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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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