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Wednesday, February 28, 2007

BIG EAST GAME PREVIEW: Seton Hall @ Cincinnati

February 28, 2007

On surface this game has little meaning as Cincinnati (1-13) hosts Seton Hall (4-10), howver for the Pirates, this game could mean their season. Seton Hall needs to win their last two conference games (Cincinnati and Louisville) and hope that Providence can beat St. John's for SHU to qualify for the Big East Tournament at Madison Square Garden next week. for a team that was in the NCAA Tournament last season, that is quite a drop, but they still have something to play for.

Here are the pregame stories and previews found on the internet:

UC's McGowan Exiting Proudly (Cincinnati Enquirer)
Gentry Plays With Bum Ankle (Cincinnati Post)
Seton Hall vs Cincinnati Preview (Star-Ledger)
Seton Hall-Cincinnati Scouting Report (Courier News)

Seton Hall snapped an 8-game Big East losing streak when they beat South Florida over the weekend. The Pirates were off to a surprising start at 3-2 in the Big East, but once the meat of their schedule got started, the losses piled up. The Pirates are very guard-oriented and are not one of the best shooting teams. They rely on pressuring the ball and pushing the tempo with their perimeter players attacking the basket and hoping that Jamar Nutter is on from the perimeter. In the Big East, not having much of a threat inside is a tough way to live.

Cincinnati continues to limp home down the stretch. The storie program is mired in its longest losing streak in more than 80 years. With only two seniors to honor tonight, it is unlikely that the senior night festivities will really bump up the emotional level as the fans bid farewell to Cedric McGowan and Ronald Allen, both have been here for just two seasons.

Cincinnati is a slight (-2) home favorite tonight and the Pirates have yet to win away from home in conference play. It is the law of averages, look for the Bearcats to put an inspired effort, if just for one night, and use their athletic ability to match-up with the Pirates and scratch out a win. It will be a tight game and I like this Pirate group. Both coaches will have their players playing hard, but th ehome team has just a little more lift tonight.

NBE Blogger Prediction: Cincinnati 67 Seton Hall 64

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Friday, February 16, 2007

BIG EAST GAME PREVIEW: Seton Hall @ West Virginia

February 17, 2007

John Beilein will look take West Virginia to a 20-win season for the third year in a row as the Mountaineers look to earn a season sweep over the Seton Hall Pirates. The Pirates desperately look to break their six-game conference losing streak and their winless record on the road in Big East competition.

West Virginia still has plenty to play for as they are still very much in the hint for a 1st round bye in the Big East Tournament. The competition is crowdes for the bye as they currently trail Marquette and Louisville by a game and are tied with Syracuse and Notre Dame at 7-5. Their NCAA Tournament hopes also would get quite a significant set-back if they were to lose at home to the Pirates.

They played 14 days ago in New Jersey and the Mountaineers came away with an 81-70 victory as New Jersey native Da'Sean Butler scored 21 points in the WVU win. The Mountaineers will look to use their 1-3-1 zone defense and trap to confuse the young Pirates, in the first contest, it led to 18 turnovers by SHU. West Virginia does not match-up with too many teams size-wise, but SHU is one team where WVU actually might have a size advantage.

Seton Hall will look to push tempo and pressure the WVU ballhandlers. If they are unable to force turnovers, they will probably be made to pay by the WVU offense as they look to hit open three's and run backdoor cuts for easy baskets.

The Mountaineers have not been shooting the ball well of late. I have a feeling that streak ends on Saturday.

NBE Blogger Prediction: West Virginia 79 Seton Hall 65

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Wednesday, February 14, 2007

BIG EAST GAME PREVIEW: Seton Hall @ Connecticut

February 14, 2007

Last year this was a match-up of a pair of NCAA Tournament teams. This year, it is likely that only one of the two will make the Big East Tournament. The Connecticut Huskies have won two conference games in a row to move to 4-6 in the Big East and one-game ahead of Seton Hall, 3-7 in the Big East, for the 12th and final Big East Tournament spot. Last year, UConn was a 42-pt winner at Seton Hall, but this Connecticut team has a lot of trouble scoring points.

Here are the pregame stories and previews found on the internet this snowy morning:

Calhoun Looks to Past for Answers (Danbury News Times)
Huskies Have Endured Hard Times, Hoping Experience Will Help Freshmen (Stamford Advocate)
SHU/UConn Scouting Report (Norwich Bulletin)
Win Can Relieve UConn (Norwich Bulletin)
Playing for the Now at UConn (Bristol Press)
Need for Points by Thabeet Heightened (Hartford Courant)
Freshmen Find their Footing (Hartford Courant)
Seton Hall at UConn (Courant)
Hall's Big East Spot on the Line (Newark Star-Ledger)
Calhoun Worried Huskies Lack Confidence (Connecticut Post)
Seton Hall-Connecticut Scouting Report (Courier News)

Connecticut enters the game as a 10.5-pt favorite, but they hold just a precarious one-game lead over Seton Hall in the race for the 12th and final Big East Tournament spot. Seton Hall has lost five consecutive Big East games, dropping them to 3-7 in the league and they are 0-5 on the road in conference play. Connecticut has won two in a row in the Big East, beating Rutgers (in OT) and Syracuse at home to move to 4-6 in league play and have beaten SHU 19 times in their last 21 meetings, including last year's 42-pt blowout.

Both teams play at a quick pace and there will be a lot of up and down action and, likely, a lot of trips to the foul line. Seton Hall will press all game to make up for their lack of size and depth in the frontcourt. This could take the young UConn guards out of their objective to feed the ball inside where Connecticut has a massive size advantage. The Huskies shoot poorly and if they take quick shots against the SHU pressure, they could play right into the hands of SHU.

Seton Hall is not a great shooting team, either. They do have the potential to get hot with Jamar Nutter and Paul Gause coming off the bench. Freshmen Larry Davis and Eugene Harvey will have plenty of motivation going up against the highly regarded classmates on the UConn side in Dougie Wiggins and Jerome Dyson, as wll as AJ Price. It will be an interesting sidebar to keep an eye on, especially if one side begins to press and try to do too much on their own.

In the end, I think UConn's size will win out as Jeff Adrien will dominate the glass and Hasheem Thabeet and Stanley Robinson will change too many shots inside for the Pirates. However, expect SHU to keep coming at them and make this game very close, especially the way UConn shoots foul shots.

NBE Blogger Prediction: Connecticut 68 Seton Hall 65

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Friday, February 09, 2007

BIG EAST GAME PREVIEW: Villanova @ Seton Hall

February 10, 2007

Villanova, despite being just 4-5 in the conference, is looking strong in their bid for a spot in the NCAA Tournament. The Wildcats have very good numbers in the RPI ratings and, in our conference RPI ratings, they have played the toughest schedule to date in the Big East by a healthy margin. Now, they have to make sure they win the games they are supposed to win and that means getting the job done on the road when they make the short trip to the Meadowlands to face Seton Hall on Saturday.

The Pirates are sinking, losing four straight conference match-ups and their lack of depth is taking a major toll on their team. With Mani Messy recently leaving the club, they are down to just Stan Gaines and John Garcia as their lone big men with Grant Billmeier out for the remainder of the season. As it stands, they have Brian Laing usually playing a big forward position and they rotate four additional guards in and out of the line-up, but freshman Eugene Harvey and Laing rarely leave the floor.

Going small might cause match-up problems for many teams, but Villanova seems to be a team that can handle it. With Scottie Reynolds and Mike Nardi in the backcourt and Curtis Sumpter and Will Sheridan in the frontcourt, they can then mix and match with Dante Cunningham, Shane Clark, Bilal Benn, Dwayne Anderson and Reggie Redding to be a very versatile team. The Pirates will try to speed up the Wildcats and pressure their guards, but Villanova will likely turn around and use a series of traps and 3/4 court pressure right back at them to force turnovers with their length and athletic ability at the forward spots.

Villanova is too deep and can score in too many ways for Seton Hall in this one. The Pirates will likely hang with them because of their all out effort, but over the course of 40 minutes, they will have a few droughts where Villanova will just keep on plugging away and in the end, pull away.

NBE Blogger Prediction: Villanova 76 Seton Hall 68

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Friday, February 02, 2007

BIG EAST GAME PREVIEW: West Virginia @ Seton Hall

February 3, 2007

This is an interesting game. On the surface it looks like West Virginia all the way, but the Mountaineers need to guard against relaxing after getting the monkey off their back with their road win over Rutgers on Wednesday and keep from looking ahead to next week, where they return home to face Pittsburgh and UCLA. I am sure West Virginia is anxious to make a national statement, and having Pitt and UCLA at home gives them that chance, but they can't overlook Seton Hall in the meantime.

For the Pirates, they had an opportunity to take out some frustrations against Princeton on Monday night after Rutgers ran their Big East losing streak to three games last weekend. The Pirates are a small, perimeter orientated team that could match-up well with the Mountaineers. Seton Hall has the luxury of going small and not being at a huge mis-match, but how their young line-up deals with the intricate 1-3-1 zone defense of West Virginia will be very interesting.

For some reason the Meadowlands has been a difficult place for teams to find a comfort with their perimeter shot. Maybe it is the atmosphere of playing in front of less than 6,000 fans in an 18,000 seat Hockey stadium, but teams can certainly come out cold in Continental Airlines Arena. West Virginia relies on the match of the 3-pter more than any team in the conference. If they are going to launch 40 3-pters, chances are they will made 15 of them, forcing the opponent to shoot over 57% from 2-pt range to keep up. West Virginia rarely turns the ball over and looks to force turnovers with their trapping 1-3-1 zone, putting more pressure on the opposing offense to be as effecient as possible.

On paper, a match-up of Eugene Harvey, Jamar Nutter, Larry Davis, Brian Laing and Stan Gaines against Darris Nichols, Alex Ruoff, Frank Young, Joe Alexander and Rob Summers is not very one-sided for either side. Seton Hall will bring Paul Gause and John Garcia off the bench while WVU has Da'Sean Butler and Jamie Smalligan as their primary bench edge to West Virginia.

I really think Seton Hall is going to go all out for this game and might catch West Virginia off guard early on. West Virginia will likely adjust and get back into the game, and, in the end, I think they have just a little more down the stretch to get a second road win in a row.

NBE Blogger Prediction: West Virginia 77 Seton Hall 75

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