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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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