki Clark graduated. Everyone said the school is in too rough of an area. Everyone said the gym is too old to attract recruits. And that’s why I love Dunne, he’s never listened to any of them. With by far the lowest budget in the MAAC, the Peacocks are tied for 2nd in the league heading into the home stretch.
8. I don’t normally go this south, but I have to give a major shout out to Princeton. The Tigers are 20-5 overall and have won 10 of their last 11 games. Princeton is now in 2nd place and it looks like they will be playing Harvard on March 5th for the Ivy League title. For the first time in years, we may have a Princeton team to pick for one of our 1st round upsets in March.
9. Late February condolences to Manhattan who is 6-22, Fairleigh Dickinson at 4-23 and Marist who is 5-24.
10. And finally…welcome to New York Carmelo. Turiaf, Stoudemire, Anthony, Fields and Billups is a very good starting 5 for the rest of the year. But most importantly, it sets the Knicks up for one more free agent star in 2012. Donnie Walsh has done a great job setting this franchise up to go on a present day Boston Celtics run from 2012 to 2016.
– Vin Parise is WFAN’s college basketball anaylst and blogs about the Big East and metropolitan area basketball on wfan.com. Parise has also covered local High School hoops on MSG-Varsity, the MAAC on MSG and Providence & URI for Cox Sports/Big East Network.