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Next Up: St. John's (New Links!)

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Next up for Duke  is St. John's, now led by old rival Steve Lavin, formerly of UCLA.

Lavin flamed out at UCLA, but not before getting out of the series with Duke after the Devils had hammered UCLA repeatedly.

In many respects, he seemed an odd choice for the St. John's job.  He's thoroughly Californian and not necessarily someone you'd expect to see on the sidelines for the Johnnies, and UCLA ended on a rather dismal note.

But there he is.

For Duke, playing St. John's is always an interesting game.  With their traditional recruiting base being their hometown, St. John's plays the city game and is as likely to shove the ball down your throat as to pass.  They've always been aggressive on the drive and very much an in-your-face team.

They also have an unusual advantage for any team with nine seniors and consequently some familiar names: DJ Kennedy, Malik Booth, Paris Horne among them.

But Lavin has tapped into his California base and brought in freshmen Dwayne Polee and Cameron Edison from the Golden State, a pretty good trick for a commuter school in New York.

It's going to be interesting to see how his recruiting pans out  (next year's freshman class is very promising), but for now, he has to go with what he has.

St. John's is averaging 69 points per game, 32 rebounds, shooting 45% from the floor, 65% from the line, and 31% from three-point range.

Three players are averaging double figures, led by Dwight Hardy at 14.5 per game.

After his debacle at UCLA, Levin finally took the advice of mentors John Wooden and Pete Newell, who both advised him as a young head coach that he needed to have a steady veteran assistant at his side.

So he hired his former Purdue boss Gene Keady, who has been whispering in his ear throughout the season.

So far, the Lavin experiment has been a mixed bag.  St. John's is 11-8, with notable wins over West Virginia, Providence and Notre Dame.

However, in their last six games, St. John's is 1-5, leaving the players frustrated and uncertain.

After the Georgetown loss, Justin Burrell said this: "Very discouraged. Very discouraged. We have nobody to blame but ourselves. It's not the coaches' fault, it's not our fans, it's not the academic staff that we have. We're just not producing.

"One game it's the defensive end, one game it's the offensive end, one game it's free throws. We're just not getting it done."

Still, St. John's has always approached Duke with a certain zest and energy. Don't expect anything less this time.

In an interesting side note, Lavin will lead St. John's against his old school UCLA on February 5th.

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