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Wednesday, January 30, 2008


January 30, 2008

In this year's version of the Big East, a two game win streak can be considered 'hot'. In this case, the battle of New Jersey features two of the 'hottest' teams in the conference when Rutgers welcomes in-state rival Seton Hall to the RAC.

Local media preview articles:

Rutgers, Seton Hall Begin Turnarounds (Courier News)
RU/SHU Scouting Report (Courier News)
Hall Grows in Gause's Absence (Star-Ledger)
Rutgers/Seton Hall Still a Hot Ticket (Asbury Park Press)

Rutgers enters tonight's game full of surprising momentum after a week that saw them beat Villanova at home and then shock the Big East with a win at Pittsburgh, a win that seemed to shock their own players! Led by freshman guards Michael Coburn and Corey Chandler, with solid post play, especially on the glass and defensively, by Hamady N'Diaye and Byron Joynes, RU stormed past the Panthers on Saturday.

The Scarlet Knights stumbled out of the conference gates by looking completely in disarray, especially on the offensive side of the ball. After dropping thier first five, they were looking pretty hopeless and 0-18 whispers began. However, there is more talent on this team than what was being shown and they showed signs offensively at DePaul before a 2nd half collapse allowed a 2nd half lead slip away. JR Inman is a talented and athletic inside/out forward and Jaron Griffin and Anthony Farmer are also juniors who have logged a lot of Big East time and needed to step up. The freshman pair of Coburn and Chandler hold a lot of promise for the future, but the play of the juniors and the big man duo of N'Diaye and Joynes could determine how tough an out the Scarlet Knights are the rest of the way.

Seton Hall also started off slowly, losing their first three conference games. However, the Pirates have stormed back with aggression, winning four in a row (which matches last year's league total) with impressive wins against Louisville and at Providence included. Senior Brian Laing is consistently putting up big numbers as a do-it-all undersized forward with the heart of a lion and the perimter shooting combo of Jamar Nutter and Jeremy Hazell guarantees someone is on from the outside to help put up points in a hurry. The Pirates fly up and down the court and their ability to score fast and often allows them to rally from nearly any deficit no matter the situation.

Rutgers, who are thin on numbers, would like the game to be played at a slower pace. To force the pace to a speed they prefer, the Pirates will pressure the RU guards to induce quick shots and turnovers, that is where SHU is at their best, creating offense off of their defense. The slower the pace of the game, the less SHU can crank up the pace and use their style to their advantage. However, in a weekend win over Cincinnati, the Pirates showed they can buckle down if they have to.

Usually in this rivalry the home team has the edge. I am not convinced Rutgers is ready to beat a team as equally amped to play the game as they are...yet. You know Bobby Gonzalez will have his Pirates on edge for the game, sometimes that can work against a squad, but with the style of play the Pirates prefer, that is exactly what they need.

The RAC will rock, but in the end, SHU has a little too much offensive talent to get by in this one.

NBE Blogger Prediction: Seton Hall 80 Rutgers 71


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Thursday, January 24, 2008


January 24, 2008

An intriguing Big East match-up takes place Thursday night as the Seton Hall Pirates travel to Providence to take on the Friars. The Pirates won back-to-back home games last week over South Florida and Louisville and put their modest two-game win streak on the line. The Friars have not played in over a week, but their last outing was an impressive road win at Connecticut, marking the third straight win for PC.

Here are some local media preview stories on tonight's match-up:

Bobbt Gonzalez' Gang is off to Seton Hall of a Start (Hoops Weiss NY Daily News)
Seton Hall @ PC (Providence Journal)
Seton Hall Looks To Improve Road record at PC (Providence Journal)
Friar News for Wednesday (ProJo Hoops Blog)
Seton Hall's Hazell Finding His Range (Herald News)

Bobby Gonzalez is definitely a very excitable person and he could hardly contain himself Saturday night as Seton Hall rallied from 14-pts down to beat Louisville, 92-82, behind the white-hot shooting of freshman Jeremy Hazell. Hazell keyed a 41-17 run to end the game with an astounding display of deep 3-pt shooting. For the game, the frosh hit 8 three's and finished with 29 points. He scores them in bunches. He was coming off a 22-pt performance in the win over South Florida earlier in the week.

Now that the Pirates have tasted some success at home on conference play, they will need to step it up on the road. The Pirates are 0-10 under Bobby Gonzalez in Big East road contests the last two seasons. Illustrating the highs and lows of playing on the road and at home, in the two previous road games prior to his 51-pt outburt last week, Hazell scored a total of TWO points against Marquette and Pittsburgh the week prior. Last season, SHU lost at Providence 91-68, only to turn around and beat them at home 10 days later.

Now that the Hall has 'shocked' Louisville in Newark, a win Gonzo termed `monumental for our program,' they need to refocus ont he task at hand. In order to move up in the conference, they have to find a way to steal some on the road. Gonzalez is definitely getting a little carried away, but you have to admire his passion. Afterall, Seton Hall was an NCAA Tournament team in 2006 and won on the road against teams such Pittsburgh and Syracuse, so beating an unranked Louisville team on your home court is more on the line of things teams have to do rather than monumental. However, on a personal aspect, the game was HUGE to Gonzo and his excitement is still evident.

To win at Providence the Pirates are going to have to defend the 3-pt shot. The Friars hit 14 of 24 from beyond the arc in their 77-65 win over Connecticut last Thursday, led by Dwain Williams' six of nine and Brian McKenzie hitting all four of his attempts. The sophomore duo have been picking up the slack for injured Sharaud Curry and combined for 43 points in the win. Another player that has been key for the Friars is Jeff Xavier, who played for coach Gonzalez at Manhattan but opted to transfer when Gonzo left for the Seton Hall job. Xavier is leading the team in scoring at nearly 13 a game and has hit 45 three's in 17 games this season.

Each team is pretty thin in the middle and can rotate three big men each in the post. Providence's trio includes Randall Hanke, Jonathan Kale and Ray Hall while the Pirates will counter with an improving group of John Garcia, Mike Davis and Augustine Okosun. One of the better match-ups to watch this season is at the forward spot where Brian Laing and Geoff McDermott will go head to head. McDermott is always among the league leaders in rebounding and assists and Laing is one of the best scorers in the conference.

Eugene Harvey, Jamar Nutter and Larry Davis are the main guards in the Pirate rotation and with Curry out of the line-up for the Friars, they will look to apply lots of pressure on the Friar guards, who lack a true point guard with expereince. They have managed well with Dwain Williams and Brian McKenzie, but the are more of combo guards filling in at the position. If Paul Gause was healthy for the Pirates I could really see them doing some damage with their press.

Providence likes to play a lot of zone defenses (coach Tim Welsh was once an assistant for Jim Boeheim) and if they are in a zone, they MUST key on Hazell. If he gets going, it could be a long night. Weyinmi Efejuku could be the player in charge of defending Hazell and that might be an interesting match-up as the two are familiar with one another from the parks of New York City. Efejuku is a strong and athletic wing that could be a physical defensive answer to Hazell's catch and shoot ability.

With road games on the horizon against Syracuse (Sunday) and Notre Dame (next Thursday), winning at home is vital for the Friars, who are 8.5-pt favorites. I see some areas where Seton Hall can definitely exploit against Providence, but the Pirates are just 1-4 on the road this season. The Big East has developed a pattern this season, win a big game at home, go on the road and be humbled. While I think this will be a pretty good game, it is one that Providence has to have and should have a mental edge going in.

NBE Blogger Prediction: Providence 81 Seton Hall 72


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Thursday, January 17, 2008


January 18, 2008

South Florida was looking poised for improvement this season in the Big East, but after a conference opening win over hapless Rutgers, the Bulls have dropped three straght, all by double digits.

It is tough to judge Seton Hall yet as they have lost their three conference contests to teams most-likely to finish among the top handful in the conference and two of them were on the road. This game, especially since it is at home, is a MUST for SHU.

Here are the local media previews on tonight's game:

Bulls Hope to End Conference Futility on the Road (Tampa Tribune)
Men's Hoops: SHU Up Next (St. Petersburg Times)
All at the Hall Glad Laing Decided to Stay (Star-Ledger)
Scouting Seton Hall and South Florida (Courier News)

If South Florida ever wants to make the Big East Tournament before the conference opens the doors to all 16 teams in the 2008-2009 season, they better find a way to win on the road in conference play. The Bulls are 0-18 in their 2+ seasons in the Big East away from home. Tonight, they get a chance to end that streak when they travel up to Newark (NJ) to meet the Seton Hall Pirates.

First year coach Stan Heath will try to take advantage of his biggest weapon, Kentrell Gransberry, against a small SHU line-up. The Pirates will try to counter Gransberry by rotating John Garcia, Mike Davis and Augustin Okosun in the post. The revolving door of fresh bodies, led to the burly Garcia, will hopefully wear down Gransberry along with the frantic style Seton Hall hopes to impose on the game.

The Pirates quest for a frantic game has been limited of late with the injury to Paul Gause. The junior defensive dynamo has a broken bone in his non-shooting hand and he is still out of action. With Gause out of the mix, the SHU perimeter defense suffers quite a bit. The Pirate backcourt is still strong, but their line-up of four guards can take a toll in conference play. Using Brian Laing, who is closer to 6'4, as their biggest forward is definitely taking a toll as opposing forwards continue to have good games against SHU. Eugene Harvey is an offensive threat at the point, attacking the basket off the dribble and getting to the line often. Jamar Nutter and Jeremy Hazell provide a pair of deep threats, but their inconsistency will be a fact of life for coach Bobby Gonzalez. Larry Davis is a versatile guard off the bench that does a little bit of everything, but nothing outstanding to make him stand above the rest.

South Florida is also weak at the power forward position and have been victimized by Sam Young, Geoff McDermott and Dante Greene in their last three games. Orane Chin is a tad over his head at this point in a starting role in the Big East, but the SHU line-up could allow Stan Heath to go small as well and use Aaron Holmes, Ade Saaka and Solomon Bozeman more often as Jesus Verdejo and Dominique Jones have pretty good size for wings in the league. Jones is a dynamic offensive threat, but life on the road for a Big East freshman is tough.

I look for Seton Hall, a 5-pt favorite, to collect the first win for New Jersey in Big East action tonight, riding a big game from Brian Laing to hold off the Bulls.

NBE Blogger Prediction: Seton Hall 75 South Florida 72


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Friday, January 11, 2008


January 12, 2008

On paper, this does not look like a close match-up. Pittsburgh has one of the strongest home court advantages in the country while Seton Hall is still looking for their first road win under Bobby Gonzalez.

However, Pittsburgh, as everyone knows, has injury issues with Mike Cook gone for the season and Levance Fields out for at least another 6 weeks. Seton Hall likes to pressure the basketball the full court for the full 40 minutes, but their own injury issue with Paul Gause makes them much less effective playing that style.

Pittsburgh has shown a lot of resilency since the injury bug has hit. Sure, they have dropped a couple games, but judging by their 1-pt loss in the waning seconds at Villanova and a double-digit road win at South Florida, this team still has a lot left and they are not spending any time feeling sorry for themselves.

Villanova did set a blueprint to be successful against Pitt, pressuring the ball the entire game. It does not have to be fullcourt pressure, but extending the defense on the perimeter will keep Ronald Ramon, not a true point guard, from setting up the offense easily. Once Pitt is set up, they are tough to stop as Sam Young and Dejuan Blair still make up a top frontcourt duo. Zone pressure full court also might not be that effective as Pitt is still a veteran-based team and might even be a better finishing team now with Young, Blair, Gilbert Brown and Keith Benjamin running the floor. Each of their games seem to be stronger in the open court and that was definitely shown against South Florida. Villanova was able to slow the game and force Pitt to run a halfcourt game with heavy pressure on the ball, forcing 22 turnovers, most after Pitt broke the token full court pressure.

Seton Hall has been an interesting team to say the least. They have already played in four overtime contests, including at home against Monmouth, Robert Morris and James Madison. At times, the Pirates play down to their competition and find themselves in HUGE holes, only to use their full court frantic pace to pull themselves out. Luckily, they do play more consistent against the better teams, because that style is not likely to find success against Big East teams when trying to climb out of a big hole.

Seton Hall was very successful in nearly stealing a road win at Marquette this week by settling back into a zone defense and working to keep the score in the 50's against Marquette. To win on the road, you have to be willing to get your hands dirty and be able to grind it out in the half court. If they can do this and turn it into a posession by possession game in the last three minutes, the athletic ability and quickness of Eugene Harvey could give Pitt trouble on both ends of the floor. It might be a tougher task against Pitt as the Panthers will rebound the ball very strong and use their size against a smaller Pirate club, but that is probably the best strategy for Bobby Gonzalez to follow.

The other key for Seton Hall is to make shots, especially on the perimter. Jamar Nutter, who is the only Pirate likely to play that has experienced a Big East road win, is a hot and cold player. If he is hot from the perimeter it will give the Pirates a huge list. Freshman Jeremy Hazell is also very capable of letting them fly from deep, against Pitt, however, that is tough. Ask high scoring freshman wing players such as Dominique Jones and James Anderson, or even experienced shooters like Scottie Reynolds or Jon Scheyer how tough the Pitt perimeter defense can be.

If Seton Hall can put Pittsburgh into a halfcourt game and pressure the ball from there, they could turn this one into a similar contest as they did against Marquette. Pittsburgh is returning home after a couple road games, and they have to avoid looking past the pesky Pirates to a Big Monday date with Georgetown. This wounded Pitt team does seem to be playing with extra motivation as some players who were previously role players want to prove they are capable of succeeding in the Big East.

Seton Hall has not one a road game in the Big East since then-coch Louis Orr brought his team to the Peterson Events Center for the last regular season game of 2005. That win liekly clinched the Pirates a berth in the NCAA Tournament. Can they taste road success at Pitt again? Maybe...but, I would not count in it just yet.

NBE Blogger Prediction: Pittsburgh 74 Seton Hall 67


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Monday, January 07, 2008


January 8, 2008

Tom Crean was not a hapy basketball coach following his team's 79-64 loss on Sunday at West Virginia. The Marquette coach was upset with his player's effort, when a coach calls out his team's effort, you expect to see a big improvement in that area in their next game.

Seton Hall lost thier conference opener a week ago, 98-86, at home to Connecticut. Over the weekend, the Pirates picked up a non-conference victory over Morgan State, 89-81, ridig the hot hand of senior Jamar Nutter, who scored 29 points.

Both teams like to play fast and are very perimeter oriented. Marquette, of course, is led by the dynamic guard trio of Dominic James, Jerel McNeal and Wesley Mathews. The trio plays both ends of the court, excelling offensively and defensively. They will put pressure on the defense all game long by attacking off the dribble. In two conference games, James has not committed a turnover while dishing out 11 assists to go with the 31 points he has scored.

The Marquette interior game is not one that is feared by too many teams. Ousmane Barro and Dwight Burke split time at center. They combined for 16 pts and 11 rebounds against Providence and nine points and 10 rebounds against WVU.

The forward position is manned by Lazar Hayward with veteran Dan Fitzgerald providing depth behind him. Hayward is one of the most improved players in the league and his 15 PPG in two conference games has shown how much more of a part of the offense he is this season. He was limited by foul trouble in Sunday's loss, playing just 17 minutes (scoring 13 points), and that was a key factor in their loss.

Sometimes Marquette even goes with a 4-guard look with David Cubillan or Maurice Acker on the floor as well. Their backcourt is strong and deep, but they are vulnerable in the paint and on the boards (they had just 5 rebounds in the 2nd half as a team against WVU).

Seton Hall is not likely a team to take advantage of the Marquette shortcomings. Seton Hall will have no interest in slowing the game down to play halfcourt because the Pirates want to be playing fast and furious. The pace could bother some teams, but I do not expect it to unnerve the Golden Eagles in any way.

Seton Hall will try to press often, but without their top defensive guard, Paul Gause, their press will lose a big part of its effectiveness. Once the press is broken, Seton Hall generally lacks a defensive stopper waiting at the basket. Augustine Okosun, Mike Davis and John Garcia form a three-headed monster at the center position with Garcia seeing most of the time. Garcia is a solid big man that knows his limitations, but the uptempo game might not be the best fit for him and he is definitely not the intimidating factor waiting for opponents at the rim. Okosun and Davis add more in the way of shot-blocking, but less in terms of defense, rebounding and offense.

Brian Laing and Eugene Harvey continue to lead the Pirates and they will be face a team that can match their quickness equally. They have help on the perimter with Jamar Nutter and Jeremy Hazell, both capable of scoring in a hurry from the arc, but Seton Hall is far from a strong team on the defensive end of the court.

Seton Hall is going to have their hands full at the Bradley Center facing a Marquette squad that will be playing with quite a chip on their shoulder after Sunday's effort, or lack thereof. Seton Hall plays a style that works really well for Marquette and should let the Golden Eagles score a lot of points.

NBE Blogger Prediction: Marquette 93 Seton Hall 73


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Thursday, January 03, 2008


January 3, 2007

An intriguing contest at the Prudential Center in Newark, NJ as Connecticut makes the trek to battle Seton Hall. We should learn a lot about each team from this game as the local media beat writers are also anxiously waiting to gain new insight on each club:

Time to Turn it Up a Notch (New London Day)
Time to Turn it Up (Hartford Courant)
UConn Trying to Shed Travelling Blues (Connecticut Post)
UConn Men Hit Road for Big East Opener (Waterbury Rep-Am)
Seton Hall a Mystery (Star-Ledger)
Pirates' Davis Makes the Grade (Courier News)
Seton Hall-UConn Scouting Report (Courier News)

This will be a game to see how much better Connecticut is this year compared to last. A year ago, the UConn season came undone quickly once leage play started and they had to hit the road, an experience very new to their young squad. Thsi year, they have played a few games out of Connecticut and tuned up with a true road game against Central Florida last week.

Seton Hall prefers to play a frantic style of basketball that will try to force quick decisions upon their opponents. Last year, UConn made bad decisions throughout their conference games and once adversity set in, those decisions snowballed and the had some LONG offensive droughts.

This year, they are hoping that AJ Price has taken control of the ship as the point guard. Last year they appeared rudderless too often. Price is averaging 12.6 PPG and has an assist to turnover ratio of greater than three to one. He is showing to be much more effecient with the basketball and becoming the floor leader they lacked last season.

UConn has a decided height advantage and they do not lose any athletic ability with the enourmous frontline of Stanley Robinson (12 PPG, 6 rebounds), Jeff Adrien (13 pts and 9 rebounds/game) and Hasheem Thabeet (10.5 PPG, 8 rebounds and 3.5 blks a contest). On the wing, one of the best all around guards in the Big East, Jerome Dyson (15 PPG), is also a tough match-up.

The Huskies like to run, run and run some more. Jim Calhoun will plead his troops to push the ball at every opportunity, but they also must realize when it is not there to be patient and take advantage of the huge height disparity between the two teams and work that to their advantage.

Seton Hall is a team that is tough to figure. You know they are going to come out and fly all over the court. What they need more of is controlled chaos in their Big East contests as too often their game resembled chaos. When your playing Robert Morris or James Madison and needing to come back from a 20-pt defecit, that might work, but in the Big East, the opponents will take advantage of that situation.

The Pirates really struggle in the halfcourt game. That might not be too much of an issue tonight as the game is expected to be played at an exciting pace. The Pirates best offense is usually generated from their defense and they will try and pressure the UConn guards from tip to horn tonight. Their hope is that the Huskies are still not ready to manage the game to their strengths and they get caught up in the frantic pace of the action.

The biggest challenges for SHU will be converting offensively against the athletic and much taller Huskies. Eugene Harvey (17.4 PPG) likes to drive to the rim and 6'5Brian Laing (20.5) does most of his work in the vicinity of the paint playing as the Pirates power forward, those two will have a tough time scoring over Thabeet and Adrien. Harvey does a remarkable job of drawing fouls and getting to the line, but playing guards more closely resembling his strength and quickness in this contest could make that a more difficult chore.

After the big two, Seton Hall will have to find someone to be a consistent threat. Freshman Jeremy Hazell is a deep threat and Jamar Nutter has been through these games many times before. Paul Gause will generate his offense through his defensive prowess, but the new Pirate frontline is really going to be under the spotlight as John Garcia, Augustine Okosun and Mike Davis will face their biggst challenge of their careers.

I find this a very difficult match-up for the Pirates, and if UConn takes care of the ball, the Pirates will have a long night on their home court.

The oddsmakers still are a little worrisome of the Huskies recent road woes, making them a slight 2-pt favorite. I think SHU will make a spirited effort, but they will come up short and the Huskies will make it 21 of 23 against the Pirates in the series.

NBE Blogger Prediction: UConn 89 Seton Hall 77


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